Website Review: UltralightLiving.com

UltralightLiving.com 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: UltralightLiving.com

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 Ultralightliving.com.

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 Ultralightliving.com 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.

 


Citation

"Website Review: UltralightLiving.com," by Nicole Chilton. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/website_review_ultralight_living.html, 2008-03-05 00:00:00-07.

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Website Review: UltralightLiving.com
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Robert Devereux
(robdev) - F

Locale: Pittsburgh, PA
Re: UltralightLiving.com on 03/07/2008 09:00:36 MST Print View

I've been using a cooling off zone too. It is sometimes difficult to finally move things from there to thrift stores, charities, or selling the stuff. Procrastination often kicks in, "I'll finally get rid of it next week."

The Ultralight Living site is definitely aimed more at simple weight rather than simplicity, but there are plenty of other simplicity sites out there to offer ideas. Unclutterer.com links to a few others. But I sometimes feel that people on those sites spend so much time simplifying that they don't spend enough time enjoying themselves (unless they enjoy simplifying).

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Middle of the road.... on 03/07/2008 17:00:33 MST Print View

While I live rather frugally and don't like clutter I also respect that my husband is a saver. His piles of old computer stuff saved Dicentra's computer last month. His tools for his hobby of remodeling fill our garage.

While in 2003 I moved mine and Ford's entire life possessions in one load in my truck (and still could), I also respect the need my husband has for having a house - full of furniture.

Kids change you in many ways. Before I had my son a decade ago I lived quite often out of my sweet 1980 Toyota Corolla wagon. Yes, I had a place to call home...but why go there if I didn't have to? My life possessions were small and fit in that car. Yet, one comment was that new moms are gear heads. Well, for a reason: babies are messy with many needs. The swing keeps the baby happy, the play pen keeps them out of trouble, the stroller so you can go outside, the backpack for trips...the car seat for safety. The garbage can overflows with bundles of "love". And there is a deep desire to provide a "home" for your baby, to nest. Even those with the zest for light living will find that kids overflow the lives. Especially when they change clothing sizes every 2-3 months ;-)

What is the thing if destroyed that saddens parents? Photos. The memories of a fleeting couple years. While I go light in life I couldn't leave the photos behind. When my parents passed on I became the caretaker of their pasts and willingly took on their photos. I have a to-go box kept that in emergency I can grab. It contains all the paperwork and a smattering of photos of our lives.

While I wouldn't miss the clutter of our lives, the clutter is what makes us human - and civilized. I find as I get older that coming home to my house is better than living in the back of my car. The couch is shaped to my rear, my bed has my divot. In a way, I almost find the clutter to be a sign of love. Someone lives in our house - it is a home in the end. And then I realize that we don't need to shop at Walmart filling carts full of unneeded junk, but rather that possessions are not evil.

Heather Pisani-Kristl
(P-K) - F

Locale: San Diego
Backpacking made my needs simpler on 03/09/2008 11:09:42 MDT Print View

I looked at the ultralightliving website and didn't get too excited, but I love the discussion we're having here. I read about simple living and decluttering for years before I even considered backpacking, but doing lightweight backpacking has helped me understand the message better. Instead of asking "how can I get more stuff with less money?", I'm now asking myself how I can get by with less and put the money to better use. If I buy less, I save for an earlier retirement (let someone who needs a job take mine), save money for charity (like Bill, I'm a friend to stray cats), and I consume fewer raw materials (less environmental and global impact). Living for days from a bag on my back has made me realize that almost everything I own is for convenience or window-dressing. For sure, I wouldn't want to live in a tent and sleep on my blue foam pad every night, but there is a happy medium between that and the way many people my age are living.

I went to an estate sale at the home of an elderly woman who had been a hoarder, and it was sobering. We're talking true mental illness: laundry baskets full of cans of tuna,stacks of dish drainers bought on sale in the 1960s and never unwrapped. Scores of people were rooting through her dusty, torn, mounded stuff, which she had safeguarded for decades as the neighborhood declined around her. Much of it was no longer usable because it was rotten; the thought of a life spent accumulating goods was depressing. What I took from this: get out and live, be with friends and family and nature instead of your possessions, and give away the unneeded items because they don't get better with age.

Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
Decluttering me on 03/09/2008 11:44:05 MDT Print View

Ironically, my largest "hoard" of stuff is for backpacking! I have hoarding in my genes but do a pretty good job of limiting it to just this one area. And I do get rid of backpacking stuff - but not as quickly or without attachment as I'd like. I'm better at decluttering me. I like to travel light - without a lot of emotional baggage. It's easy to get weighed down holding onto past anger, resentment and even grief. Clutter attracts more clutter in our houses and in our thinking. I clear out old emotional clutter through meditation at home and soaking up nature in the backcountry. Both practices also help me not get caught up in those and other negative energies in the present making it easier to let them go so I stay "lighter."

