Lighter better?

10:56 p.m. on April 25, 2010 (EDT)
37 reviewer rep
747 forum posts

This is a very experienced group.

1)I want your opinion on a simple question - is the lightest camping gear "better" than slightly heavier gear that is more durable or functional?

2) Do you believe that lighter is always more functional?

3) Is a 14 ounce jacket made with 4 oz or 850 down better than a 15 oz jacket made exactly the same, only it has a wind flap over the zipper? I mean the 15 oz jacket IS heavier, but is it also btter?

4) Would you agree that extreme light weight requires tradeoffs and that it would be easier to build a great tent with 3.5 pounds of material than with 3 pounds of the same material, meaning that the extra .5 pounds could go to useful extras...

5)Do you think the trend toward "lightest at any cost of funtionality" is a good thing?

6)if you were going out and severe weather was forcast, what gear would you take? Why?

7) is there ever a case where you would pull out an "old" "heavy" piece of gear for a specific trip and shun the newer lighter model?

Jim S, thanks for your thoughts.

12:36 a.m. on April 26, 2010 (EDT)
MODERATOR REVIEW CORPS
998 reviewer rep
3,556 forum posts

Alright now that's interesting.

The lightest gear is the lightest gear, you can not take for granted it is as good, or better than the gear you are used to. Maybe it is just as functional - and lighter. Maybe it is lighter and not as functional, or not as durable. That's important to me, durability.

I categorize my gear into two groups I guess, a more traditional set with some newer stuff, and a fairly lightweight set.

There are definitely some trade offs. Some good, some bad. If I had to go into extreme conditions I would take my more traditional set of gear. It is proven, durable, and in cold weather I just trust it more to function well.

Here are a few things I will not do, especially in the 4th season:

Cut the handle off my toothbrush (never)

Carry just a razor blade for a knife (never)

Sleep in the wind / cold with a partial, or minimalist type shelter, at least not by choice. I do have an older bivy, but I'd rather carry a good tent

Fail to carry enough clothing if I can at all help it.

Wear footwear I feel is inadequate for me.

Leave the white gas stove home in winter.

Now, since I live in the Southeast US I can go lighter in the 3 warmer seasons, as long as I am prepared for rain. I have an older hammock, or I can take just a tarp and a sleeping bag. I also can lighten up with an alcohol stove and some minimalist cookware. Lighter sleeping bag and fewer clothes too.

I can shave 8 - 9 lbs fairly easy by switching gear, 10 -12 if I had to.

The question for me is, am I going to be comfortable and safe? So I bounce from camp to camp, figuratively speaking.

You know, Ray Jardine kinda ticked me off when he said "You're doing it all wrong". I respect his right to have an opinion, and I agree with him more than I used to, but not completely.

I choose to make my own mind up about what I need after listening to more experiences folks, not just following the fads.

I do like a 20 lb. pack better than a 30 lb. pack, but I will take enough gear to stay safe, warm, dry, and fed.

2:51 a.m. on April 26, 2010 (EDT)
102 reviewer rep
2,295 forum posts

Traveling light is fine but:

Not when it means leaving equipment at home that you should really bring, such as a tent and rain gear (in rainy season), sufficient warm gear according to weather forecasts, etc. I have been on trips where people committed these omissions, despite being fully informed what to expect, resulting in aborting the trip, spoiling it for others in the process.

Not when the ultra light articles cannot fulfill the basic intended application, and either fails, or fundamentally compromises the trip. Again these same self proclaimed ultra light aficionados brought stuff like those flimsy emergency plastic rain coats you can buy for a dollar - the shoulder straps of their packs shredded these rain coats in minutes. One rock bruised the soles of their feet hiking a week pack over rough high Sierra trails wearing jogging shoes. Oh your flimsy take-out plastic spoon broke – again? And then there are the equipment manufacturers that use flimsy tent poles, glue instead of stitching, plastic where it should be metal, etc.

Not when lightness is accomplished by under provisioning. Yea your stove is super light; too bad you didn’t bring enough gas. Sure you can take ten pounds off your back by not eating for a week; but cleaver you always end up splitting my rations. BTW you did bring your share of the whiskey this time, DIDN’T YOU?!!

IMHO light weight rain gear is a mistake in the back country; one or two pounds is not worth risking hypothermia. In any case all the ultra light rain gear I’ve seen doesn’t last. There is no point taking an ultra light tent on a winter snow trip. I have seen North Face V-25 4-season dome tents blown away in shreds from a winter wind storm. Pen lights as your primary torch on winter trips where you intend to be up and moving before dawn are also a foolish choice, or choosing to bring instep crampons (or none at all) when you know the route is over a steep pass above 11K’ in March.

By the same token we camp with systems. Some elements can be cut without compromise, provided your kit is thoughtfully assembled. For instance it would be no problem if my down coat lacked a wind flap, since I have a shell garment dedicated to shedding rain and wind. And our group may go up in the snow with butane canister stoves, but I always bring my trusty white gas stove as the designated back-up. Go ahead and leave the tent home, but bring a tarp and snow saw, in addition to the mandatory snow shovels.

