Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Am I ready for a UL Pack
Display Avatars Sort By:
Daniel Ellis
(delliscota17) - M

Locale: Southeastern
Am I ready for a UL Pack on 04/17/2014 22:20:16 MDT Print View

Hey all,

I am new to the forum and new to light backpacking. I would like some advice on my gear list and how to get ready for an UL pack like a ULA or GoLite. I am not set on a particular pack but before I start getting too serious about one I thought I'd ask if my gear looks ready to transition to this type of pack. From my understanding most UL packs are not comfortable or worth carrying if the load is not sub 30lbs. I welcome any suggestions on how to cut weight although I am not ready to go extreme yet. I have thought about trying a 3/4 pad with pack under feet and perhaps a lighter sleeping bag. Mainly I am thinking of starting with a pack if my gear list looks ready for one. I appreciate any input! Let me know if my gear list is not accessible under my profile as I am new to this site or any site of this type for that matter. Thanks,


Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: Am I ready for a UL Pack on 04/17/2014 22:23:25 MDT Print View


Edited by awsorensen on 04/17/2014 22:54:41 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Am I ready for a UL Pack on 04/17/2014 23:27:13 MDT Print View

Daniel, I don't know where you intend to operate with this gear. Your gear list seems to show around 15 pounds now, but it is not comprehensive. So, once you complete your gear list, it might be higher or lower in weight. All that is base weight. I guess you already know that you have several heavy items there. You can identify them as the items with two digits in the weight in ounces. I'll start with the obvious. You have no spoon and no first aid kit.

Then, for how many days would you expect to be out without resupply? Figure on at least 1.5 pounds of food and fuel per day. Let's just arbitrarily say that might be 10 pounds for a round number. Now you have around 25 pounds total load. You might be able to get that into some of the lighter weight packs, but you need to consider volume as well.

This will vary, but I figure on at least 100 cubic inches per pound, so that would demand a pack of at least 2500 cubic inches. For some, it would demand 3000 or more.


Glenn S

Locale: Snowhere, MN
Re: Re: Am I ready for a UL Pack on 04/17/2014 23:37:56 MDT Print View

"You have no spoon and no first aid kit."

The 18 ounce cook kit has a spoon... And a fork, and a few bowls, and a washtub, and a cup, and a....

The Adventure kit is a 10 ounce first aid kit with bandages, and gloves, and sutures, and splints, and...

Link .
(annapurna) - MLife
Re: Am I ready for a UL Pack on 04/18/2014 04:49:11 MDT Print View

Might help you :
Mike Clelland(NOLs instructor and author),he has some great free videos on lightening up be sure to watch(his clothing system,the entire contents of his pack,water treatment and part 1 and 2 on the dinky stuff for ideas),this is an article he wrote The fastest way to backpack weight loss ,this is pmags Lightweight Backpacking 101 and The Frugal Backpacker – The $300 Gear Challenge .These are some other articles and videos for you to check out

Backpacking for Cheap: Gear for the Gearless

Backpacking Checklist (Gear List): 3-Season, 3-Day

Lightweight Backpacking 101: An Introductory Manual for Lightening Your Load Today (1st Edition - August 2001)

Cheap Ultralight Gear List

Ultimate Hiking Gear & Skills Clinic

Oregon Field Guide: Ultralight Hiking

Lightweight Testimony: Lighter, Farther, Faster
Jamie Shortt talks about his progression and shows his gear list for each stage, Lightweight Testimony: My Journey into Lightweight Backpacking

todd h
(funnymoney) - MLife

Locale: SE
Re: Am I ready for a UL Pack on 04/18/2014 06:14:51 MDT Print View

Welcome Daniel!

+1 to Mike Clelland's stuff. Perusing the Gear Lists forum here is good for perspective, as well.

If you can afford to overhaul parts of your list it will help. Sleeping bag is one area to slash over a pound with no trouble. Quite a few other areas to pare down by just leaving the items at home. Look into Anna's suggestions.

One part of the journey to UL (for most of us) is trying some things, liking them, finding out they're not quite ideal, seeing other things that sound better, trying them......and repeating! That's probably not what you want to hear, but many of us go thru it.