Edited by cmcrooker on 03/09/2008 13:30:19 MDT.

Wolf Stundl
(WolfStundl)

Locale: Europe
UL on 03/10/2008 13:55:12 MDT Print View

If they have a whole plane on that website, UL plane of course. I wonder if they come up with a UL nuclear power station one day to make it more likeable.

Greg Vaillancourt
(GSV45) - F

Locale: Utah
Now BPL is reviewing lame websites? on 03/17/2008 12:09:45 MDT Print View

yawn

Brian James
(bjamesd) - F

Locale: South Coast of BC
Re: Decluttering me / awesome documentary online on 03/17/2008 13:46:02 MDT Print View

Here's a great 20-minute documentary on hoarders.

I stood up from watching it and started filling a garbage bag with old receipts, bank statements, and magazines. Freaky to watch if you have an "inner hoarder".

http://www.vimeo.com/603058

Scott Becker
(Bigfoot60) - F

Locale: Northern Germany
Is it only about paring down? on 03/25/2008 03:58:06 MDT Print View

As an eager newcomer to ultralite backpacking, I have also found that rethinking what I have been schlepping around on my back has automatically led me to similar thoughts regarding life in general. It's interesting to see how many of us end up examining our material loads at home more or less as a direct result of lightening our packs. The posts here are highly inspirational and thought-provoking (including those that cast a bit of doubtful light on the UL approach). But there is one line of thinking I'd like to toss in for good measure:

Is this really all about lighter packs and having less "stuff" at home, or is there something deeper which is prompting us to think this way? What happens if we let lightening up become an end onto itself? Perhaps even an obsession, or something we take special pride in and - g-d forbid - even define ourselves by (as in: "Look at all of my things now, neatly tied up in a single bundle or stuffable in the trunk of my (non-existent) car. Ain't it grand? I feel soooo empowered by having less...and don't you agree?") Is paring back on possessions really an auto-pilot solution to steering our lives clear of the clutter that fetters us?

More frighteningly: What happens when we've finally reached our "goal" and stripped our worldly goods back to bare bones? Is that it? Are we then automatically more content, more fulfilled, more buoyant thanks to all that freed-up chi? Maybe. Probably. I have yet to find out, and am now inclined to start reading a book or two on the subject. But I suspect this: Decluttering might be more of a first-line (i.e. not exhaustive or conclusive) activity carried out at the surface, when just below that surface a far more challenging issue is lurking, waiting to be dredged up and faced: a profound need to address the "empty places" in our workaday existences, our social fabric, our bodily health, our emotional vitality - holes that we have found it far too easy to cover up by heaping stuff on them, or by merely spending loads of time thinking about the next stuff we "need". Maybe we have learned to replace true needs with false ones, just so we don't have to deal with the tricky stuff. (Mind you, I've never read a book on the topic, so pardon me if I’m just quoting thoughts published a million times over.)

In the end, I wonder if it's more about a deep-felt urge for a richer, more fully experienced life -- one with better relationships, more TOGETHERNESS but also more connecting with nature in SOLITUDE, a meaningful vocation (in the truest sense of the word), and more spirituality than appears possible to the average office mole hunched up under an avalanche of me-first e-mails.. It might be about breaking out of restrictive molds that we, ourselves, have implicitly agreed to accept by studying and getting a "good" job so we can pay off our houses -- and consume till our dying days.

As an American who has lived in Europe for about 25 years, I'd even wager to say that the comparative lack of tradition and historical identity throughout large parts of U.S. culture might well have fueled the "need" for consuming so much. Sadly, even Europe has also long since caught the consumption virus, but some proud traditions - like not being able to shop on Sundays - still live on here, at least in certain areas. Imagine not being able to zip down to the store for that missing screw you "need" for finishing your DIY project on a Sunday? Frustrating, yes. But also freeing! More time for sitting with the family, taking a walk or even lazing around. And 24-hour shopping is only just beginning to take shape over here. Imagine being “stuck” at home without that gallon of milk or favorite cereal you’d otherwise head out to get. I wonder how much time we’d have for People Things if we weren’t so accustomed to getting whatever we want, when we want it.

This (inexcusably long) post had better come to quick close. Parting thought: If the UL journey can help get us to the wisdom we need to rediscover what we are really MISSING and need to add back into our lives (interesting switcheroo, there?), then I suppose it's a road well worth going down. For every ounce I shave off my pack load, I’ll gladly load up on at least 2 ounces of the kind of outdoor revelation that can remind me of what life is really all about, and maybe even point me down a road less taken.