The SUL Wanderer (Video Series) - Episode 1: Gear

The first episode of Backpacking Light's new video series, "The SUL Wanderer" tells stories and teaches techniques about "SuperUltralight Backpacking" - the style of backpacking that focuses on the extremes of light weight, compactness, and simplicity for wilderness travel.

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by Ryan Jordan | 2013-05-21 00:00:00-06

The SUL Wanderer (Video Series) - Episode 1: Gear

Introduction

I’m really excited to be able to introduce a new video series at Backpacking Light - “The SUL Wanderer”.

The purpose of this series is to explore (at least on the surface) - the art of “SuperUltralight” (SUL) backpacking - considered by most to be the practice of backpacking with a base weight of less than five pounds.

However, I won’t necessarily hold to that performance standard (weight) or extreme (five pounds) in this series. Instead, I’m hoping to promote a more reasonable definition of “SUL” that simply embodies what we do at the very extremes of ultralight backpacking in terms of weight, simplicity, and compactness of our gear.

Episode 1: Gear

In this episode, I simply wish to introduce you to some gear that I commonly use in Montana for three-season SUL backpacking. The idea is to focus on a kit that I use for three-day (long weekend) backpacking between about St. Patrick’s Day and Halloween, on routes that are snow-free.

This introductory episode simply gives you an idea of what I might take on such a trip. It’s not meant to be a comprehensive thesis on SUL gear. Gear will be featured in future episodes as well, and my gear kit will certainly change as we go, and in response to unique conditions I expect on any particular trip.

Watch Episode 1 below. If you don't see the Vimeo video player window, please click here to refresh this page.

Episode #2 will focus on some basic techniques I use in my style of SUL:

  • Bivy sack camping in inclement weather without a tarp;
  • Cooking over fire;
  • SUL bear bagging;
  • SUL water treatment strategies;
  • SUL essentials...and nonessentials;
  • and more...

Look for future episodes on SUL tarp camping, SUL gourmet cooking, SUL packrafting, SUL mountaineering, SUL fishing, SUL photography, and more (heck, maybe we'll even do a bit on SUL RV camping). Many of these ideas are being generated on Twitter: send your feedback to me @bigskyry if there’s something you’d like to see, and note it with the hashtag #SUL.

In the meantime, enjoy the Episode #1 video, and have a peek at my one of my “base” SUL gear lists, which outlines the items that end up as part of my SUL pack for nearly every trip in the mountains of Montana (note that it's a little bit different that the SUL gear kit featured in the video).

SUL Gear List

The following gear list is a little different from the one shown in the video. The video features a gear kit that includes some minor "nonessentials" that I don't necessarily bring on every trip. The gear list below illustrates primarily those items that go with me all the time, and at minimum. Often, I'll add somewhere between four and twelve ounces of additional gear (see the video) as needed.

Item No.ItemDescriptionWeight (oz)Weight (g)
1backpackHyperlite Mountain Gear Summit Pack10.4295
2stow sackHyperlite Mountain Gear CF8 Size XL0.514
3sleeping bagKatabatic Gear Chisos Quilt14.6414
4sleeping padKlymit Inertia X-Lite6.1173
5parkaGoosefeet Down Parka8.1230
6shelterMountain Laurel Designs eVENT Soul Bivy14.5411
7food bag liner12.5” x 20.0” O.P. Sak1.440
8bear bag cord2.2mm x 40 ft braided Spectra1.132
9cook potFireLite 900 ml x 2.5mm titanium pot with lid3.291
10utensilLight My Fire titanium spork0.617
11cook pot stow bagdisposable grocery store bag0.13
12ditty bagHyperlite Mountain Gear CF8 Size S0.26
13firestarterLight My Fire Firesteel1.645
14firestarting tinderTinder Quik tabs in small plastic bag0.13
15water treatmentSteriPen Adventurer3.394
16rain jacketPatagonia M108.1230
17base layer*Beartooth Merino Hoody7.5213
18underwear*Patagonia Silkweight Capilene boxers2.262
19pants*Thorofare Pants4.5128
20socks*Smartwool Trekking Crew2.879
21shoes*Altra Lone Peaks22.0624
22hat*Lights of the Sky nylon crushable hat with brim (ca. 1995)2.057
Total Weight (FSO)7.1 lb3.2 kg
Base Weight (FSO minus “*” Items)4.6 lb2.1 kg


Citation

"The SUL Wanderer (Video Series) - Episode 1: Gear," by Ryan Jordan. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/sul_wanderer_episode_1_gear.html, 2013-05-21 00:00:00-06.

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Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » The SUL Wanderer (Video Series) - Episode 1: Gear


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Maia
(maia) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
The SUL Wanderer (Video Series) - Episode 1: Gear on 05/21/2013 20:04:54 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

The SUL Wanderer (Video Series) - Episode 1: Gear

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: The SUL Wanderer (Video Series) - Episode 1: Gear on 05/21/2013 20:25:10 MDT Print View

I chuckled a bit when I saw a hatchet attached to a tiny cuben pack. I thought I was the only person in the world who would do something like that.

