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Website Review: explores the extension of ultralight backpacking philosophies to other areas of your life.

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by Nicole Chilton | 2008-03-05 00:00:00-07

Website Review:

Ever wonder if you could apply your happy-go-lucky lightweight backpacking principles to your everyday life? Have you ever found yourself in the cell phone store wondering which phone was lighter? Ever been in the market for a new car and asked the baffled salesman which Subaru weighed less? Have you recently looked at the hair of your friend/sister/spouse/child and considered how much weight they could save if they just chopped it all off? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions then you, too, might be thirsty for more information on how to go lightweight in the front country. Enter

The Portland, Oregon based website, which was started and is maintained by Jon Aebi-Magee, is a virtual cornucopia of links to lightweight living resources and information. Expanding beyond lightweight backpacking, the site offers information on new technology, gear and even lightweight lifestyle choices. You really can go to this site and read up on everything from where to find the best lightweight backpacking gear, to which airplane is lighter, as well as get up-to-date information on the latest and greatest lightweight technology.

"The ultra-light movement is really a new way of thinking. It's about reducing the burden of weight. Backpacking is only a tiny part of that movement. You can see ultra-light in the news today, ranging from computers to clothing to commercial jetliners," says Jon. "By producing products that are lighter, manufacturers are also creating products that use fewer natural resources, use less energy, are more economical and have superior design." With multiple lightweight groups and companies that offer lightweight products linked to the site, it is possible to get lost for hours, fully indulging in the preoccupation of going light.

And why not indulge a little? Going light is becoming a way of life for many people and not just those who backpack. Less and lighter stuff means less of an impact on the planet and your wallet, more time available and more of a focus on the act of living itself. Even Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, felt compelled to follow up his best-seller with a companion book, In Defense of Food, which, among other things, voices the reasoning that even eating less is better for us and for the planet. For the many people who casually refer to themselves as lightweight enthusiasts, going light can be about more than the type of gear they carry; it can about living with less in an effort to gain more.

The site is a source of information for both the lifestyle lightweight enthusiast and those who are just getting started. In additional to the many links, one can find articles written by other lightweight enthusiasts, such as one contributor (who has also written for Backpacking Light) who wrote about backpacking with his two kids. Links to lightweight philosophy-centered weight loss programs and articles on tiny homes compliment the generous number of articles dedicated to gear, clothing, cars, and innovations. One downside is that while the information on the latest technology is copious and current, there are no forums to discuss that technology with other lightweight enthusiasts, which may leave the reader wanting more.

As a vehicle for taking your lightweight philosophies out of your pack and into the rest of your life, this site is a fabulous place to start.



"Website Review:," by Nicole Chilton. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2008-03-05 00:00:00-07.


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Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Website Review: on 03/04/2008 23:46:14 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Website Review:

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Website Review: on 03/05/2008 09:04:30 MST Print View

Interesting site. Im sure many people have taken a look at other aspects of thier lives and thought mabey they dont need so many clothes in the closet and dishes in the cabinet ect. I try myself ,but its not always easy. I have found that although Im low in income it is sometimes far better to have fewer high quality possesions than to live cluttered with "affordable" trash.

Stuart Steele
(sbsteele) - F

Locale: North Central New Jersey
It's about human performance not lightweigt packing. on 03/05/2008 09:17:11 MST Print View

Ryan and Nicole,

Lightweight packing is not about reducing the burden of weight.
It’s about human performance.
An aircraft that is designed to be light weight requires less fuel and can either travel farther for the same fuel or cruise at a faster speed than its' pre-trimed predecessor, known as the thrust to weight ratio.
As related to us humans, the thrust to weight ratio means that with less weight we can move through time and space with greater speed or conserve energy and travel farther.
I learned about not being a “beast of burden” thirty-seven years ago.
Lightweight packing is a means to an end not an end in itself.
The end is improved human performance.
Lightweight packing is just one means to that end.
Aspects of human performance relate to techniques of bipedal motion and breathing, fuel and supplements, load balancing, load placement and issues of clothing and footwear not commonly known.


Misfit Mystic

Locale: "Grand Canyon of the East"
RE: Website Review on 03/05/2008 09:51:40 MST Print View

I'm with you Brian. I just can't afford to buy things I'll end up throwing away. In fact, a friend and I were having this conversation yesterday. We live in a wasteful society; in this country, more and more consumer goods are designed to be lightly used and thrown away. Combined with the idea you have to have the very latest "new and improved" whatever, we seem to be in the process of constantly rebuying the same things while we dispose of perfectly servicable items that are so "last year".

