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irrationalsolutions
02-23-2009, 01:41
i have talked to many people that are into ul and read about it on this forum and others. i've never been bitten by the ul bug but the wife said she was tired of me talking about a thru hike and made me set a date a few months ago. since then i have been looking into as many options as i can. i just dont understand the ul movement. i know its less weight to carry but i still dont get it. is weight the only benifit?

fraufrack
02-23-2009, 01:50
Ain't nothin' wrong with not gettin' it. Do what makes you happy. For me, I'm happier when I don't have bruises and chafe marks across my hips from a heavy pack, but I don't expect anyone else's body to suffer the same way my body does.

amac
02-23-2009, 06:17
The ultralight concept is pretty much all about weight. The benefits of carrying less weight is an ablility to go a longer distance and, as fraufrack mentioned, the resulting aches and pains at the end of a day's hike will be reduced. There's lots of books and forums and other stuff to read. For what's it worth, I suggest Ryan Jordan's Lightweight Backpacking and Camping[/*] and a thread on PracticalBackpackingForum about "comfortweight". The nice thing about hiking is there's no "right" way to do it. HYOH.

Downhill Trucker
02-23-2009, 06:27
I read Ray Jardines PCT Thru Hikers Handbook when it came out and it made me switch to a lot lighter concepts. He has a newer book out now, check his website. His books are very opinionated but they make you think about what you really wanna do with your packweight.

I love the way I feel after backpacking now and can cover more miles with less effort. As you go lighter camp life becomes simpler, and you can wear lighter shoes. Whatever you do don't skimp on quality food.

Egads
02-23-2009, 07:25
Here is an experiment for you; take 2 different day hikes over the same ground and the same direction.

Carry 35 lbs for 12 miles on the first

Carry 17.5 lbs for 15 miles on the second

Let us know the results

Wheeler
02-23-2009, 08:34
If your going to be spending most of your time in camp, bring it all. If you spend most of your time on the move(as a thru-hiker does) then you might want to go lighter.

bigcranky
02-23-2009, 08:57
UL is all about reducing pack weight for more comfort on the trail. Like anything else, some people take it to an extreme, but that doesn't invalidate the whole concept.

UL requires a very different mind-set and some new skills. Many items do double or triple duty, and there isn't much room for error.

The thing to "get" about UL is that it can make your hiking time much more comfortable. It's also an intellectual challenge, which some people enjoy. Everybody needs a hobby, after all.

The good news for the rest of us is that the mainstream gear makers have seen the light (as it were), and are offering many more lightweight gear choices than in the past. Not really "Ultralight" (even though that's the term they all use), but it's now possible to go to a large corporate outfitter and get an affordable, high-quality sub-two-pound sleeping bag, 2.5 pound pack, and sub-three-pound tent without a fight. Again, not "UL" but waaaaay lighter than in the past. (My first real pack weighed 7 pounds all by itself. That's the weight of the pack/tent/bag combo that I mentioned above.)

Congrats on setting a date for a thru-hike. The best way to figure out what gear and clothing to bring is to get out and hike a lot between now and then. Good luck.

garlic08
02-23-2009, 09:27
Great responses so far. I can add that there are about as many reasons to go lightweight as there are to go hiking in the first place. They range from the uber-hiker athletes and record setters to the older folks with bad knees and hips who just can't carry a traditional pack anymore. In between are the minimalists, those who desire to do more with less, those who live a simpler, cheaper life. Some can't afford filters, stoves, steripens, electronics, complex tents and packs, and just head out with a rucksack, a poncho, and a loaf of bread.

SlowLightTrek
02-23-2009, 09:44
The weight for my tent, bag, pack, and pad that I used for my 2007 thru on the AT was 12 lbs. When I put all this together I thought that it was light because I was used to a 7 lb. bag, single burner coleman white gas, 7 lb. tent, etc.

I started with 55 lbs. and by the time I hit Damascus I was maxing out about 40 - 45 lbs. Dropped to 35 lbs. max in the summer. I carried alot of stuff I didn't use once the whole 2,175 miles, however at the time I was greatfull that I had. Some kind of placebo to my brain knowing it was there gave me a sense of having something, maybe perhaps noone else had.