No one premeditatedly equips poorly for their trips. But some are "more optimistic" about what awaits them, and habitually pack for the best case scenario. I drop repeat offenders of this ilk from future invites, I don’t appreciate being in rescue mode when trying to relax. There are, however, bona fide experts at the ultra light game that practice their craft prudently. They bring less cold gear than I, but then they are in bed asleep by sunset since that is the only place they can stay warm when not under way, while I prefer to enjoy my companions by a campfire, or lantern, under the stars. The ultra light trekker may also forsake a cooking stove, or run with quick, simple, and bland, boil in a bag sustenance, while I prefer something more tantalizing. But these guys are not mucking with safety, they'll get through it all but they may not be comfortable in a pinch. And then there are the misinformed. REI has done many newbies a dis-service, convincing them this trend is The Way to go, and then equipping them insufficiently. Half sleeping bags, using your pack as a sleeping mat, and wearing every stitch to bed may work for some folks, but most end up preferring a bit more comfort and R=factor surrounding them while they snooze, especially after they discover the sales person may have been stretching it a bit when he said they too could cover twenty miles a day going ultra light. Sometimes I wonder if more people are turned off forever from backpacking because they were misinformed by an ultra light zealot, and found the experience to chilly, Spartan, and plain tasting, versus those turned off because the pack weighed too much.
Ed

4:31 a.m. on April 26, 2010 (EDT)
52 reviewer rep
312 forum posts

1) No, simply put, slightly heavier but more durable and functional is "better".

2) It is very often more functional if it is only required intermittently.

3) I don't mind the weight of wind flaps.

4) "Extreme-lightweight" is for extremists, not I.

5) the trend toward "lightest at any cost of functionality" is only good for profits.

6) If severe weather was forecasted, I would take the safest gear regardless of weight because death scares me. I might not even go out (the lightest option).

7) I would substitute the 'older and heavier' gear for the 'newer and lighter' gear based on answers 1 and 2, as well as the task at hand, i.e. winter usage or lending to the In-laws.

___

A lot of my/our 'lightweight' gear has small holes or tears in it. Gear on your back was always available in the lightest manufactures. The recent revolution in outdoor products offers a bonus for the middleweight backpacker if one picks and chooses wisely, learning from the mistakes of others. Yet the overall combinatory effect of consumerism, technological development and prosperity (real or perceived) shouldn't be confused with progress, in any realm.

I met someone who slept on clown balloons once.

6:40 a.m. on April 26, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
148 forum posts

Interesting thread. Last November when I started acquiring gear again after not backpacking for about 20 years, I joined another forum and it's main theme was light. Posted a few times on "what gear would you consider" and based on answers found for the most part the world had changed since my hiatus.

I've considered lighter when I felt it wasn't a compromise. Since I was gearing up during winter, I purchased things suitable for the cold, if you can call Oklahoma cold. :-) My winter bag is heavy, but well made and warm. Have no qualms about lugging it around when it's cold. If an opportunity to go slightly lighter comes along, I'll do so. But it's not a consuming goal or drive.

As spring and summer roll in I'm sure things will be added that will enhance my ability to enjoy the outdoors in much warmer weather. Purchased a decent light sleeping bag and like it.

I don't post on that other forum anymore because I don't like being taken to task for merely seeing the world slightly different that others. That extra 4-5 lbs didn't kill me and made the trip enjoyable. It's not a contest and could care less how much your loaded pack weighs in at. What I want to know is did you enjoy yourself and what was the highlight of your trip.

Knowing you didn't carry toilet paper to shave off a few ounces is Too Much Information.

randy

9:34 a.m. on April 26, 2010 (EDT)
42 reviewer rep
95 forum posts

When I buy a piece of gear I want to know it will last many years. I treat all my equipment very well and I'm never careless. I like some lightweight gear but I am never counting ounces. For instance, I never know how much my load is when I start a trip. But some ultralight gear companies are just silly. For instance I came across http://www.zpacks.com/ a couple weeks ago and I was checking out their specs for a couple different model packs:

"In my experience they will last about 1,200 miles." - ZPacks Sil-Nylon Backpack

"The expected life span is one full thru-hike." -ZPacks Cuben Fiber Backpack

IMHO, that is just absurd. PASS!

10:52 a.m. on April 26, 2010 (EDT)
65 reviewer rep
168 forum posts

Of course lighter is better. Who wants dead weight?

For me, trip planning is a matter of where, when, how long, etc.

For instance, an overnight, in early spring, with no chance of rain, might mean a heavier sleeping bag but a bivy sack instead of tent or tarp. Is that lighter? Yes, with no tent or tarp; no, with the heavier bag.

Later in the spring, still mild weather, but bugs have emerged, I want a lighter bag and my Contrail Tarptent because of its bug netting. Lighter bag. Somewhat heavier in the shelter department (still pretty light though.)

Just me, not much cooking: GigaPower stove. More people, or longer trip, or cold weather: white gas stove.

So, I will take the lightest gear I can that will do the job under the conditions expected. Weight is an important consideration but it comes after Safety and Conditions Expected.

3:22 p.m. on April 26, 2010 (EDT)
73 reviewer rep
303 forum posts

Encounter the same thing in mountain (and road) bikes... is lighter better? Of course, less weight in your equipment means an "easier" experience, right?

One factor in this discussion that is HUGE for me is cost. Companies make a LOT of money producing high-end, light products. And, they sell them to individuals who have little-to-no common sense and lots of cash. Their rule: "If it is lighter, it must be better no matter the cost."