Sebastian Boenner
(racoon-on-tour)

Locale: beautiful Rhineland (Germany)
going bushcraft? on 05/21/2013 23:50:31 MDT Print View

At first glance I was worried that the hatchet may come loose when Ryan throws the pack in the air. Had to watch it a second time to check if it has still been on the outside then... Gladly not.

Somehow this setup seems to have more in common with a modern version of bushcraft than with the "old" SUL setups. Best of both worlds?

As I'm using a similar setup from time to time I was wondering about the combination of a quilt and the Klymit. Maybe it's only me or temperatures over here are slightly lower, but the holes give me a good chill when using the pad on its own. That's why I add a really thin EVA pad to cover them up. Or are you using natural resources to compensate the lack of insulation?

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: The SUL Wanderer (Video Series) - Episode 1: Gear on 05/22/2013 02:59:23 MDT Print View

Good video clip. SUL is the way to travel! All except the hatchet...

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Bivy on 05/22/2013 05:42:45 MDT Print View

I love the simplicity of that set up. None of that gear is even all that fragile. No cuben ponchos that have to be taken care of, no spinaker packs that have to be babied, etc.

I'm curious how the bivy works with a down sleeping bag. I would have been concerned about condensation. Or is it not such a big deal since you're only out for a weekend? I'm guessing you don't us the bivy if there is a lot of rain in the forecast?

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: The SUL Wanderer (Video Series) - Episode 1: Gear on 05/22/2013 08:14:01 MDT Print View

Hatchet? Funny that you can include that and be so lightweight

After watching I reviewed my gear list - what can I not take?

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
SUL Trail Runing? SUL Thru Hiking? on 05/22/2013 08:28:34 MDT Print View

How about SUL trail running? How well do you think running with a pack like that would work? I would also guess that you would not want to bother with cooking over a fire after a day of running.

How about SUL thru-hiking (or just hiking for more then 5 days at a time). For that I think you'd want something other then a bivy for a shelter and your pack would need to be a bit bigger and more substantial.

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
The SUL Wanderer on 05/22/2013 09:23:03 MDT Print View

Excellent stuff.. Less is truly more. The hatchet is a multi tool for sure and go with it!

Erik Dietz
(erikdtz)

Locale: Los Angeles
What about... on 05/22/2013 10:35:10 MDT Print View

I really like this series, it helps me focus on what's really needed and what's a luxury. There are two ideas I'd like to address though. First, I backpack in CA where I have to carry a 2lb bear canister almost all the time. This is never brought up in SUL discussions and honestly it feels like most of the guys who are going SUL are able to because they don't have concern themselves with a canisters weight or volume. Secondly, I'm a bigger guy and I have to buy XL clothing and a larger sleeping bag, bivy sack, etc. Is it possible to go SUL when most of your clothes, your bag, shelter, etc is a bit bigger and, therefore, heavier then for a guy who's shaped like an ultrarunner?

Any ideas?

Edited by erikdtz on 05/22/2013 11:01:45 MDT.

Thom Darrah
(thomdarrah) - MLife

Locale: Southern Oregon
The SUL Wanderer (Video Series) - Episode 1: Gear on 05/22/2013 10:44:56 MDT Print View

What BPL should be!

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: The SUL Wanderer on 05/22/2013 11:18:05 MDT Print View

Ryan, your videos always get me psyched about getting outside, which is high praise. I'm looking forward to future installments. I think I'll take your challenge and try a SUL trip with essentially the same gear as you next chance I get. I think the least base weight I've ever had was around 8 lbs, so it should be educational.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: What about... on 05/22/2013 11:48:52 MDT Print View

nm

Edited by kthompson on 08/09/2014 23:54:00 MDT.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: What about... on 05/22/2013 12:15:19 MDT Print View

Erik,

Good point about the requirement in some places to have to carry the "evil"/heavy bear canister and for the added weight of bigger/taller people.

That said, maybe the important take away from any SUL discussion is to see if there are any ideas/practices that you can take for yourself to simply lighten the load that you currently have.

Watching the video has made me question some of the gear that I have been contented to carry now and I am sure will help me shed a few more ounces or one pound.

Won't get me anywhere near SUL as I have a 10.5 lbs base weight, but I can see some wisdom to be gained from the SUL people.

Also, I think that people who are warm sleepers have a natural advantage in going SUL vs. those of us who are cold sleepers.

I loved seeing the simplicity of Ryan's setup.

Maybe old dogs can learn new tricks???

-Tony

edited for spelling

Edited by Valshar on 05/22/2013 12:16:19 MDT.