I'm planning a thru of the PCT this year. I'm dropping the weight of the tent, bag, pack, and pad to 6 lbs. I'm not carrying non-essentials and plan to have a baseweight at 10-12 lbs.

I don't feel that I'm losing any comforts by sleeping on a piece of Tyvek and a Wild Oasis tarptent at 19.5 ounces (with stakes and Tyvek), rather than a tent floor for twice the weight. After all it's just a different piece of material, but the same old dirt. Or going with 3/8 foam over my 3" insulated air core matress, which was cold at 32 degrees and rated for 15.

I wouldn't have been comfortable with these ultra-light options for gear when I started my thru of the AT. I'm not regretting that I carried all that useless stuff either. If you are uneasy trading off something for something that is lighter, don't. Uneasy feelings and hiking in majestic places don't make for an enjoyable hike and that's what it's all about.

mark schofield
02-23-2009, 09:45
Although I've been cutting down on some of my heavier items as they get old and worn out (sleeping bag, pack, tent), I've returned to my 1.5" thermarest after using a prolite 3 for a few years. As I become older, the sleeping comfort is becoming more important. I might even go for a BA or POE inflatable. Basically my pack and contents are much lighter than 5 years ago, but the comfort at night (for me) probably takes me out of the ultra lite mind set. Trail runners replaced boots last year. That shaved some weight and was much more comfortable. Mark S.

Feral Bill
02-23-2009, 12:28
Some ultra lighters compare their lightest mid summer weight with the heaviest loads ever carried in foul weather. Not really an honest comparison. There is a lot of room between ultra light and ridiculous heavy. Find what works for you.

The Weasel
02-23-2009, 12:34
There's another reason for going Ultralight: Health. Eliminating even 10 lbs from carry weight eliminates a huge amount of muscular-skeletal strain. Consider what parts of your body are affected by packweight: Shoulder and leg muscles get more tired more rapidly. Calorie requirements are greater with more weight, to travel the same distance, requiring more food (or more fat burn). Heavier packs affect balance, and can result in more falls and difficult joint movements, with resulting minor (or worse) strains. And, critically, that 10 lbs is a hammer, and your spine, hips, knees and ankles are pounded, twice a second, as you walk, with that weight. That's what "soreness" is: It's "minor" bone, cartilege and muscle pain, which can add up over time (including in future years).

I'm comfortable during the day as well as at night by making every possible change, even the "silly" ones, since they all add up. I can feel the difference, not merely for the pleasure of it, but for the reduced body damage I'm causing.

TW

earlyriser26
02-23-2009, 12:35
Jardine's book on UL was an interesting read if only to get one thinking about reducing weight. Some of his ideas are over the top however... Unbrella? Really?

The Weasel
02-23-2009, 12:43
Jardine's book on UL was an interesting read if only to get one thinking about reducing weight. Some of his ideas are over the top however... Unbrella? Really?

An umbrella on the PCT is probably more important than a tent/tarp/hammock. Remember, Jardine was writing for the PCT. Large parts of it are exposed to direct and heavy sunlight, making a hat insufficient. Other parts have near constant rain (or so it seems). It's a different trail than the AT.

TW

Lone Wolf
02-23-2009, 12:45
Jardine's book on UL was an interesting read if only to get one thinking about reducing weight. Some of his ideas are over the top however... Unbrella? Really?

no umbrella needed. jardine does what works for him. do your own thing

Lone Wolf
02-23-2009, 12:48
An umbrella on the PCT is probably more important than a tent/tarp/hammock.

TW

maybe for you. have you hiked the PCT? I know lots who have and none of them used umbrellas and i've seen lots of PCT/CDT videos and never saw a hiker in them with an umbrella

BrianLe
02-23-2009, 12:56
I started the PCT this past year with an umbrella, didn't like it and mailed it home. Jardine writes about what works for him; each hiker has to figure out what works best for them personally.