One note on 3/4 pads: like quilts and other specialized gear, they're not for everyone. You can try it out by using a full length pad but sliding down it so that your head is about a third of the way from the top. This can even be done inside with pack at feet. Take a nap and if you don't like it you've saved a few bucks.

As so much of it boils down to preference vs the one "right answer", just remember that, to a point, lighter is better and go that route. Advances in pads (like the NeoAir), sleeping bags (light quilts), shelters (tarps, tarptents) make it easier to do. In the end, I say make do your current pack or a cheap UL pack from Gear Swap until you have your other gear more dialed in, then spring for the "THE" pack and sell your old gear here or on ebay.

I miss the Upstate!

Edited by funnymoney on 04/18/2014 06:21:37 MDT.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Am I ready for a UL Pack on 04/18/2014 06:22:38 MDT Print View

Dan, From the looks of your gear, you have been out several times. No one ever *needs* to go UL. Do you want to?

If you are serious about getting your base load down to 10 pounds or less, this is the place. UltraLight packing *starts* at 10 pounds. Certainly doable under most conditions.
Winters are much tougher, but still not impossible with 10 pounds. If you are up for this, read on...

1) Get rid of that pack. 63oz is way to heavy. Your main pack for any trips up to a week should never be more than a pound. Some packs are closer a quarter pound.
Extreme example:
More main-stream:
The Murmur, Kumo and Gorilla are all good packs for UL hiking. and weigh around a pound, more if you add in a hip-belt. (I can send you a card for a discount. PM me.)
2) Down Insulation: This is the lightest/best insulating/lowest volume you can buy. This reduces the size of the pack, the weight of both the pack and the gear and does pehaps the best job of keeping you warm. Jacket, bag minimally. Long johns for sleeping or washing clothing. 2 pair of hiking socks. 1 pair of sleeping socks.
3) Cook Kit: Ti Spoon(.3oz), 1L 3.5oz Stanco grease pot(K-mart), pocket knife (2oz)
Stove: 1-3 days: alcohol stove w/"soda" fuel bottle, 5-10 days remote canister stove, 12+ days WG stove.
4) Tarp or Tarp-tent: No more than 24oz for a single person, 32oz for two. Hiking staff(s).
5) 2-4 bandaids, first aid certification. You can omprovise anything minor, GET OUT for anything more and see a doctor or ER. Set up on a trail if it is serious and stay calm, stop any bleeding. Help will usually come in a day or two.
6) Lights (1-impulse, 1-e+light) will last about a week. Maybe a piece of candle. Extra light instead of spare batteries.
7) 2 lighters or 1 lighter and sparker w/tinder
8) Light pad around 10-14 oz.
9) Rain Gear no more than 5-6 oz.
10) Water Treatment: UV, Sawyer, or AM drops. Boil for meals/breakfast.
11) Two 500ml bottles for water. One 2-3L bladder (usually carried empty) will cover most needs.
12) Drop most of the rest of the gear on your list.
13) I carry a Dry/Compression bag for my clothing/bag and a dry bag for food.
14) A ditty bag hs the rest of the little gear, some line, a piece of pencil, a trail journal, a camera, etc.

I think you wil be fine down to about 25F with this stuff for about a week or two. Duration is more a matter of food. My base pack is ~8 pounds, with my Sven Saw, around 9 pounds, and with the SVEA around 10 pounds. I am COMFORTABLE. For two weeks out I add in another 16 pounds of food, or amost double my base weight. This works.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: Re: Am I ready for a UL Pack on 04/18/2014 06:26:39 MDT Print View

Again - welcome to the dark side, Daniel.

Do remember that this is a process - I'm on my fourth or fifth shelter, I'm selling my first attempt at a custom pack because I did a second one (which would be my 8th pack or so...), and I think I FINALLY found a quilt I like after 4 previous versions.

All that means is be ready to make mistakes - and that's what gear swap is for (looking for used versions to buy to try out, etc), REI garage sales, etc. And take advantage of the great customer service offered by the cottage gear companies - you can buy a pack, try it on at home with all your stuff, and send it back less the shipping if it doesn't fit correctly.