A lot of the "lighter" gear stuff is just cottage industry. Sure, I can shave XXlbs or XXozs... but what is the cost? "Weight > Money/Durability/Function" Is the equation of a lot of the industry, but not one I will ever subscribe to. I have been and always will be "Weight + Durability + Function + Money"

3:24 p.m. on April 26, 2010 (EDT)
73 reviewer rep
303 forum posts

http://www.zpacks.com/ a couple weeks ago and I was checking out their specs for a couple different model packs:

"In my experience they will last about 1,200 miles." - ZPacks Sil-Nylon Backpack

"The expected life span is one full thru-hike." -ZPacks Cuben Fiber Backpack

IMHO, that is just absurd. PASS!

Somebody is making a freaking killing on that garbage. Wish I had a sewing machine and a role of Tyvex.

8:48 p.m. on April 26, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
28 forum posts

I've heard the term "weight weenie" many times on various forums and still can't quite understand the length some go to save an ounce.I do respect there effort and passion though.

I've refined my gear over the years and now carry less weight but have not sacrificed anything that i feel is essential.

9:24 p.m. on April 26, 2010 (EDT)
10 reviewer rep
193 forum posts

I think this thread should be very interesting. I personally have an Arcteryx Bora 80 which is a heavy pack most would say but I can tell you it will last forever with proper care and it's comfortable. Comfort is what matters. I try to shed weight were I can but not at the expense of having good quality gear.

11:35 p.m. on April 26, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
78 forum posts

I've honed the selection of my gear over a period of forty years. Having purchased, modified and designed/built gear and clothing, I lighten items where practical but maintain durability for safety. As a result of weight savings, I'm able to enhance my performance in areas of energy conservation, endurance and speed. I do take time to "smell the roses."

You cannot predict the failure of light versus heavier materials for example. You can damage light and heavier materials with ease due to rock abrasion, limb penetration, etc. depending on circumstances. Packs, pants, parka and other items attest to that. Spectra and Dynema packs are available if you're of significant concern about durability and weight. I have a pair of Dynema gloves, but I'm more concerned about thermally efficient materials and methods to enhance their efficiency. My hiking ethos is be prepared with survival skills and gear. My pack is always ready with my base survival gear, adding and subtracting seasonal gear. Winter hiking can be beautiful and invigorating. It is an excellent environment to test your hiking gear, clothing and skills.

In conclusion, research product reviews and user comments when available. Focus on performance of an item to its weight. Then go to the stores and try-out the gear, clothing and hiking shoes of interest for comfort, convenience, features and areas of personal concern. Be wary of salesmanship. Test your shelter, cooking gear, sleeping bag, food, water treatment, etc. at home to optimize and simplify handling, preparation and use. Learn and test survival skills and get-out-there for a perspective that will revise your thinking as to what you need to enjoy and survive in the wilderness in all seasons.

1:12 a.m. on April 27, 2010 (EDT)
7 reviewer rep
134 forum posts

Wow, quite a variety of experience/opinion. All I can conclude regarding your question is that "it depends on..."

I've been backpacking for over 40 years. The early years of which my gear was whatever I could find around the house or buy by mowing the neighbors' yards. Now I can pretty much buy whatever I want whenever I want.

But my key learning in going lightweight was not so much about buying lightweight gear but in remembering what I needed to bring on my first backpacking trips. My scoutmaster would not allow any of us to carry packs that weighed more than 1/5 our body weight so I was limited to about 30 pounds. On a week long trip after food this didn't allow for much.

So think about what you really need. For a group up to about 8 people you can get by with one 1st aid kit, one knife, etc. For two of you if you each carry a poncho you each have rain gear and together you have a ground cloth and a tarp. And so on. It took me 30 years after I finished scouts to remember this. And if you really look at it, this is Jardine's basic message

So first carry only the minimal set of gear you need including the consumables like toothpaste, sunblock, bug dope, and band-aids. This alone will yield a reasonable pack weight. And of course winter will necessitate more gear than summer, and mountain camping more than (or at least different than) beach camping.

Beyond this minimal set of gear, just replace as each wears out with the lightest piece you believe meets your needs and comfort level and you can afford. This is different for each of us, but will land us with generally light base weights.

Ray takes it to an ultra-light extreme but in essence he carries no item he doesn't need and for each item he does carry he takes or makes himself the lightwest weight piece he believes will serve the necessary function.

I am not Ray, and do not advocate every bit he has to say, but following those two general principles: only the minimum kit I need and the lightest weight piece I believe functional to my need I was able to shave a mere 40 pounds from my pack for a weeklong trip (75 to 35 pounds, food and water included).

3:45 a.m. on April 28, 2010 (EDT)
508 reviewer rep
287 forum posts

What Trouthunter sed, persactly!

Eric

12:13 p.m. on April 28, 2010 (EDT)
TOP 25 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,702 reviewer rep
1,338 forum posts

A lot of this depends on personal choice, specific needs, dollars, and other factors.

First, there is excellent lightweight gear that is also highly functional. The gore tex Jacket and pants I use for mountaineering weigh less than a pound each but outperform much heavier shells.

Second, no, functionality usually depends more on design and manufacturing quality than weight. "Old School" doesn't necessarily mean better or worse; it depends.