I try to only buy what I REALLY need, and then I'll buy the highest quality item I can budget for. The great thing is, since people tend to dispose of nearly brand new stuff, I can always pick up what I need USED and CHEAP! For instance, a couple months ago I needed a new business suit (I don't usually need to dress for work). After trying on some obviously cheaply made NEW garments at a department store in the $300 range, I settled for a USED suit from Goodwill. For $18 dollars, I got a lightly used suit that fit me perfect. The kicker is it was a Brioni suit, worth probably $3000 new at a Neiman Marcus. It will last me forever, it is incredibly well made, and I only paid $18!

It's one thing I've always been grateful for with the outdoor industry. Well made products designed to be USED, rather than shown off for a week or month and then disposed of. Many industries could learn a few things from gear makers about Pride of Craftsmanship; it seems to be a forgotten ideal in today's society.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: It's about human performance not lightweigt packing. on 03/05/2008 10:57:29 MST Print View

I see two things being discussed. The website is about weight reduction, but y'all are discussing simple living (simplicity).

Personally, lightweight backpacking is about simplicity to me, not human performance.

Brian James
(bjamesd) - F

Locale: South Coast of BC
"ultralight life" on 03/05/2008 20:57:22 MST Print View

Pursuing ultralight backpacking has taught me lessons that apply to every single minute of my life. It's not just a "camping guy wears his technical clothes to the mall" thing.

Heavyweight backpacking is an excellent metaphor for how many of us live our regular lives. We get more bigger better stuff with the expectation that it will improve our "journey" through life, but instead we wind up bogged down by sorting/storing/cleaning/organizing/paying for/thinking about/upgrading/carrying/shipping our great unholy mess of "stuff".

If you go in the other direction, you are freed physically/mentally/spiritually from your stuff and from your obsession with stuff.

Places in my life that I've applied the less-is-more philosophy include my kitchen and cooking style, my car (sold it and joined a car co-op,) my bathroom+shower, my desk and computer, what I carry to work, what I will carry to school when I go back this summer, what I take road tripping, what I take home when I visit my folks for the holidays, and even what I take when I go out for a walk. Within a couple of years I'm thinking of having kids, and so I've started to learn about that too: new Moms are massive gearheads!!

I can't help it: after having spent a couple of years visualizing a lightweight life in the bush, I can't look at any situation without trying to simplify and reduce the items and steps involved.

A great blog about this is

I wish they had forums, or that BPL had a forum section for "Ultralight Lifestyle" or whatever. I want to start a thread on UL city bags/murses, as these all seem to be MIL-SPEC for some reason. UL Laptop cases, UL cellphones, UL personal carry items, and UL city umbrellas all come to mind!


PS imagine the look on my co-workers' faces when I went for an overnight business trip wearing only a jacket and carrying a laptop! I had a toothbrush in my pocket and had rolled up some fresh duds in my laptop case. If only this case didn't weigh 15 lbs *empty* -- the concept is perfect:


Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: "ultralight life" on 03/05/2008 21:18:17 MST Print View

Since two years ago I've been actively and relentlessly trying to pare down all of the things I don't need in my life. It is a lot harder than trying to reduce your pack weight for a hike! When I went back to New York in December (I live in Japan) I went through all my belongings I had left there and reduced it to but two card board boxes. Back here in Japan all my belongings in the world are now able to be fitted into an 8' x 8' cubicle. I'm not sure I can reduce it much further than this without seriously losing my ability to do my work or enjoy my hobbies. It would be nice if I can reduce it to an "SUL lifestyle", living with but a single backpack and only the basics of life, very much like being on a UL hike, but life off the trail involves more than just walking to the next location. Our society has long let go of our nomadic heritage.

Brian James
(bjamesd) - F

Locale: South Coast of BC
Re: "ultralight life" on 03/05/2008 22:01:21 MST Print View

It's weird how many or most of us start out our adult lives "ultralight", living as students or the working poor in our first years out of the nest. And yet the advantages of that seem to be lost on most of us, and the first thing we do when we get a good paycheque and a permanent place to keep our junk is go to the store. Furniture, appliances, hobby stuff, vehicles, food, clothing, special flatware for having company over, it never ends.

I was severely guilty of that when I moved in with my girlfriend 3 years ago. I had always prided myself on being able to fit everything into a series of boxes for moving to University and back in the Fall and Spring. Moving in with my GF I was scared that this was too "ghetto" and that I had to start "getting serious" about my home and possessions. Together we bought everything listed above for about a year. We then sat in our apartment full of stuff for a year, cleaning and arranging and storing and looking at it all. (Not that much stuff, but one-bedroom apartments cannot tolerate more than the bare minimum of contents...)