Henk Smees
(theflyingdutchman) - MLife

Locale: Spanish Mountains
Hatchet vs. folding saw on 05/22/2013 12:35:28 MDT Print View

I love these kind of videos and after my "conversion" to MYOG I've been able to substitute most of my old equipment for lighter (sometimes much lighter) items and I'm sure that -one day- I'll reach the SUL limit. Not easy though in my favorite playground: high altitude mountains above treeline.

Just one question: I understand the idea behind taking a hatchet when cooking over a fire but...... wouldn't a folding saw like the Bahco Laplander serve the same duty at less than half the weight??? (they're only about 6oz. against 13oz. for the hatchet).

Edited for spelling and adding weights.

Edited by theflyingdutchman on 05/22/2013 12:42:14 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Hatchet vs. folding saw on 05/22/2013 13:00:21 MDT Print View

He knows how to go very light. But Ryan likes his hatchet.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Hatchet vs. folding saw on 05/22/2013 13:29:09 MDT Print View

Another benefit of a folding saw or mini hatchet in an SUL kit is you can use it as an emergency tool in bad weather. A heavy duty cutting tool lets you build a solid natural shelter quickly that can stand any kind of weather. I consider this important if you hiking in areas that can experience random extreme weather and you are using only a light tarp.

Henk Smees
(theflyingdutchman) - MLife

Locale: Spanish Mountains
Hatchet vs. folding saw on 05/22/2013 13:35:59 MDT Print View

Oh, I'm sure Ryan knows how to go light - very well. I used to take a folding saw (different brand than the one I mentioned though), but I’ve never been tempted to go as far as a 13oz. hatchet, so I was just wondering whether I was overlooking something that makes the hatchet that much more worthwhile.

In the near future I’ll be leaving behind the folding saw as well, because I'm in the middle of making myself a bow saw (just bought a blade and after cutting this to the desired length, the weight is only 34,8gr - just over 1.1oz). The blade will be attached to my trekking-poles which I'll take anyhow so the only further increase on weight will be the "attachers" (don't know how to call these). If there is interest I might post some pics when I finish same.

Edited by theflyingdutchman on 05/22/2013 13:37:58 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Hatchet vs. folding saw on 05/22/2013 13:40:39 MDT Print View

These cutting tools are anti Leave No Trace and hatchets are just plain dangerous in the hands of inexperienced users. Although I fear the potential damage by those who don't understand LNT, I do agree that a light folding saw is a very good survival tool. The Gerber 22-41773 sliding-style saw is one of the most effective tools for it's weight. It is a heavier (of course) update of the Sportsman's saw and it gained 1.2oz to bring it up to 4.8oz. BTW, it is the same as the Bear Grylls model in plain black and minus some rubber on the grip, at half the price.

But how do you justify such tools where a Swiss Army Knife is considered "heavy" and single edge razor blades are touted?

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Re Re Hatchet on 05/22/2013 13:51:26 MDT Print View

The weight of the hatchet is (partly) offset by the fact that he's not carrying a stove or fuel.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Re: Re: Hatchet vs. folding saw on 05/22/2013 13:52:30 MDT Print View

Yes, emergency only of course.

If you consider that some cutting tools allow you to build a fire in any weather (wet/frozen) and that having a fire in the evenings allows you to leave behind warm camp gear and you don't have to carry a stove + fuel, I think the weight is well justified.
You just need to consider if the cutting tools you bring are really necessary to build a good fire easily and efficiently. Sometimes they are and sometimes they aren't.




The only thing I would add to the gear list is some long underwear and maybe some wind pants.

Lyan Jordan
(redmonk)

Locale: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
The SUL Wanderer (Video Series) - Episode 1: Gear on 05/22/2013 13:56:41 MDT Print View

I think, like never carrying bear cans, going with a hatchet instead of stove and fuel is location dependent SUL technique.

I don't know that some of my favorite areas could support mass adoption of a cook fire. Other areas could be just fine.

How are new people to get the experience to know which trips are hatchet safe and which are irresponsible? Even within some large wilderness areas the appropriateness varies with microclimate.

--G.B.--

Edited by redmonk on 05/22/2013 13:57:24 MDT.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Re: Re: Hatchet vs. folding saw on 05/22/2013 14:13:01 MDT Print View

Well, Ryan's comment was: "The following gear list is a little different from the one shown in the video. The video features a gear kit that includes some minor "nonessentials" that I don't necessarily bring on every trip."

He was not including the hatchet in the gear list.

But it is a good example of a single luxury item that you *can* take and still be UL. I am sure it broke the SUL weight budget.

This is true of most SUL packers. I add my fishing rod usually. About 8oz of rod, line, a few premade tippets in a couple different weights, some flies & nymphs and a spare leader is all I need. This will break the budget for most SUL trips I take. But, this is strictly recreational type gear. Like food, it will vary with the trip. Sometimes I take a camera. Sometimes I take my wife, hey ha ha.