Third, it depends. Some jackets have a flap over and under the zipper. more weight, but it's great in a gale. and a zipper flap doesn't add a lot of weight. in really bad weather, the zipper flaps are a good feature.

Fourth, not necessarily. There is some absolutely bombproof lightweight gear out there that I would love to have. More weight doesn't necessarily translate into a better product.

Fifth, I think the trend toward lighter-weight gear is fine. All things being equal, I would prefer to carry less weight on a trip. Do I always choose the lighter gear? no. for some things (boots and backpacks, mostly) i choose function, fit, and durability independent of price. having a lightweight pair of shoes doesn't mean diddly if your feet are bruised or blistered, and a lightweight pack is fine, unless a key functional part of it fails far from home.

Sixth, I take the gear that will hopefully do the job. high mountain winter climbing usually means heavier and more insulated boots and other gear.

Finally, I routinely shun lighter footwear, because my two pair of leather hiking boots are more comfortable, protect my feet better, and my feet don't get as tired. Likewise, I favor heavier backpacks because I like the particular companies and think their packs fit better and work better.

1:03 p.m. on April 28, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
1,083 forum posts

This is a very experienced group.

1)I want your opinion on a simple question - is the lightest camping gear "better" than slightly heavier gear that is more durable or functional?

2) Do you believe that lighter is always more functional?

3) Is a 14 ounce jacket made with 4 oz or 850 down better than a 15 oz jacket made exactly the same, only it has a wind flap over the zipper? I mean the 15 oz jacket IS heavier, but is it also btter?

4) Would you agree that extreme light weight requires tradeoffs and that it would be easier to build a great tent with 3.5 pounds of material than with 3 pounds of the same material, meaning that the extra .5 pounds could go to useful extras...

5)Do you think the trend toward "lightest at any cost of funtionality" is a good thing?

6)if you were going out and severe weather was forcast, what gear would you take? Why?

7) is there ever a case where you would pull out an "old" "heavy" piece of gear for a specific trip and shun the newer lighter model?

Jim S, thanks for your thoughts.

I think it is hard to come up with many examples of gear where they have the same utility and the only difference is weight.

For example, can you find two identical down jackets where one has 850 down and the other has 650 down? The only difference in this case is weight and I'd rather carry the 850 down jacket though I am likely to buy the 650 down jacket because I am frugal, some call it cheap.

In the case of one jacket with a wind flap and one without, the jacket with the wind flap has extra utility. Whether you need that extra protection on any one trip is another matter, but it may come in handy. If the wind flap has snaps or velcro closures you also have a backup if the zipper fails. It's all low weight insurance.

In some cases there are clear cut winners in terms of new gear versus old gear. LED headlamps come to mind. I'd never consider carrying an old school flashlight again with the possible exception of an old Mallory just for fun.

One aspect of light for the sake of light is the cutting edge of this stuff is disposable and I can't stand stuff that wears out easily. I don't like tossing more stuff into a landfill. I'd grab a heavier rain jacket for example than the frog-togs things simply because the frog togs jackets will get trashed in short order backpacking in the rain.

Is lighter more functional or better? I'd say not by definition, it's hard to balance the tradeoffs between weight, functionality, durability and cost.

7:55 p.m. on April 29, 2010 (EDT)
37 reviewer rep
747 forum posts

I found it interesting that many of you translated the title to "newer or older gear better". The meaning of the thread was "is lighter always better than slightly heavier" regardless of age? Meaning that obvious tradeoffs have to be made to produce any piece of gear, and are those "lightest made" pieces better because of the tradeoffs? In some cases yes, if its lighter, tougher, more functional and cost a fortune, but in most cases you have to give up something to get a lighter piece of gear.

In another group, after much emotional and sometimes hostile argument, we sort of finally decided that there is "trail comfort" = minimum weight only, and "camp comfort" = everything else. Everyone chooses their own compromise. I love my gore tex, but since it IS a three layered product, obviously there are lighter single layer products. Do those single layer products perform any better because they are lighter, or are they simply easier to carry, especially if never deployed? Are manufacturers of UL tents making "better" tents when they are competing for the "lightest tent?"

Jim S

12:18 p.m. on April 30, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
1,083 forum posts

UL tents "better?" I don't know if they are better, they are lighter and some may be as durable. I do find the Tarptent series to be quite interesting and wish I could see several models up close and crawl into them.

Which variables does one wish to focus upon?

Weight

Durability

Price

Storm proof

Keeps out bugs

Interior space and height

Ease of setup

It is hard to maximize all of these variables in any one tent for any one trip. For example, if you hold constant the materials used in a tent, more room = more weight because you use more materials increasing it's size. Is this better by definition? To some yes, to others no. It depends on what you want.

Your point about trail comfort versus camp comfort gets to the heart of the matter. Everyone has to find thier own balance between this tradeoff. Personally I don't want to have to lay in my sleeping bag all evening because I lack the clothes to otherwise stay warm.

10:56 p.m. on April 30, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
78 forum posts

My basic arguments for going light: I have no interest in being a "beast of burden." Reducing weight improves comfort, reduces stress and fatigue, and increases your speed, endurance and conserves energy. Simply put, reducing weight increases your performance - your thrust to weight ratio. I trust that many of you are aware that each pound of footwear is equivalent to about 6.4 lbs. on your back. Yes, I'm aware that some of you need good ankle support or carry heavy loads requiring boots that weigh more.