UL: I would add (?) to all the excellent preceding comments that in the same way, a person should figure out what weight works best for them personally. You don't have to drink all of the kool-aid to get a lot of benefits from lightening up some. I don't think I'll ever be an ultra-light backpacker, if you accept that common definition for that of pack base weight of under 10 pounds. But I enjoy backpacking much much more, and happily do more miles per day with a base weight in the 15 pound range for a typical 3-season trip.

The particular concern I'm expressing here is that sometimes we look at a relatively extreme case of something, conclude "that's not for me", and pass on the benefits of trying a less extreme version.

steve43
02-23-2009, 12:56
some of the best advice i've seen on this site concerning pack weight was offered i think by sgt. rock who said "the more i carry, the more i like camping. the less i carry, the more i like hiking."

i'm one of those slow hikers, so i tend to hike all day to make any miles. following the above advice really helped me plan my gear, helped me make decent miles, and really reduced the wear and tear on my middle aged body.

fifo

skinewmexico
02-23-2009, 12:57
No matter how light I go, I'll never give up my POE air mattress. A good nights sleep is worth the weight, espcially now that I'm older, and hurt more.

The Weasel
02-23-2009, 13:01
maybe for you. have you hiked the PCT? I know lots who have and none of them used umbrellas and i've seen lots of PCT/CDT videos and never saw a hiker in them with an umbrella

Well, I'm not going to fall for the sucker-punch and pull a Bill "I Hiked The Appalachian Trail" Bryson stunt. So no, I haven't gone from Campo to Canada (yet). But I've done some stretches out of Campo (your basic furnace), Anza-Borrego (going back weekend after next, I hope for the flower bloom in the desert), but I think shade trees are illegal there and Idyllwild/San Jacinto areas (wettest damn place I've seen in years), and seen several people with umbrellas and umbrella mods.

Took a minute and pulled this link up. I don't know these folks, but I've seen similar. Scroll down or use "find on this page" for "umbrella. There are other photos if anyone needs ideas.

http://www.wildernesstravels.co.uk/pct/pctsouthcal2mex.htm

But LW is right. If you want one, take one. If you don't, don't. It's your hike, not someone else's.

TW

Deadeye
02-23-2009, 17:06
For me, it's all about being aware of what you're carrying, how much it weighs, and lighter alternatives. I don't subscribe to the "it's so light I can hike 40 miles and outrun a storm" crowd - I don't plan to ever try to hike 40 mile days, and I'm quite content to ride out a storm with what I carry.

But, I do weigh everything, and choose the lightest item that suits my needs, and I don't carry stuff I don't use. I don't necessarily go faster or further, but I do arrive at camp feeling good, and wake up without groaning. I guess you could call that HYOH. My base weight is about 15#, and I rarely exceed 30# loads with food, fuel & water.

I do carry a 'brolly:D

Sharkey
02-23-2009, 17:37
I can see where being ultralight or even just light is beneficial. Less stress on the body, etc. I'm not ultralight or heavy. As long as you are happy with what you are carrying, that's the main thing. One thing that puzzles me after looking at so many ultralight gear list is how reasonable some are and how unreasonable (IMO) others are. Some one will list 0.15 oz of handsanitizer, 0.35 oz of this/that, etc. etc.. When I go to the store, the smallest bottle of handsanitizer is 1 oz. All weights of other items that would need to be resupplied are well over the listed weights on the list. In other words, when you resupply you either dump/waste some stuff out or the weight goes up. Some[/*] , not all, of the weights/gear lists I've seen appear impractical for long distance hiking (unless maildrops are used). Those that appear impractical for long distance hikes seem great for shorter/section hikes.

irrationalsolutions
02-23-2009, 21:26
thanks guys, that helped clear things up a little. i have been getting a little lighter. my pack, bag, pad and shelter are down to about 10.5#s. i'm thinking about a down bag sson so that should drop it a little but the pack is going to keep it up. i like the kelty pack i have and it is heavy but i think its very comfortable to me. the shelter is a hh is it keeps that weight down too.

Jester2000
02-23-2009, 21:28
If your going to be spending most of your time in camp, bring it all. If you spend most of your time on the move(as a thru-hiker does) then you might want to go lighter.