We've since spent the last year giving things away and generally reducing our kit. And it's wonderful. We high-five each other every time we reduce or downsize something!

These are a few things on my "to-upgrade" list: an apartment-sized combo washer-dryer, a foldaway dish rack, and a foldaway wall-mounted mini-desk...




PS for reference, I don't want that 15-lb computer case. I just love the idea of a single carryon for clothes+laptop as a total UL travel solution.

Mike Hinsley

Locale: England, UK
Ultralight Living on 03/06/2008 02:22:53 MST Print View

There's a lot to be said for having less things - it makes tidying up eaasy for a start.

I tend to have a simple rule - I have a certain amount of storage space for certain things - books, camping kit and so on. When it gets full something old gets given away or ebayed.

In the house all the rooms are designed to be clutter and junk free apart from one small room which is officially 'storage for everything that I don't use that often' where camping kit and other bits and bobs are stored.

I am quite fussy about cross-contamination of rooms.

Everything stored in the kitchen belongs in a kitchen. Everything in the living room is concerned with comfort and entertainment and so on. My garage only contains car-related stuff. I have a separate toolshed.

The idea is simple. Everything that is stored is stored near to where it will be used. If it will not fit in that space then stuff is ditched until it will.

The final idea is that something hasn't been used for a few years it gets given away or ebayed or trashed.

Robert Devereux
(robdev) - F

Locale: Pittsburgh, PA
Re: Ultralight living on 03/06/2008 09:00:27 MST Print View

I really wish I could fit everything I needed in life in a single backpack. I try to follow that philosophy, but it's very hard to get rid of things. I agree with Miguel, it's harder to pare down possessions than it is to lighten pack weight.

Several years ago, I quit my job and backpacked in New Zealand and Australia. In preparation, I got rid of everything I owned except for my clothes, guitar, computer, and a few boxes of books and CDs. But when I got back from my trip, I started getting more stuff again.

I'm in the middle of trying to purge it, but there are always reasons to keep something. "I don't use this backpack, but my fiance might want to come on a trip with me so I have to keep it." "I don't use these plates, but I might need something nice for guests (nevermind that guests are happy to use my less fancy plates)." "I don't wear these clothes, but I might need them in case I loose my job and start working at a place with a dress code." Most are not good reasons, but unless you have a real incentive to get rid of stuff, you'll accept a silly reason.

I'm getting better at fighting the urge to keep things, I've got several boxes of clothing, kitchenwares, books, and CDs to get rid of, I just need to take the time to go to Goodwill and used book and CD shops. I'm still not getting rid of enough stuff, but it's a start.

I'll definitely check out

Edited by robdev on 03/06/2008 13:48:25 MST.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Ultralight living - Too Many Choices, Too Much Stuff on 03/06/2008 10:19:18 MST Print View

Why can't we just "get rid of it"?
Because we "might" need it some day....

Monty Montana
(TarasBulba) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: Ultralight living on 03/06/2008 12:15:46 MST Print View

From Walden: "Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indespensible, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind. With respect to luxuries and comforts, the wisest have ever lived a more simple and meager life than the poor. The ancient philosophers, Chinese, Hindu, Persian and Greek, were a class than which none has been poorer in outward riches, none so rich in inward." Henry David Thoreau

For my own part, one of my little rules of life is to give away something whenever I acquire something new in a ceasless effort to stem the tidal wave of "stuff".

Kathleen B

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Ultra-light living, or Ultra-less on 03/06/2008 13:24:19 MST Print View

Long ago a friend of mine pointed out whatever we think we need, someone somewhere is living without it and is still happy. That comment encouraged my already innate style of living without a heavy dose of possessions.

I've developed a habit of putting things I want to get rid of in a "cooling off place" so that they're out of the mainstream but still not actually gone. If I have a use for something, I can get it out of the box and back into my life. The lifespan of something being in the cooling off place before being donated used to be a year, now it's down to about 2 months.

Also, I don't focus on weight for streamlining the things I own at home. For example, I get lots of use out of my cast iron skillet. It takes the place of a large variety of frequently expensive, lighter-weight pans.

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Re: Ultra-light living, or Ultra-less on 03/06/2008 13:47:39 MST Print View

I like my stuff and don't want to get rid of it. I have a house full of memories of my childhood, and my family, of my working life and of my retirement.

I could live with less if I needed to but I don't need to.

Hiking with a Sub-2 pound pack load sure shows I can do with less when I want.

I also take care of a bunch of "throw away cats and kittens" and try to find homes for them when I can. Most of them are semi-wild so I just provide food and a safe place for them to live.