On the other hand, I carry equipment that many others would discard because they haven't used it, a basic but potentially dangerous argument for discarding equipment that may be essential for survival. Over the years I've read equipment lists of others with nary an inclusion of signal equipment, first aid, etc. Stories of lost and found hikers who didn't study where they went hiking. Some don't even carry water. The same is my experience on the trail, inexperienced and experienced hikers alike. Perhaps they think that they're taking a walk in the park. An accident can happen in a moment. It has happened to me and I trust to a good number of the membership. I had to relearn how to walk after recovering from three torn ligaments in my left knee. I've also fractured ribs and had the usual cuts and bruises. Survival equipment and skills are essential as well as spare food, water consumption/replenishment planning, spare clothing, etc. Yes, you can go light or at least lighten-up, but be prepared if you can't get out.

11:24 p.m. on April 30, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
415 forum posts

My direct experience with an ultra-lighter: he had an 11-pound pack for an overnighter; I was carrying about 25.

Come morning we have to get up and moving ASAP because, as he tells us, he doesn't have any insulation for hanging around in camp (it was in the low 40s).

This was in the SF Bay Area in April so there was no risk of a blizzard or anything, but we did encounter significant rain and wind on the first day. If he'd fallen and broken his leg, his poncho-tarp shelter -- which requires a certain skill and agility to pitch -- would not have been much use. He'd have almost certainly camped with his colleagues till help arrived.

11:19 a.m. on May 1, 2010 (EDT)
102 reviewer rep
2,295 forum posts

we sort of finally decided that there is "trail comfort" = minimum weight only, and "camp comfort" = everything else.

Whisky - I don't care if you bring the light stuff or the heavy stuff, just make sure to bring enough so the camp comfort offsets the trail discomfort. (A steak would help too.)
Ed

1:02 p.m. on May 3, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
1,083 forum posts

My direct experience with an ultra-lighter: he had an 11-pound pack for an overnighter; I was carrying about 25.

Come morning we have to get up and moving ASAP because, as he tells us, he doesn't have any insulation for hanging around in camp (it was in the low 40s).

This was in the SF Bay Area in April so there was no risk of a blizzard or anything, but we did encounter significant rain and wind on the first day. If he'd fallen and broken his leg, his poncho-tarp shelter -- which requires a certain skill and agility to pitch -- would not have been much use. He'd have almost certainly camped with his colleagues till help arrived.

This is generally my position. I don't want to have to get going ASAP simply because I can't stay warm. I like to sit and enjoy my breakfast, or dinner, read a little, jot a few notes in my journal and eventually pack up and start hiking. To each their own, just not my cup of tea.

4:40 p.m. on May 6, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
78 forum posts

tommangan and alan: one unprepared ultralighter is no reason or excuse to ignore the fact that lighter is better and practical to achieve. Are you saying he needed 14 pounds of insulation to remain in camp - your 25 lbs versus his 11 lbs? Give me a break! He wasn't prepared - period. You will carry what you deem necessary based on your experience, skills and knowledge - your current comfort level. Some guys won't give-up a one pound cotton flannel shirt for an eight ounce zip turtle neck long sleeve shirt made of marino wool or polypro, superior in thermal and evaporative efficiency. That's their comfort level. Do they care less about weight reduction? Are they aware of its' benefits? Don't limit your own potential for arriving at a lighter load by ignoring a review of your existing approach to insulation, clothing, gear, etc., and researching what's out there. Cost can be an issue. I'm not trying to badger you guys. I'm just wanting to suggest that it is throughly practical to reduce weight and still enjoy what you like about hiking and doing it in greater comfort and ease as well getting to your destination quicker if interested and less fatigued.

1:10 a.m. on May 8, 2010 (EDT)
2 reviewer rep
21 forum posts

lighter isnt better in my world per say, specs and ratings win out over weight most of the time.

9:01 p.m. on May 8, 2010 (EDT)
72 reviewer rep
311 forum posts

Sometimes lighter is not pursued because of just trying to not over burden ones self but because of an obsessed gram counting mind,i have ran into more than one person of this type.As i age and have been thru knee surgery i also try to lighten my load,i also look at modern materials if they have a true advantage,but i do not find a need to out do the next "fanatical" ultra lighter,not referring to the large number of light weight packers out there,just to say my load is a few grams lighter than theirs.I have hiked with several groups that have had one of these UL that had to go to bed early and start moving first thing in the morning because of lack of gear in cold temps but also some of their hiking days were all about speed and how many miles they could cover in the least amount of time.Fine for them but not my cup of tea.Yes there are times when speed is important but more often than not i try to enjoy my surroundings to the max.This means stopping to look,listen,smell and photograph what is happening in my day.Iam not saying what others do is wrong it just does not work for me.ymmv

9:24 p.m. on May 8, 2010 (EDT)
26 reviewer rep
98 forum posts

Pack weight is relative. a 110 lb girly man can't be expected to carry a 50 lb pack - and has no need to do so.

11:48 p.m. on May 8, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
78 forum posts

Skimanjohn: I agree. I don't remove labels. I do seek reliable time proven light gear and clothing as well as design and construct it. You may have noted my reference to speed, energy conservation and endurance. Speed is a clear plus as result of going light if you care to apply it or apply energy conservation and endurance. I also enjoy "smelling the roses," picking the berries and the nuts.