Do keep in mind that you're probably going to spend 120 nights or so camping, so comfort and happiness in camp is not insignificant.


I started the PCT this past year with an umbrella, didn't like it and mailed it home.

This was the experience of everyone I knew who had umbrellas last year.

Me commenting on UL may seem fairly ridiculous, as I had one of the heavier packs on the PCT last year. I, just to give an example, was carrying a Twister Mat. I could argue that it was UL because it was made out of Tyvek and the spinner was built into my compass, but I won't, mainly because I was also carrying a 4.25 lb. brass sculpture for much of the trail.

What I will say is that I feel that one's own experience best tells one what sacrifices (in either direction) to make weight-wise. You need to strike a balance between comfort while walking and comfort while in camp. No one can tell you where that balance lies.

The UL "movement" has been a good thing because it has allowed for the sharing of ideas regarding weight reduction, which in turn has led to the development of lighter gear, fabrics, and insulation for those of us who are not do-it-yourselfers.

Well, wasn't that all kinds of philosophical? Just to get practical, I will say that the biggest mistake made by those new to the idea of UL is starting with a light pack with less suspension and still trying to cram 40 lbs. of stuff into it. Don't start with the pack.

slow
02-23-2009, 21:46
Bag first pack after..in UL....my take.

Downhill Trucker
02-24-2009, 06:04
Although I brought up the Jardine book, I do think some of the material is useless to me. The umbrella being one of them. I do think it makes you think, and some of the concepts can work. Most importantly his idea that the lighter you get, the easier you walk. You don't have to farther. It's just more of a focus on the hiking because you aren't sludging around. Everyone has they're own idea of how they want to hike, though. One of the guys I go out with a lot loves carrying extra stuff just to say he did it. And I totally respect that. You just have to carry what is best for you. As little as I carry now, I still carry it all in a 5lb Dana Designs pack from 1995 that I don't know if I'll ever give up!

The fun is going out and trying new things. You see what's important, and what's not. As a teenager backpacking I never used anysort of mattress or foam. Now I can't sleep without one.

I think that the biggest benefit in lowering your weight is wearing lighter shoes. If you are in great trail shape you can wear light shoes from the get-go. If you can wear them comfortably, they seem to really give you a spring in your step and a feel for the terrain. They may not be waterproof, but they DRY QUICK. I used to wear full grain leathers that you could walk through a stream with, but after days of rain they are soaked and take two days to dry. And they weigh like 8lbs!

The best ways I found to shed packweight personally, were: extraneous clothing and taking less "stuff" overall. Good planning and homework ahead of time go along way. I've done mail drops on my section hikes at times just cause it was so easy with a little planning. There are a lot of ways to lighten your load and do it your own way.

maxNcathy
02-24-2009, 09:44
There's another reason for going Ultralight: Health. Eliminating even 10 lbs from carry weight eliminates a huge amount of muscular-skeletal strain. Consider what parts of your body are affected by packweight: Shoulder and leg muscles get more tired more rapidly. Calorie requirements are greater with more weight, to travel the same distance, requiring more food (or more fat burn). Heavier packs affect balance, and can result in more falls and difficult joint movements, with resulting minor (or worse) strains. And, critically, that 10 lbs is a hammer, and your spine, hips, knees and ankles are pounded, twice a second, as you walk, with that weight. That's what "soreness" is: It's "minor" bone, cartilege and muscle pain, which can add up over time (including in future years).


TW

Very well said.

Dingus Khan
02-24-2009, 21:18
...the wife said she was tired of me talking about a thru hike and made me set a date a few months ago.

you lucky, lucky man...:)

BrianLe
02-25-2009, 02:55
W.*.t. the Jardine book, note that Jardine has come out with a new book on the topic, "Trail Life". I don't think I've seen any reviews on it yet.

I did read Jardine's original book and got things out of it, but I wouldn't pick it as the one book to read on the topic. Given the question that started this thread, however, reading one book on UL backpacking might be a good idea, and it's possible you can get one through your local library system. I read Ryan Jordan's book (http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/00070.html) on this topic that way (via library), and thought it was good, on balance I would recommend it over the original Jardine (at least). You can get a sense for Ryan Jordan's approach here (http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/backpacking_light_101.html?id=Qp7NFxho:63.226.210. 88).