Anyway, you can certainly go hiking with the gear he recommended in his list. But this is minimal gear. Personnaly, I get a bit bored with only hiking to occupy my time after the first week. Even if it is a reading book for taking a zero day at one of the campsites I am at.

H D
(decolores)

Locale: NE
SUL on 05/22/2013 14:19:45 MDT Print View

I am inspired by the mention of the word "discipline" at around 5:29.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: The SUL Wanderer... navigation gear? on 05/22/2013 14:39:36 MDT Print View

Maps and compass were left out. I think the list could handle some primary navigation items :)

Daniel Goldenberg
(dag4643)

Locale: Pacific Northwet
Re: Hatchet vs. folding saw on 05/22/2013 14:39:56 MDT Print View

In my opinion a folding saw is much more useful for making a campfire where you are cutting larger diameter wood. If you watch the video however Ryan is not really making a campfire, it's more of a tiny cook fire with much smaller wood pieces. The hatchet is much better than a saw for that, especially for splitting wood into small pieces and making kindling.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
hatchets on 05/22/2013 14:47:15 MDT Print View

"I think, like never carrying bear cans, going with a hatchet instead of stove and fuel is location dependent SUL technique"


Yes. Folks need to keep in mind that the whole of Montana has about as many people as the city of San Fran. Especially outside the national parks it's a different world up here.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Emergency Fires and location on 05/22/2013 15:06:15 MDT Print View

"If you consider that some cutting tools allow you to build a fire in any weather (wet/frozen) and that having a fire in the evenings allows you to leave behind warm camp gear and you don't have to carry a stove + fuel, I think the weight is well justified.
You just need to consider if the cutting tools you bring are really necessary to build a good fire easily and efficiently. Sometimes they are and sometimes they aren't."

My reasoning behind carrying a sturdy folding knife was (is) that it allowed me to carve up wet wood and get to the dry stuff on the inside. That usually works but I had a situation where that didn't work. The wood was very knobby with a twisted grain so trying to split it or make shavings just wasn't working.

I'm probably going to carry more/better tinder next time. Of course out west you can normally find some dry wood or wood that will split. Its harder in the east with our knobby hardwoods that don't drop lots of nice little twigs all over the ground.

As a last resort I've doused most of my toilet paper in alcohol gel and burned that. It works.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: hatchets on 05/22/2013 15:16:24 MDT Print View

"Yes. Folks need to keep in mind that the whole of Montana has about as many people as the city of San Fran. Especially outside the national parks it's a different world up here."

That process works both ways. One look at the member map will show you where the largest audience is. It's not Montana.

Stevie Patrick
(XstevieX)

Locale: Adirondacks
SUL Wanderer on 05/22/2013 15:40:20 MDT Print View

I'm very stoked on this video series! Can't wait to see more.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: hatchet alternatives on 05/22/2013 16:02:46 MDT Print View

"That process works both ways. One look at the member map will show you where the largest audience is. It's not Montana."

But they may go to Montana :)

Other than the weight, that nice Gransfors Bruks hatchet that Ryan was packing is a cool $100 or more. Elegant and shown in trained hands, but it is this really practical on a SUL diet? That hatchet is about 20% of the remaining base weight!

FYI, Vaughn makes a light hatchet that you can find for $20 or so, but I think all of these small axes are miserable tools. They bounce and slide around, and if one ricochets off your cutting target, it can make a righteous mess of your shin or lop off a finger with great ease.

For a small cook fire, there are plenty of lighter and actually more useful alternatives.

Show below:

Gerber sliding saw. 4.8oz and about $12. The blade is 6" long and cuts very quickly with light effort. A tired or inexperienced user won't do major body damage with one far from help as they might with a hatchet.

Mora Robust knife. 4.8oz and about $16. Useful enough for preparing fire wood alone, but I think it makes a perfect paring with the sliding saw. You can use this one to clean a trout or pare an apple, which would be interesting to try with the hatchet. I'm not a fan of heavy batoning with a knife (where the hatchet excels), but I would by fine splitting the small stuff shown in the video with it.

Victorinox Farmer knife. 3oz and about $32. I think this is the most elegant alternative in the pile. You get a saw, a rather thick folding blade (thicker than other 91mm models), a very good awl, and the typical SAK can opener and bottle opener. If you want tweezers and toothpick, you can get the very similar Hiker model at about the same weight and less expense. You could baton small, dry straight-grained stuff with it within reason. This knife with scissors would be incredible. I carry a 3/4oz SAK Classic to get scissors, nail file, etc.

Wenger Handyman. 3.2oz and $35-$40. Much like the Farmer above, but a few more tools--- notably a nice pair of scissors, and you get tweezers and toothpick too.