As for "going extreme," one of the biggest things I learned is that you don't have to in order to rather easily get to a 10 pound base weight. It can cost a fortune, or you can do it on the cheap. Because the best way to get your pack weight/volume down is to just simply take less stuff.

Look at other gear lists around here, definitely check out those links Anna posted (do you have a library of those??!!), and best of all, after every trip go over all your stuff and look at what you didn't use. I don't carry a torso pad (don't like them), and all my gear is super comfy. As a matter of fact, I don't feel like I'm giving anything up at all on my trips. Well, I'd probably like to bring a chair, but other than that I am making NO comfort sacrifices.

So hold off on the pack - as enticing as it is to swap that early, look elsewhere first. You may end up with an even smaller/better pack than you would have if you swapped out now.

Good luck!

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: Am I ready for a UL Pack on 04/18/2014 07:12:58 MDT Print View

Hey Dan, welcome. Yeah it is a process and it helps to know where (in what conditions) you will be using your gear. What works in "3-season" conditions in a deciduous forest. with plenty of freshwater streams, may not work on a hot desert trip where all water needs to be packed in (water weight can be the heaviest and require a frame) ... and if you go in the snowy winter your needs may change again ... if in the snow, are you racing or hanging around camp? ... etc, etc... In terms of gear itself:

Are you packing for 1 or 2 (in terms of the Stratospire 2) and would a solo shelter be appropriate? For starters in regular old backpacking, one easy change is deciding whether to bring either the NanoPuff or R1 Hoody (when it gets colder, you can always bring both). Go with a cheap quilt in warmer conditions and see if you like it, ... maybe get a warmer quilt later. Get lighter items, then you can save the boots for more cold weather conditions and go with lighter footwear.

BLUF: I'd try lightening other items first before going with a lighter pack. Not much else sux worse than carry heavy items in a UL pack.

Edited by hknewman on 04/18/2014 07:15:21 MDT.

Daniel Ellis
(delliscota17) - M

Locale: Southeastern
Thank you! on 04/18/2014 09:54:53 MDT Print View

Thank ya'll so much for the insight. This seems like a great community and I am happy to have discovered it and all the resources ya'll offer. I will definitely take a look at the links provided. The conditions I will be in are 3 season forest/river areas in the SC, NC, GA, and TN areas (Foothills Trail, parts of the AT, and Smoky Mountains areas). So far I have really enjoyed my tarptent SS2 and will be packing for 2 as far as shelter goes. My wife will come some but doesn't want to leave behind heavier luxuries or rather isn't interested in sacrificing for weight. I tend to enjoy a minimalist mind frame and find it challenging and fun to work around gear and strive to strategically pack. For me, the trail/woods will be fun either way and the strategic packing is an added fun. Just for some background, I started thinking about the light/ultralight way after a 54 mile 4 day trip in the smokies last August. It was a blast and a punisher (for me anyway) at the same time. I started thinking about what would make it more fun so to speak and then began researching lighter but still efficient gear. Thanks again for the insight and inspiration ya'll provide.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: Thank you! on 04/18/2014 10:13:58 MDT Print View

Ah, you had a single comment in there that needs to change:

"doesn't want to sacrifice for weight."

What you will find, once you really start paying attention to your gear, is that you really aren't sacrificing anything. It's a great mindset when you realize what you NEED and what you don't. I honestly - not for the sake of this website, but HONESTLY - do not feel like I am sacrificing any even teeny bit of comfort in my effort to lighten up.

My shelter is great (duomid), my pad/quilt is just as comfy (if not moreso) than my bed at home - I bring a pillow!
My cook set is wonderful and I can make anything I want to...

I bring my nook to read in bed at night
I have down booties for when it's cold out - sweet!!

Not sure where the sacrifice is.....

So try not thinking of this as an effort in suffering and getting rid of all the things that make you's just that you ACTIVELY CHOOSE to bring things, you don't just keep them in your pack or bring them because you always do. Stuff has to have a purpose and a reason...and not because you are afraid of something.

Make sense????

Daniel Ellis
(delliscota17) - M

Locale: Southeastern
Makes sense on 04/18/2014 10:25:25 MDT Print View

Yes, thank you. The more I read, It definitely seems like more of a mindset than a sacrifice. Or rather a way of thinking.