I've also seen positive comments about Don Ladigan's "Lighten Up" book, but I've not read it.

For someone who hasn't bought in to UL concepts, just reading some of the intro stuff in one of these books and perhaps skimming the rest shouldn't take too long, and might be an efficient way to get a sense for what it's all about.

skinewmexico
02-25-2009, 11:56
Review on the new Jardine book on BPL last week.

-SEEKER-
02-25-2009, 13:49
I admit I will never be a UL person, but I am definitely going as light as I can and still feel comfortable. My first year I hiked all of GA but the last eight miles. Last year I did 326 miles from Northern MD to Southern NY. Both years I carried a 40lb load on my back and had to stop because of knee problems. Do your research and use what information you get here on WB. It may make the difference in your success at a thru-hike.

Tipi Walter
03-02-2009, 12:21
The ultralight concept is pretty much all about weight. The benefits of carrying less weight is an ablility to go a longer distance and, as fraufrack mentioned, the resulting aches and pains at the end of a day's hike will be reduced. There's lots of books and forums and other stuff to read. For what's it worth, I suggest Ryan Jordan's
Lightweight Backpacking and Camping[/*] and a thread on PracticalBackpackingForum about "comfortweight". The nice thing about hiking is there's no "right" way to do it. HYOH.

Maybe there's no "right" way, but just mention you're carrying an eight pound tent and watch the UL commotion. Or some newb will like a 6 pound tent and the ULers scream in with their "too heavy" hipness. Get a tarptent they wail.


If your going to be spending most of your time in camp, bring it all. If you spend most of your time on the move(as a thru-hiker does) then you might want to go lighter.

This is an oft repeated line justifying UL backpacking, but even if you hike 12 hours a day nonstop, you'll still be camping for 12 hours. Anyway, everybody does both, hiking and camping. Whether you're doing 2 miles a day or 30, you're still camping and hiking. Take whatever you want to carry.


There's another reason for going Ultralight: Health. Eliminating even 10 lbs from carry weight eliminates a huge amount of muscular-skeletal strain. Consider what parts of your body are affected by packweight: Shoulder and leg muscles get more tired more rapidly. Calorie requirements are greater with more weight, to travel the same distance, requiring more food (or more fat burn). Heavier packs affect balance, and can result in more falls and difficult joint movements, with resulting minor (or worse) strains. And, critically, that 10 lbs is a hammer, and your spine, hips, knees and ankles are pounded, twice a second, as you walk, with that weight. That's what "soreness" is: It's "minor" bone, cartilege and muscle pain, which can add up over time (including in future years).

I'm comfortable during the day as well as at night by making every possible change, even the "silly" ones, since they all add up. I can feel the difference, not merely for the pleasure of it, but for the reduced body damage I'm causing.

TW

Here's a good quote from a guy in his 60s(Bill Straka): "If I can struggle up the trail with 100 pounds of climbing gear, camping gear, and food in my 60s and at 150 pounds, surely a youngun can carry more than 5/6 of their body weight. That's 8-10 mile approaches and 2-3000 ft to the campsite. . . . porters in the Andes, Himalayas, and elsewhere regulary carry close to their body weight, often in barefeet or flipflops, using a tumpline(none of your fancy internal frame packs). Then again, if we are talking about the usual city-dweller who just gets out on the trail once in a while, then the 1/4 body weight rule is a pretty good one."


some of the best advice i've seen on this site concerning pack weight was offered i think by sgt. rock who said "the more i carry, the more i like camping. the less i carry, the more i like hiking."
fifo

But another point that is missed is that we all do both. Even the ULers have to camp. What if they are atop a 5000 foot bald in the winter and get caught in a blizzard and want to stay put for 5 days? Or would they run away because of the gear they're carrying? Even if someone hikes all day, he still has to camp. And what of the backpacker out on a 14 day winter trip w/o resupply? Do ULers ever talk about their 45-55 pound packs on long winter trips?