Victorinox Trekker. 4.6oz and about $35. You get the larger saw, a locking blade, plus awl, bottle and can openers, tweezers and toothpick. Big on my go-to list for an all-around trail knife. The plain blade version would be better for fire building. I wish Victorinox would dump the screwdriver/bottle opener and add ***scissors***. BTW, the blade on the one hand model is much thicker than the other 111mm models.

Hatchet alternatives

Cutting tools aside, I do applaud the incredible simplicity of this setup: go for a nice walk in the wilderness on a summer day, throw your bivy down, have a nice little fire, cook your dinner and sleep under the stars, just the way the Creator made you. Good stuff.

Edited by dwambaugh on 05/22/2013 16:05:42 MDT.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
simple on 05/22/2013 16:40:56 MDT Print View

"go for a nice walk in the wilderness on a summer day, throw your bivy down, have a nice little fire, cook your dinner and sleep under the stars, just the way the Creator made you. Good stuff."

Yup, the best way to camp! So simple and peaceful.

Edited by justin_baker on 05/22/2013 16:46:05 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: simple on 05/22/2013 17:10:22 MDT Print View

I do like to hang my hammock instead. I like swingin' in the trees with the birds singing and the little animals running around-- 2' below :)

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
tools on 05/22/2013 19:37:00 MDT Print View

thanks Ryan- I like episode 1 :)

I have to agree w/ Dale, for the weight a Farmer SAK (or if you can find one- Bushcrafter-blade, saw, awl) is a pretty darn good tool for a small fire or a wood stove; the saw works surprising well and the blade can whip up nice fuzz sticks and holds up to light batoning w/o issue

the gear list shown should more accurately reflect what you're showing in the video imo- so what if it doesn't meet the 5# mark, it's just an arbitrary number that has no real meaning

John Harper
(johnnyh88) - M

Locale: The SouthWest
Re: list on 05/22/2013 20:08:12 MDT Print View

Nice list that's inspired me to simply try taking fewer items next weekend. I already don't take very many big items, but all the little stuff adds up and is where I have some trouble. For example, some things I see missing from your list that I might take are:

Compass/map
Water bottles
First aid kit
Gloves
Sleeping socks
Leg rainwear
Hand sanitizer
Toothbrush

I get the gist though and like the goal. In addition to packing fewer items, I'm trying to just own less gear. Even though it may end up a little heavier, I'm slowly getting together a kit that works for most conditions I hike in. I only own one pack now. It will work for day hikes and winter trips. I could go lighter, but at 31 oz, I'm pretty happy and I like the satisfaction of knowing it's all I need and that it should last me a long time.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: list on 05/22/2013 20:37:43 MDT Print View

Everyone's list is going to vary. There are few universal items, to include the so called 10 essentials. For example:

I often hike in familiar areas without a map or compass. I can find east, west, north and south without one. But when I need a compass, mine is heavier than most folks.

My first aid kit is a few bandaids, a few Advils, and some antiseptic.

I don't always bring gloves.

I sleep in the one pair of socks I hike in.

I almost never have rainwear for my legs.

I have never used hand sanitizer in my life.

I always bring a toothbrush and toothpaste.

Those Aquamira bottles in the video are huge. I always just bring AquaMira tablets.

My list isn't best, nor is Ryan's. What matters is that each of us bring the gear we need for each particular trip.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: list on 05/22/2013 21:14:12 MDT Print View

But when I need a compass, mine is heavier than most folks

Either that is one hell of a heavy compass, or folks themselves are getting SUL these days. Cuben skin implants?

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: "heavy" compass on 05/22/2013 21:56:19 MDT Print View

I threw all caution to the wind and carry a Suunto MC-2G that is a whopping 2.6 ounces-- without the batteries mind you ;) I use magnetic flux batteries, so they don't weigh much.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
SUL is so fun on 05/23/2013 00:44:07 MDT Print View

This is super fun.

Because we all have different approaches that we can learn from, but we all pretty much agree on the same things: seek simple, go light, take less. I love that.

Erik: the bear canister thing with SUL. Just add 2lb to your SUL limit, so 5+2=7 lb. No big deal. It's like taking a mulligan. For an SUL pack that can accommodate a bear can, I just sew a top strap to my packs and strap it over the top. It works even on tiny packs, and I do this in some parts of Glacier and Yellowstone. My choice for an "SUL" bear can is this. Because it's smooth, you have to add some epoxy or tape "runnels" so the strap doesn't slide side-to-side causing the canister to slip out from your top cinch strap.

Also, don't get caught up on the whole XL clothing thing. They're just numbers, you know. I said 5 lbs in 2003 because I was a medium. Adjust accordingly. It's just a number.

I can't believe how much discussion there is on the hatchet.

OK, so the hatchet is either:

1. Valuable as a cutting tool.
2. Totally fun to use.
3. A neat middle finger to the "UL" establishment.
4. All of the above.

I like 4.

I carry a saw in the winter when I'm building snow shelters because it's more useful for cutting long bowed blowdowns that I use for my snow shelters. See here for details.