Edited by delliscota17 on 04/18/2014 10:27:47 MDT.

Owen McMurrey
(OwenM) - F

Locale: SE US
Pack last. on 04/18/2014 22:58:52 MDT Print View

I'd lighten everything else before the pack.
You may not want a true "ultralight" pack, anyway.
I hike almost weekly year-round, mostly in AL and TN, and will not give up my 2-2.5lb framed packs with suspended mesh back panels for any amount of additional weight savings. They're not going to keep your back from sweating, but are much better in that regard, and it's a big comfort issue for me.
People in cooler, drier climes probably don't relate well to having sweat pouring down your butt while wearing a short-sleeve t-shirt in February. Given your location, you might, though, and that very thing is what steered me toward packs with some ventilation.
'Course it wasn't a problem this winter!

Kent C.
(kent) - M

Locale: High Sierra
"Am I ready for a UL Pack" on 04/19/2014 22:21:23 MDT Print View


Agree with most of what James, HK, and Jen said above.

I propose you don't take pack "last" as an absolute.

Once your biggest, bulkiest items are more refined (shelter, sleeping bag/quilt, pad, jacket), you'll have a pretty good idea of what volume and suspension/support you want/need. At that point, you could get a pack.

Pack last is quite valid depending on how fine-tuned you want the volume of the pack. If you alter (reduce volume of-) clothing, mess kit, etc. later and you end up with a little unused disappointed will you be?

No matter what, remember, you can almost always recoup $ through Gear Swap if you change your mind later.

Final thought...UL is also about less stuff. It is so liberating and satisfying to have fewer things to have to find/do/pack/keep track of.....! Be sure to keep a sharp eye on multi-use!

Have fun

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Am I ready for a UL Pack on 04/20/2014 10:19:26 MDT Print View

My sweeping generalizations:

I wouldn't want to haul a lightweight pack at more than 75% of it's rated weight capacity on a regular basis.

Frameless packs need careful loading techniques and lighter weights. Framed packs are a easier for a newbie Ultralighter to live with.

Getting your base weight and volume down is the key. Get a couple books on UL or study the massive information available here. Once you get the mindset, it is a continual process of improvement and tweaking

Here's my take on basic UL principles:

Take only what you will use for the trip, excluding the obvious safety/survival essentials. Leave the toys at home! Simply decanting items like soap, sunscreen and insect repellent to smaller containers can save nearly a pound.

Weigh EVERYTHING, write it down and add it up. A spreadsheet is the best tool. Do buy a scale.

Seek the lightest high performance versions that you can afford.

Seek items that have multiple uses.

Fear equals weight, particularly with clothing. Know how you body works and get the clothing layering concepts down tight. Knowing the physics and mechanics of staying warm, dry, fed and rested will reduce the fear and increase the comfort and enjoyment. Likewise for big knives, axes, big first aid kits, too many dishes and pots, etc. Do take the Ten Essentials, but be frugal and find the lighter alternatives.

Leave "fashion" and hyper-cleanliness at home. You don't need extra sleep clothing, sleeping bag liners and multiple spare socks and underwear. It's okay to be a little dirty and smelly. You can certainly keep yourself clean without taking a daily shower, and the right clothing can be washed and dried en route.

UL techniques do snowball. An UL kit allows lighter shoes and a lighter pack and you can cover more ground in less time with less pain and effort. Most of us have gone through a slow evolution of gear-gathering and many find that the very lightest can be uncomfortable and allow heavier options items like sleeping pads or fully enclosed bug-proof tents. I've said that you know you've gone too far by the TOO factor: if you are too cold, too wet, too hungry, or too tired, you may be TOO light. Hiking is supposed to be RECREATION and not a masochistic march in the wilderness.

I am of a mind that any UL kit can survive ONE heavy item, buy applying that loosely will find you with a heavy load again. I am a proponent of buying your pack last. With the narrower band of weight tolerance in a truly UL pack, it is just uncomfortable to use one at full capacity all the time and I think it puts newbies off the UL practice in general. For that matter, an UL kit in a pack built for heavy loads feels like nothing.

Have fun!