Leaving going light.

12:05 p.m. on June 9, 2018 (EDT)
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I hope everyone is doing well, I now have going light out of my system for a few reasons, and the big one is too much time on gear (plus cost) and not enough time on the trail.  I use plastic water bottles for the trail, but not sure about the long term effect of plastic on your body, but don’t worry about me I’m old already.  I see gear failing for different reasons, getting wet and I feel a lot of the light weight backpacks fail mostly because of too much weight for such delicate pack. The other big item I got out of my head is I’m not going to do PCT, but have done some small parts of the trail.  I plan to do the JMT next year, but I want to do it in comfort.  I have set goals, and the big one would be to take 3 weeks, maybe 4 weeks if I’m lucky, but whatever happens just getting on the trail will be great.  I would like to know if anyone else is maybe adding a little weight to their setup for comfort on the trail.

3:27 p.m. on June 9, 2018 (EDT)
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I guess my answer is relative...I am way lighter still than my previous kit a decade or so ago, but nowhere near as light as some folks.  My base weight without consumables ranges from roughly 17 to 22 lbs depending on the season.  I could go lower, but prefer to bring:

  • Full size air mattress so I sleep like a log
  • Pillow (on warmer trips where my puffy jacket doesn't come along)
  • Trail chair mattress converter for my old back so I can sit up in or out of the tent and relax
  • Worst-case weather clothes - a must for me (not going to suffer being cold or wet)
  • 2 lb pack - tough with semi frame for extra support and carries up to 30 lb loads like a champ
  • 2 lb tent that withstands about anything thrown at it (wind, rain, & snow) with 2 large vestibules to make tent life a dream

Basically I could reduce another 4 or so pounds but don't want to.  Instead I dropped at least 15 from around my waist in the last year and a half to make up the difference and then some.  I do enjoy a light pack (easier on my knees and back) but won't go ultra light unless something really bad happens to my legs - I call my approach "comfortably light".

3:54 p.m. on June 9, 2018 (EDT)
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My wife and I have been trying to lighten up without going UL. There a lot of tradeoffs in comfort and safety (and as you point out durability and cost) and we find that we still want a few of the comforts. We want a fully enclosed tent that we can sit up in with some extra floor space if we can afford the extra pound (i.e. not a tarptent), comfy mattresses that don't bleed heat into cold ground, a reliable and safe stove system that does a little more than just boil water (so not an alky stove), chairs if we can afford the weight or at least butt pads if we can't, camp shoes, rain pants, an extra layer for sitting around camp, maybe some lightweight binoculars for birding, enough fuel for an extra cuppa in the morning and one before bed, and so on.

One thing that intrigues me about the UL thing is how much it seems to be focused on the soloist. There are obvious advantages to going with a(n intimate) partner. I know I'm lucky to have a partner that can go the distance. I could go further faster on my own, but I really enjoy slowing it down a bit, doing shorter days with time to read or botanize.  My wife doesn't do the ski mountaineering and peakbagging that I do with other friends and we run at vastly different speeds, so backpacking is one thing we can do together. With our new 2 lb, 30˚F double quilt, our sleep system weighs in at 2.7 lbs per person, even though our NeoAir All Seasons aren't the lightest options in that department. About as stripped down as we got was when we started out in the Wind Rivers with 10 days worth of food. I was at about 46 pounds and Nancy at about 40, including a BV500 each and our roomier (nominally) three person tent. Not much compared to Tipi's epic loads. But since then we've lightened up on the sleep system and other details, and sometimes use the two person tent to save about a pound.

I guess I wouldn't be too psyched about sharing a small tent with another stinky fellow for days or weeks, but even then you can at least share cooking, first aid kit, maps, etc., not too mention the occasional conversation, if you don't go alone.

One place I have sort of thrown in the towel is on food. I used to think the ritual of preparing more or less complex meal (a la Ed) was one of the luxuries I wanted to keep, and I did a lot of cooking from ingredients on the JMT, but since then we're going more towards one-pots or cook-in-bowl options. I'm not fond of shelling out $6-10 for under- calorized freeze dried meals, but now we've got a rotating menu of meals (some with a little home prep), including a couple from Andrew Skurka's book, that keep cooking simple and us happy. I also used to insist on carrying two pots, one for meals and one for water/coffee etc. but on our last trip I brought only the 1.8L Windburner pot and didn't miss the other, very nice because the canister, burner head, and a few other accessories all fit right in the pot.