I use the Laplander. Great choice, beautiful saw. Light enough.

A knife is as useful as an axe for batoning limbs into dry kindling (see here) but is not so hot for limbing dead twigs off of trees, which is where the best dry wood is. And see #2 above.

Map & compass: I leave them behind when I'm visiting an area I know. I also leave them behind when I'm game for a rousing adventure. Sometimes I replace them with a sat phone so I can call my wife and say, "Hey, can you pull up the mapping software for a second...?" or "Can you pick me up? I'm on a dirt road by a red house..." Maybe we should write an article about that relationship dynamic. It makes for good stories and gives my mom and wife common ground to meet on.

Really excited for coming episodes. Filming a bunch in the Tetons this weekend for upcoming ones...

RJ

Edited by ryan on 05/23/2013 00:55:41 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: SUL is so fun on 05/23/2013 01:13:16 MDT Print View

To tame a slippery bear can, cut some "ranger bands" from a large inner tube. Remove them when "deploying" the can and put therm inside so they aren't lost.

The Laplander saw is good (same as a Kershaw), but it is 2 oz heavier than the Gerber.

As far as fun, the SUL puzzle is fun, although your video showed ideal conditions with a lovely bed of pine needles and a clear sky. Add three days of drizzle, rocks and mud with a little stream running under your bivy and it turns into a bathtub whenever you need to get out. NOT SO MUCH FUN NOW, EH? :)

How about a new lable and paradigm to match? I propose ALAP: As Light As Practical. That promotes packing for the conditions rather than an arbitrary weight, sending the Innocents afield with the right gear rather than just the light gear.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
SUL and Rain on 05/23/2013 01:17:47 MDT Print View

Dale --

My camp on that trip was a dry bed of pine needles under a spruce tree.

It rained 2.5 inches that weekend.

SUL is still about skill -- with a bivy, I opted out of expansive views of big sky and into dry shelter under nature's tarp.

RJ

Justin C
(paintballr4life) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Video on 05/23/2013 04:00:03 MDT Print View

I really enjoyed the video and look forward to the series. I like seeing BPL returning to its roots. Good job and keep these coming!

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: The SUL Wanderer (Video Series) - Episode 1: Gear on 05/23/2013 06:53:11 MDT Print View

I find it BPL SUL heresy that the AM wasn't repackaged and you resorted to using TP. :)

Rodney Mruk
(rodney_mruk) - M

Locale: Northeast Oregon
Use current gear on 05/23/2013 07:37:28 MDT Print View

Ryan,

Nice video. I look forward to the remainder.

I would suggest you use gear that is currently available on the market. The benefit to viewers is diminished when you utilize gear that is no longer available. Your gear list includes several items no longer available like:

500 ml Firelite pot
Beartooth merino hoodie
Thoroughfare pants

You certainly can use them in your gear but it would be helpful to viewers for you to list a couple of similar products available today.

Otherwise a great video and article.

Thanks,
Rodney

Mike V
(deadbox) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
RE:"The SUL Wanderer (Video Series) - Episode 1: Gear" on 05/23/2013 08:15:21 MDT Print View

Ryan,
I am really excited about this video series! Your focus on SUL being about combining skill and a simple kit, as opposed to a black and white base weight number is very refreshing. I hope future videos will focus on the SUL skill set needed to best utilize a smaller array of tools. I am particularly curious to know what skills you are employing that allow you to go from your kit in your article Backpacking Checklist
to your SUL kit.

spelt the enigmatic
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
inspiration is great but on 05/23/2013 08:16:18 MDT Print View

>>I am inspired by the mention of the word "discipline" at around 5:29.

Hey, now, this is a family site...

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: SUL and Rain on 05/23/2013 11:40:11 MDT Print View

"It rained 2.5" that weekend."

Ryan, I know you grew up in the PNW and you know what the conditions can be like. There is rain and then there is rain.

2.5" is an impressive amount of precipitation. I assume that there were some heavy thunder showers. What was the duration of the rain you experienced? I didn't see rain pants on your list. Did you just tough it out hiking in wet pants? How do you handle heavy rainfall and a bivy without a tarp?

I can't imagine PNW multi-day drizzle with just a bivy and no rain pants. Cooking and getting in and out of the bivy in the rain and hiking in cold wet pants doesn't sound very practical if not just plain miserable. Things would be wet, muddy and just slimy after the first night.


I get the beauty of the simplicity of a minimalist kit, but the example fits a narrow region and climate. Years ago you chronicled your Lost Coast hike with a poncho tarp setup and it got pretty wet. Some would have been hypothermic. Do you think that the SUL gear lists encourage hikers to tackle conditions that the equipment won't provide safe protection?

Some mentioned skills needed for such a trip with SUL gear. I don't see any specialized skills other than campsite selection, fire building and navigation without map and compass. The rest looks like basic camping and hiking to me.