7:28 a.m. on May 9, 2010 (EDT)
102 reviewer rep
2,295 forum posts

Performance:
In defense of Tom and Alan, there are many ultra lighters who pack for the best case scenario, and end up foolishly unprepared. I know some ultra-lighters who do come adequately equipped, but they weren’t much fun to camp with in less than balmy weather. They tended to scrimp on warm clothes, and had to retreat to their sleeping bags when the sun went down, in order to keep warm at night. They had all the necessary gear for weather one could reasonably expect, but as companions you were only able to enjoy their company if you shared their tent and wanted to spend your after dinner hours there.

Unfortunately I know several times as many ultra-lighters who go too light, not bringing enough gear to cover the weather one should reasonably expect. This has forced an early end to several trips after they shivered all night in wet clothes, or in sleeping set-ups poorly matched to the evening chill. I have seen guys thinking they didn’t need rain shelter in the Sierras in the summer, or did not bring gaiters, a winter tent, a shovel, and extra gloves in the winter snow. These guys practiced pray-for-the-best camping. One guy’s entire cold weather set up for a snow trip was long johns, fleece top and bottoms, wind shell top and bottoms, a pair of ski gloves, watch cap, and a 2-3 inch synthetic loft half-bag using his pack as a sleeping pad. He ended up borrowing stuff from everyone. (I guess his idea of ultra-light involved borrowing other’s gear).

Every ultra-lighter I know tends to sacrifice too much, regarding meal planning. IMHO. Half the time these guys ran out of fuel. All of them seemed to choose meals for weight and survival, versus enjoyment. Perhaps they see camping as a challenge to see how little they can get by on, with everything else of secondary importance. I personally think enjoying good food, and companionship in the evening by fire or lantern is at least as important as anything I do while schlepping my pack in the day time. Thus I find the contemporary ultra-light philosophy better suited for death marches or solo outings, than group outings.
Ed

3:51 p.m. on May 11, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
78 forum posts

whomeworry: I totally agree, but it's the same issue of not being prepared - the pursuit of lightweight for its' own sake without the realization that if you're not properly equipped, knowledgeable and experienced your very life is at stake. BPL, (backpackinglite.com), promotes such a lightweight "philosophy." Who ever accepts such limited thinking without the knowledge and wisdom gained from others, research and their own experience could get themselves killed. Nature and accidents are not forgiving. There are two extremes to this issue: hikers who travel light and unaware of what potentially face them and the other side, those who have or partly have sufficient wilderness experience and knowledge, and don't mind wearing and carrying heavier but inefficient "stuff." I've hiked with a number of the later. I'm usually requested to slow down, wait-up and "let's take a rest". One fellow with three to four continents and decades of experience wears three tops to my one to maintain thermal comfort while his evaporative efficiency is abysmal. The design of his pack limits efficient bipedal motion, etc., etc., etc. I could go on and on as I trust could you. Another day Pal.

5:41 p.m. on May 11, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
1,083 forum posts

The original post was is lighter gear by definition better and is traveling lighter by definition better (or more functional). Assuming you can hold all the other variables (price, durability, features, ...) constant, in theory I would say yes, lighter is better (or more functional), but in reality I say no since you can rarely hold the variables constant.

I find nearly all gear to be nothing but a compromise in one form or another and just can't make blanket statements in regard to item x being better than item y simply because of weight.

One last example. The lightest rain jacket I own is by Campmor - their house brand coated nylon jacket. All in all a decently made item, especially considering the low cost. Is this jacket better because it weighs less than my event jacket? Better how? They both shed wind and rain, that is they serve the same function and do so relatively well. I'd rather wear the event jacket as it has more features, vents better and gets less clammy than the Campmor jacket. I'd rather have the Campmor jacket in my pack because it weighs less. It's all just a compromise.

7:17 p.m. on May 11, 2010 (EDT)
102 reviewer rep
2,295 forum posts

What I want to know is where can I get ultralight whiskey? It is one of the heavier items in my kit on week long treks.
Ed

7:51 p.m. on May 11, 2010 (EDT)
MODERATOR REVIEW CORPS
998 reviewer rep
3,556 forum posts

Hey Ed,

Several of us are working on dehydrated alcohol, but the solution keeps escaping us.

We'll keep tryin though.

11:41 p.m. on May 12, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
78 forum posts

Alan: We live in an imperfect world. All engineering is primarily a compromise. The airplane is a compromise of electronic, electrical, mechanical, structural and aerodynamics as an example. You can lower weight and it need not be a compromise to achieve it. If a tent weighs two pounds using a lighter material equal in tensil strength to a tent with the same space and configuration weighing three pounds, where is the compromise. If your argument here would be the potential cost difference, perhaps the cost differential is not significant or your mother will be happy to pay the difference. My point is seek and you shall find. Alter your perception on what you think is important by verifying if what you believe is in fact the truth.

7:57 a.m. on May 13, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
148 forum posts

Wish I had been born with an ego so I could understand why it's so important to be right about everything. I'm tickled to bat 500. :-)

3:28 p.m. on May 13, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
1,083 forum posts

Performance, I am not disagreeing with you except to say that cost is one variable which many people need to be consider. I'm an accountant and am hard wired to think that way.