Although I brought up the Jardine book, I do think some of the material is useless to me. The umbrella being one of them. I do think it makes you think, and some of the concepts can work. Most importantly his idea that the lighter you get, the easier you walk. You don't have to farther. It's just more of a focus on the hiking because you aren't sludging around. Everyone has they're own idea of how they want to hike, though. One of the guys I go out with a lot loves carrying extra stuff just to say he did it. And I totally respect that. You just have to carry what is best for you. As little as I carry now, I still carry it all in a 5lb Dana Designs pack from 1995 that I don't know if I'll ever give up!


The Danas are great packs and you might find a lighter pack but never one as comfortable. And that 5 pounds translates into hauling heavier weight more easily.

JAK
03-02-2009, 12:36
Law of diminishing returns applies. For myself, simplification is more important than weight reduction, but both are useful. I like to get by with as few items as possible, and as cheap also, and sustainability issues also. No need to go to extremes however. For me its more a matter of getting away from the extreme nonsense of our post-industrial consumerism, or whatever it is, this self-imposed hell we call modern living.

BrianLe
03-02-2009, 13:30
Tipi Walter said:
"... even if you hike 12 hours a day nonstop, you'll still be camping for 12 hours."

True, but not all hours are alike. Once asleep in camp, I tend to sleep soundly the entire night, especially when doing long hiking days. And I don't spend much conscious time in camp. Setup, cook, crawl in the bag, write up my journal, maybe read quickly through info on what the trail has to offer for the next day, and sleep. Ditto the morning, eat, pack up and go.

I'm not an UL backpacker, it's not my intention to defend those at the more aggressive end of this, but I think the overall approach and concept are very very helpful. In fact, one of my personal "luxuries" is additional padding, a combination of ccf pad and thin inflatable totaling just over a pound. But for someone who can get and stay asleep with less --- more power to 'em.

I certainly think that if a person has thought through the trade-offs and chooses to carry a lot of and/or heavier gear, then they're doing what they should do. I personally can no longer imagine wanting to go that route, however, and I think many "hike lighter" backpackers suspect that a lot of those carrying heavy loads are doing so out of inexperience and/or ignorance. Hence, the occasional missionary zeal to proselytize. :-)

JAK
03-02-2009, 13:59
I enjoy camping. I enjoy hiking more, but the camping at the end of the day is a big part of the experience. There are certain things I MUST have, but they don't weight that much. I forgot matches and lighter on a day-hike once. I was pretty ticked off at myself for that. Its important to be able to sleep well, but I would do without sleep one night before I would do without being able to make fire in order to make some tea or coffee or soup or hot chocolate. If I can make fire, I'm happy. If not, I'm miserable. Other than that I keep it pretty simple.

Downhill Trucker
03-03-2009, 19:58
The Danas are great packs and you might find a lighter pack but never one as comfortable. And that 5 pounds translates into hauling heavier weight more easily.

Works great when friends want to stuff rocks in my pack because it's lighter than theirs.;)

SunnyWalker
03-06-2009, 14:11
I've hiked a lot of the PCT in WA state. I never used an umbrella, but a hat. Large brim. I think it is lighter than an umbrella. When I thru hike PCT or AT everything will be weighed and though out. Even things I wear. Over 55, need everything going for me! I am even interested in not carrying a stove.

garlic08
03-06-2009, 16:19
I am even interested in not carrying a stove.

I think that's a GREAT way to hike! I haven't used a stove in my last 5000 miles of hiking. Taking that step was hard, but it turned out to be worth it for me. Hope it works for you.

JAK
03-06-2009, 16:23
I'm too much of a pyromaniac. I don't mind cold food, or even cold drinks, but I like making fire too much not to make hot tea, and oatmeal, and soup, and stuff like that. Also great for washing socks and underwear. Any excuse to make fire really. Fire bans are a bummer. I would much prefer bad weather.

skinewmexico
03-06-2009, 16:40
When I thru hike PCT or AT everything will be weighed and though out. Even things I wear. Over 55, need everything going for me! I am even interested in not carrying a stove.

Typical Harvester.