I think there is some luck with weather and perhaps having the youth and vigor to put up with the conditions you did find. I'm not sure that many hikers could (or should) handle it.

Robert Cowman
(rcowman) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
HMG summit on 05/24/2013 01:15:07 MDT Print View

does the pack have padded shoulder straps?

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
Re: Re: The SUL Wanderer (Video Series) - Episode 1: Gear on 05/24/2013 07:33:27 MDT Print View

Right on.

This video series is a solid reintroduction of past information on going light revamped in a new medium. Video is the way to go for presenting this sort of information, especially for beginners who want to get a peak inside pack contents.

Jamie Shortt
(jshortt) - MLife

Locale: North Carolina
Re: The SUL Wanderer (Video Series) - Episode 1: Gear on 05/24/2013 19:09:36 MDT Print View

Well done Ryan Jordan well done!

This is an absolutely brilliant piece of work. You will never know how much you have inspired me at a time when I truly needed inspiration and what a debt I owe you for it. This video is just icing on the cake.

...so I don't care if the gear matches the list, I really don't care how much it weighs, I love the hatchet, and no tarp once again makes me ponder new possibilities. I am SUL and I consider the weight of everything I take so that I don't have to worry about the weight of anything I carry. When I hit the trails with my tiny pack it means nothing to me. This is the way I want it to be.

Your video brings me back to a 3 day trip I took last October. The site for my first night was just below the summit of cold mountain in NC. I walked to the top to watch the sun set. When it was time to sleep I just tossed out my bivy, pushed in my pad, and stuffed in my quilt. I made some notes about the day then drifted off. It was so simple. Not much gear to worry about... and for a moment not much in life to worry about. Unfortunately a rare thing for me these days.

Cold Mountain

Please keep this up, I eagerly await the next one.

Jamie

Sam Snell
(ss1387) - MLife
Re: SUL is so fun on 05/25/2013 01:36:17 MDT Print View

Thank you, Ryan.

I appreciate your insight and your recognition that we each surmise our own unique valuations of 'meaning' in the outdoors. Just as we may each elect to take a different path through a common wilderness, we each find meaning within that wilderness in our own unique way. Finding and meeting at the intersections of those paths is what makes reading BPL, sharing trip reports, and perusing these discussion replies so fundamentally valuable: they emphasize our value and agency as explorers and wanderers, individually and collectively.

For instance, I sympathize with the “totally fun to use” and “neat middle finger” motivations that drive you to carry a hatchet. While the proximity of wilderness areas with open-flame bans precludes inclusion of a hatchet in all but a few of my journeys, these same motivations bias many of my own decisions. For instance, I commonly bring a set of juggling balls. While they are wholly unnecessary, they are darn good fun and they throw a nice middle finger that neatly derails any dreary attitude on wet, muddy, or slimy days when I am having difficulty appreciating the beauty surrounding me.

I eagerly await the contribution of your next video to this individually filtered collective experience.

Richard Scruggs
(JRScruggs) - MLife

Locale: Oregon
Re: Re: hatchet alternatives on 05/25/2013 23:21:06 MDT Print View

Re Dale's comment: "Other than the weight, that nice Gransfors Bruks hatchet that Ryan was packing is a cool $100 or more."

Um, maybe a lot more, like $160 -- at Amazon and at Ben's Backwoods, anyway.

See http://www.bensbackwoods.com/gransfors-bruks-mini-belt-hatchet/

todd harper
(funnymoney) - MLife

Locale: Sunshine State
Re: The SUL Wanderer (Video Series) - Episode 1: Gear on 05/26/2013 06:14:43 MDT Print View

I loved this video. I love that you could pull it off With a hatchet!!!! I appreciate the time put into making it.

While I like debates, and discussing things like "is this REALLY practical?",
"but what do you do when _________?", "but your way won't work if _________", Ryan CLEARLY states:

"The idea is to focus on a kit that I use for three-day (long weekend) backpacking between about St. Patrick’s Day and Halloween, on routes that are snow-free.

This introductory episode simply gives you an idea of what I might take on such a trip. It’s not meant to be a comprehensive thesis on SUL gear."

JUST TAKE IT FOR WHAT IT IS: someone sharing a cool experience done a certain way. There are multiple ways to do some things!!!!

Daniel Fish
(daniel@fishfamilypdx.com)

Locale: PDX
... on 05/26/2013 08:12:44 MDT Print View

...

Edited by daniel@fishfamilypdx.com on 06/08/2013 19:05:20 MDT.

Jim Sweeney
(swimjay) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Bear canisters on 05/26/2013 12:06:09 MDT Print View

Even in the stretch of land from Yosemite down to Sequoia, bear canisters are only required by law in a few areas. I use an Ursack, at 5.7 oz and collapsible, and am convinced that I'm adequately protecting both my food and any bears who might cross my path and turn to the dark side if they ever got a taste of what humans eat.