REI sells 3 down bags by Marmot rated to 15 degrees costing $209, $329 and $369 and the more expensive bags weigh less. Somedays $160 ($320 before taxes) is a lot of money, somedays it is not. I don't have a mom to buy my gear, I need to buy it myself.

2:23 a.m. on May 14, 2010 (EDT)
102 reviewer rep
2,295 forum posts

I don't have a mom to buy my gear, I need to buy it myself.

I hear ya. Next life I am going to choose a different profession: Trust Fund Baby.
Ed

2:20 p.m. on May 14, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
78 forum posts

Alan: I hear you. I've been a member of REI since the early 1970's, and am disappointed with the cost of their gear which became more expensive than it was during a prior management. I haven't bought from REI, for about eighteen years or so. I make my own packs and modify some purchased clothing and gear to meet my needs.

10:22 p.m. on May 14, 2010 (EDT)
102 reviewer rep
2,295 forum posts

I've been a member of REI since the early 1970's, and am disappointed with the cost of their gear which became more expensive than it was during a prior management.

Part of the reason REI got so expensive is their merchandising department saw the road to larger profits was purposefully stocking the more expensive boutique models and brands over the plainer, yet as functional items. For example, the current fad for internal frame packs arose when REI made them look hip, giving them preferential marketing in store and catalog, because the first generation soft packs cost more than analogous external frame models. Additionally the first generation internal frame packs generally didn't have replaceable shoulder straps, thus these packs wore out much faster. And whatever happened to the basic day and half pack? You have to search to find a pack that doesn’t have a blivet pocket, cell phone nest, or a place to put your wookie. Same thing with the current selection of kitchen ensembles (Come on! $150 + for a MSR reactor stove which is essentially a burner and a matched pot?). Then there is all that expensive “organic” apparel that makes one look like a Raiders of the Lost Arc trekkie, or an ex-patriot Banana Republic sales employee. Whatever happened to hiking in cut offs or jogging shorts? Do I really need to look like Dr. Stanley Livingston, let alone afford it? Oh, I forgot I have an REI charge card…

This same up-selling mentality has also hit Home Depot, Ralphs, etc. But these are some other web sites’ forum topics.

And now a word form our sponsors...
Ed

1:34 a.m. on May 15, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
78 forum posts

whomeworry: When the prices rose my buying froze. Thanks for the REI background. I use the internet to review pricing and where I usually do my buying. Finding reputable vendors is essential. I don't buy unless there is a phone number, address and a reasonable return policy. Campmor is within 45 minutes of home. Unfortunately they and other prime merchants don't carry the specialty gear that interests me, available elsewhere and on the web.

3:52 p.m. on May 15, 2010 (EDT)
2 reviewer rep
166 forum posts

Ya got that right, Performance and Whomeworry.

5:15 p.m. on May 15, 2010 (EDT)
22 reviewer rep
76 forum posts

Ya. The cost of gear and "outdoor clothing" is absolutely ridiculous. Blows my mind what these vendors want for this stuff. Why is titanium so expensive? Is this a very rare metal or something? But I digress.

Lots of great discussion here fellas!

8:21 a.m. on May 16, 2010 (EDT)
102 reviewer rep
2,295 forum posts

Why is titanium so expensive?

Partly because of the cool factor, but it is also a difficult metal to work with.
Ed

9:31 a.m. on May 16, 2010 (EDT)
5 reviewer rep
39 forum posts

When I buy a piece of gear I want to know it will last many years. I treat all my equipment very well and I'm never careless. I like some lightweight gear but I am never counting ounces. For instance, I never know how much my load is when I start a trip. But some ultralight gear companies are just silly. For instance I came across http://www.zpacks.com/ a couple weeks ago and I was checking out their specs for a couple different model packs:

"In my experience they will last about 1,200 miles." - ZPacks Sil-Nylon Backpack

"The expected life span is one full thru-hike." -ZPacks Cuben Fiber Backpack

IMHO, that is just absurd. PASS!

He also uses Dyneema X Gridstop fabric, which is heavier, but what I feel is worth the extra weight. I did end up buying one of these bags.. okay, two.. but my wife and I have been in the market for new bags for some time now. Typically we would load up her 3 lb. bag (which she always complained about having too many pockets) with all the bulky stuff, and my daypack with the heavy consumables, and then transfer loads as the food was being consumed.. no tents.. no tarps.. no bivy.. just stars and good weather. Lighter weight gear is expensive, there's no way around this, unless you get a kick down, and it's important to search for a company (cottage or big) that will stand behind their product with excellent customer service -what urks me is having to hold the line and talk to three different people before someone can answer my questions.. hence my welcoming cottage companies. We also upgraded the tent from an inexpensive ($40) Wenzle 6' x 6' dome tent (5.5 lb.) which doesn't hold up too well to sideways rain for a lighter (2.5 lb.) but smaller Tarptent Double Rainbow. Man this thing was expensive, but it's nice.. and I don't have to use those hiking poles, but if I change my mind it is always an option. The material is thin, almost too thin.. but time will tell.. unfortunately with the gear at a higher cost, I'm a bit hesitant about fires close by (since the material is highly flammable), but really I have no need for fires, and this tent satisfies all my needs.. rainproof.. bug-proof.. comfortable for my wife, myself, our dog, and our gear.. lightweight.. airy.. and versatile. As for everything else, at the end of the day it's your decision.. don't be persuaded by someone else.. listen to your initial response, and work with it to find a system.. it is a system after all. Heck, would you bring a -20 degree bag in the summer or a sheet? Would you bring a sheet or a -20 degree bag in the winter? It is nice to have these options however, but I do think the $hit flinging should be stopped.. there is no right way.. only what works best for you.. this is no contest.. better or worse -enjoy the hike.. not just on the trail, but in life.