Kathleen B

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Ultra-light living, or Ultra-less on 03/06/2008 14:24:58 MST Print View

Good point, Bill. If owning something fills a useful purpose, then keep it! My own disposition is such that I am much more comfortable with fewer things. As much of a purger as I am, I do have some sentimental things. One of my favorites is a collection of five black, plastic spiders that hang over the stove in my kitchen that accumulated over the years from the kids' trick-or-treating era!

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Ultra-light living, or Ultra-less on 03/06/2008 14:35:57 MST Print View

There is somthing a little confused about the term "ultralight living". My first reaction is that it is about simpler living as in a smaller pile of stuff weighs less than a big pile. But if you arnt carrying or transporting something the phyisical weight of the object is largly irrelivant. The term also insinuates for me a lighter burden on the mind, less to maintain and worry about.

Brian James
(bjamesd) - F

Locale: South Coast of BC
Re: Ultra-light living, or Ultra-less on 03/06/2008 15:43:37 MST Print View

I think that "ultralight living" means whatever you want: be it fewer things, fewer obligations, fewer stresses, smaller things, lighter things, whatever. I too buy only the heaviest cookware I can get as *nothing* replaces 3/8ths of an inch of cast metal between a flame and your food.

Bill, you reminded me of a quote I read somewhere:

"You should own nothing that is not useful, beautiful, or loved." Things that you cherish, and things that you use, and things that improve your visual environment are all positive additions.

An anecdote: An old boss of mine from Alberta bought his (now ex-) wife a horse to ride. Nothing fancy; just a basic horse as I recall.

She was happy with the horse, but she wanted a trailer to move the horse around in so they bought a used trailer. But of course their truck wouldn't pull the trailer and horse very well, so he bought a brand new diesel Dodge pickup.

At which point the trailer looked pretty ratty in comparison to the brand new truck -- so they sold the trailer and bought a nice new one.

At which point the horse was the only thing out-of-place: so they bought a better horse!!

That's the kind of progression that I try to avoid during the "accumulation" phase of my life. For car camping I was about to break down and buy a coleman 2-burner and a big coleman lantern, when I realized that this path would eventually lead me to needing a bigger vehicle!! Now I car camp with two backpacking stoves and couldn't be happier, especially when unloading the car after a trip.

Don Wilson
(don) - MLife

Locale: Koyukuk River, Alaska
This is the core of hiking and UL for me on 03/06/2008 16:25:20 MST Print View

This article and thread summarize the core attraction of hiking for me. Better, deeper connections through simplicity. Be that with people, the natural world, or my day to day life at home. They all derive from the same approach to life. Love that quote from HD Thoreau above. Simon Clissold's Slow Travel article from a couple of weeks ago struck the same chord with me.


Ryan Gardner
(splproductions) - F - M

Locale: Salt Lake City, UT
The website... on 03/06/2008 16:56:57 MST Print View

I was excited when I saw the ad for the site here at BPL, and not to impressed or interested when I actually visited the site. I'm all for simplifying my lifestyle, but like someone said earlier... who cares how much it weighs if I'm not going to be hauling it around? It seems like there are much more important characteristics, like functionality, practicality, quality, etc.

Kathleen - I love your idea about the "cooling off" zone. I'm going to try that!

Edited by splproductions on 03/06/2008 17:02:11 MST.

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Re: Re: Ultra-light living, or Ultra-less on 03/06/2008 17:59:05 MST Print View


your story reminds me of me. I lived on 13 acres at the time and had a lot of woods near me. It was public land and lots of people rode horses on it. I thought that looked like fun.

But, I went to my Vet and asked a few questions first. He took me more or less through your list of what I would also need to own a horse plus feed and Vet bills.

I bought a trail bike. I could have gotten all the extra stuff needed ?? for the horse but it just didn't make sense to me.

It is the same with people that live in the city and burn wood to try and save money when they could use natural gas or electric. They think it would be cheaper to heat with wood. But because it cost a bit to buy wood you decide to go out into the woods and collect downed wood and cut and haul it yourself. You think it would be easier and you could get way back in the woods and get the good stuff if you had a 4-wheel drive pickup. Then a better chain saw, then a trailer so you can get more at a one time - and on and on like the horse story. I have a very nice fire place and may have had a wood fire in it 3 or 4 times in the last 20 years. I have a gas log and when I want a romantic fire for some reason or other I use it. Not worth my time to get wood and I can buy all the natural gas I need cheaper. I also would like to see them outlaw wood fire place fires. They really stink up the neighborhood when I go walking on cold days.

Edited by bfornshell on 03/06/2008 18:01:26 MST.