Kevin Manley
(manleyk) - F - MLife

Locale: Denver-ish
Re: Re: Re: hatchet alternatives on 06/02/2013 21:39:32 MDT Print View

Have you ever handled one of these hatchets? I have a Wetterlings (the only one on par with the Bruks); incredible tools and a pleasure to hold.

Are they potentially dangerous? Sure. I have friends I wouldn't hand a pair of scissors to, though. It's all about knowing how to use it. And you really could build a cabin with one, if you had a LOT of time on your hands.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: Re: hatchet alternatives on 06/02/2013 23:16:45 MDT Print View

"Have you ever handled one of these hatchets?"

Gransfors Bruks and Wetterlings are great examples of hatchets, with incredible steel and head profiles, but....

I lived with only wood heat for years and I've swung my share of sharp steel around. The problem with hatchets is that a user will have their hand in harm's way, or try to use the tool for heavier tasks than it was designed for. An inexperienced user who is tired, dehydrated, or on the edge of hypothermia (or all the above) is a poor candidate for using a hatchet. Small hatchets can bounce and ricochet in unskilled hands, especially with springy green limbs.

On the other hand, a folding saw is about 1/4 the weight, 10% of the cost and will cut small diameter wood in a hurry with little chance of the user gashing their shin open or lopping off a finger (yes, someone will still try).

If it comes to emergency shelter making, I can do it much faster with a saw. I can cut some big stuff by simply cutting from two directions. If I need to get to the dry center of a dead limb, I can cut part way through and peel it back to split it.

In the video, Ryan is splitting off small sticks for tinder. I can easily to the same with a $12, 4oz Mora knife and a stick, with my hands completely out of harm's way.

Jane Freeman
(Janefree) - F

Locale: Paauilo
Re: Re: The SUL Wanderer (Video Series) - Episode 1: Gear on 06/05/2013 14:12:52 MDT Print View

Yes, to each his or her own. I happen to like all of my digits (all ten and not to mention counting those on my back. ) especially in the backcountry miles from an emergency room. Hatchets like guns to me are capricious. Fire safety is also huge and I imagine this is addressed.

I write this from an older female perspective. For A younger man especially extra pounds are more inconsequential. (I recognize this offsets fuel) For me cooking over a wood fire, soot just gets everywhere no matter what. Clothes, gear, face. Ugh! I just find the clean up time consuming and impossible. So just a preference.

For survival or the comfort of a fire, a wood cutting tool is excellent but I would personally choose a lighter more controlled saw tool as suggested.

Not sure the woods is a safer place with hatchet wielding and advocating more open fires.

Gary Rozanc
(grozanc) - M
Future Videos on 07/07/2013 20:53:49 MDT Print View

Hey Ryan,

Loved the videos. In future episodes I'd love to see your techniques for packing up and cooking with just the bivy while its raining.

Thanks,
Gary

mark henley
(flash582) - F
Way to go ....... on 07/11/2013 17:07:31 MDT Print View

At last! Ryan has said the magic words!

It's just a number ...... Who cares if your pack is 4 lbs, 5 lbs, or 6 lbs .....

SUL is really about simplicity even more than pack weight. Ryan has achieved the 8th level of zen lightness .... A master of lightness .... Thank you for sharing your continued wisdom.

I use a simple DIY hammock these days with a poncho tarp. I discarded the whoopie slings and changed to 3 ft pieces of amsteel with fixed loops on each end. The tree strap passes thru the fixed eye and works much like a truckers hitch .... Simple, light, effective and easy to pitch at the end of a long day. Tied off with a half hitch. Throw in a 6 ounce thin 40 inch wide pad .... Sleep in blissful slumber. Patch kit not required.

Keep everything as simple as possible, leave the coffee press, espresso makers, campfire toasters, and complicated whatsits at the house .... Take your cell phone if its needed, but turned off, and in a ziplock in the bottom of your pack. Learn to use a knife like a bushman .....

Enjoy the sound of the world, the view of the stars, and the hearty laugh of a companion around a campfire, or enjoy your solitude.

Thank you Ryan.

Charles Tufankjian
(ctufankjian)

Locale: New Hampshire
Flashlight on 07/13/2013 09:10:22 MDT Print View

A little late to the party here, but does anybody know what kind of flashlight that is?

Edited by ctufankjian on 07/13/2013 09:31:49 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Flashlight on 07/14/2013 19:57:18 MDT Print View

Looks like a single CR123-based LED light like the Fenix E15 or Olight S10. It looks too fat for a single AA model.

Charles Tufankjian
(ctufankjian)

Locale: New Hampshire
Re: Re: Flashlight on 07/16/2013 10:44:53 MDT Print View

I think you're right regarding the battery size. It's definitely not one of the models you mentioned though. However, I just ordered a Fenix E15. Its my first CR123 light. I think I'll be happy with it.