"The bag's not for what I take, Colson - it's for what I find along the way." MacGyver (Pilot)

1:40 p.m. on May 16, 2010 (EDT)
38 reviewer rep
134 forum posts

The lightest is not always better, but if it does the job you want, it's not bad. I'm surprised that so many people worry so about durability, when they go out about a week a year. It all comes down to using the right tool for the job. I've seen as many people overloaded and unprepared as I have ultralight and not prepared. But it's foolish to carry something heavy when there is a functionally equal, but lighter alternative.

10:54 p.m. on May 17, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
28 forum posts

Jim S: Thank you for starting this thread.

I will try to work with your questions before drifting off-topic.

To answer questions 1-3: I do not think that “lighter is better.” I know lighter is not as durable, and I agree that extremely lightweight gear always requires tradeoffs. In general, as it gets lighter, gear gets: less durable, less comfortable, and less versatile.

4. I do agree that there are always “tradeoffs” in tent design. I used to work with a tent designer that would talk by the hour on all the choices involved. It was almost always weight vs durability vs livability. Think: zipper size, fabric type, fabric thickness, coating thickness, closeable vents, pole size, roominess -------and so many more choices.

5/6. Disagree that lighter is always the best choice, obviously not the best choice for nasty weather.

7. Last summer, my wife and I invested in a new ultra-light Big Agnes tent and new Ultra-light (at least to us) Therma-rest pads for a 6-day mountain trip. I can’t imagine using the very well designed and very small tent (dubbed the clammy coffin) on a cold- weather trip. We did use the pads backpacking in Argentina this March, and I’m even sleeping OK on mine.

So-------my beef with the ultra-light people is: they are not living in the world that my friends and I live in.

There is no attempt to address recreational equipment taken on backpack trips.

If you are doing backcountry fishing my way: add a fly road & reel, wading sandals, fly vest & contents, and a fanny pack to carry raingear, water filter and lunch in.

Birding, or wildlife watching, and photography. Pack along anything from binoculars, to identity books, to many lbs of camera gear.

Technical climbing or mountaineering. Bring along your 15 lbs of backpack gear and then dump 30-40 lbs of climbing gear in the pack. Oh-Oh, get a bigger and heavier pack too.

And of course, speaking of recreation: that heavy but fun alcohol (nerve tonic) fix for evenings on the trip. Some “Nerve Tonic” at night is a necessity to me at age 60, although I never backpacked with it in my youth.

I suggested Ambien sleeping pills as an alternative to “Nerve Tonic” in an ultra-light forum on a climbing site this winter. No-one argued.

Pilgrims: finish the day, take your sleeping pill before you get cold, and wake up early for another day of wilderness hiking, without camera gear, binoculars, fishing equipment, or books.

Just enjoy how little you have on your back.

2:54 p.m. on June 22, 2010 (EDT)
36 reviewer rep
148 forum posts

go as light as you possibly can without sacrificing essential comfort and basic survival. this will be a lifelong pursuit and ongoing evolution of equipment.

1:21 p.m. on June 23, 2010 (EDT)
36 reviewer rep
148 forum posts

Yea, I work with two people who can`t be wrong. I sometimes deliberately make mistakes just to make their day.

11:05 p.m. on June 28, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
1 forum posts

I'm not in the ultra-light camp by any means, however I have gone with new, much lighter but still very durable gear this last year. I'm selling my older bomber gear... not planning a trip to Everest.

I've also really cut out the non-essentials and don't miss that extra weight. I've read the ultra-light forums and just shake my head. Having to jump immediately in bed at the end of the day to stay warm makes NO sense to me.

To each his own.

12:20 p.m. on July 13, 2010 (EDT)
36 reviewer rep
148 forum posts

I personally feal the word ultralight is overused and often misused and now it is misunderstood. A similarly misused term is global warming, perhaps temperature moderation would be better understood, or climate change as I`ve heard it said. But any way, we can all choose to lighten up without sacrificing safety by carefull selection of our new purchases. Too often these days ultralight sounds ultrasheik and ultra radical but it began innocently enough with those that simply wanted to enhance their backpacking experience by lightening their burdens a little. But even someone like me who has spent 100.00 more just to save an oz. still has to draw the line somewhere, there are some products of recent invention that I will not use. Either I`m too old fashion or just beginning to get set in my ways but I draw the line on any product that I would have to baby in use out there. I`ll probably here it from those that say knowing how to properly use it is the key, but I will not use cuban fiber for a shelter. This is just one example and there are only a very few products out there that I don`t like. But as I said even a radical like myself says ok, this is the equipment I am going to go with even if someone invents a total system that only weighs 9 oz. The expense of going lighter is getting heavier too.

December 21, 2014
Quick Reply

Please sign in to reply

 
More Topics
This forum: Older: what do you use to beat the heat? Newer: preventing pack chafing in fastpacking/trailrunning
All forums: Older: for sale Go-lite 1 person nest Newer: Just letting off some steam