We took 24 days on the JMT, including a couple zeroes, and that gave us time for morning/afternoon side trips (I never did get around to writing those up). I wouldn't have minded a few more days for even more side trips!

7:38 p.m. on June 9, 2018 (EDT)
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I have been late to the UL dance, so am still "lightening up" my kit - about 45 pounds for an in-season High Sierra 3 dayer.  That include equipment to keep warm down to freezing and stand up to stiff winds and rain.  That weight is partly due to I also usually carry most of the group gear.  Add 2 pounds/day of food for additional days.  My winter High Sierra kit weight varies too much to peg a weight, such is the case when rope, rack and snow travel hardware are introduced options.  Some items I consider weight a secondary consideration, for example one's pack should be as comfortable as possible with only passing consideration given to weight.   

Dang Rick!  I guess I do splurge on kitchen wares weight  - 2 pots (and a fry pan if fishing) when group camping.  But food wise my larder is only slightly more heavy than any UL minimum (butter and oil and a couple of oranges) as calories tend to be in approximate parity to weight when you go with dehydrated or freeze dried stuff).

Ed

8:10 p.m. on June 9, 2018 (EDT)
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I was thinking about your Peruvian chicken recipe, Ed. Carrying chicken in marinade might even put Tipi to shame! For anything longer than a weekend, I usually shoot for 600g/person/day (=1.3 pounds) which comes out to 2400 calories @ 4 cal/g, just a little more calorie dense than pure carbos. But I may have to try that chicken on my next weekend jaunt. Hope we can finish it before the bears arrive!

10:17 a.m. on June 10, 2018 (EDT)
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Just treat everything as class three, and you can leave the rope and all those other heavy things behind  (for those who don't know me, I am not being serious - the weight of climbing gear is well worth it - the price of being alive)

10:20 a.m. on June 10, 2018 (EDT)
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I have modernized my approach to backpacking which has helped a lot.  Now there is room for real food instead of foil pouches of rice and beans.  A Helinox chair goes everywhere and is the first thing I do in camp is set it up. 

11:40 a.m. on June 10, 2018 (EDT)
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A Helinox ground chair will be in my kit until it’s pried from my cold dead hands 

LOL ... 

11:56 a.m. on June 10, 2018 (EDT)
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The items I will not take out of my Pack is my Hammock, I don't sleep in it but it's great when using just to look at views and eating.  The other few things is I always keep 1 40oz stainless water bottle and my binoculars for animals and views.  The food goes without saying but I hate to tell you ppine I still love rice and beans but not with foil pouches.

4:19 p.m. on June 10, 2018 (EDT)
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I think of weight as just another factor to consider for a trip not a thing one is or does (identity)...but it is probably more profitable to think of it like a technique similar to way-finding and fire-building. If I don't have to carry the weight on my back...or plan to spend more time around camp I often opt for a more comfortable bed (because I will be less tired) + cooking instead of heating (because I will have the time and desire) + "furniture" like a chair or folding pad (because I will use it). If I will be spending most of my time walking with my pack I drop those items because I don't get the full benefit from them...but pay all of the negative costs of carrying them. The exceptions are when I expect "riskier" conditions...but more often than not this means a more robust shelter and warmer clothes...not "comfort" items per se.

4:19 p.m. on June 10, 2018 (EDT)
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I think of weight as just another factor to consider for a trip not a thing one is or does (identity)...but it is probably more profitable to think of it like a technique similar to way-finding and fire-building. If I don't have to carry the weight on my back...or plan to spend more time around camp I often opt for a more comfortable bed (because I will be less tired) + cooking instead of heating (because I will have the time and desire) + "furniture" like a chair or folding pad (because I will use it). If I will be spending most of my time walking with my pack I drop those items because I don't get the full benefit from them...but pay all of the negative costs of carrying them. The exceptions are when I expect "riskier" conditions...but more often than not this means a more robust shelter and warmer clothes...not "comfort" items per se.

8:42 p.m. on June 10, 2018 (EDT)
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BigRed said:

I was thinking about your Peruvian chicken recipe, Ed. 

I do that kind of cooking on dry camps, like Joshua Tree desert BC, where you have to hike in your water - might as well use fresh food, as that extra weight is mostly water.  But it has been decades since I attempted anything extravagant in the mountains, I don't like hauling heavy packs to 11,000' any more than anyone else.

Ed

11:22 a.m. on June 12, 2018 (EDT)
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It depends, but i never really went 'ultralight.' for a shorter excursion, i'll use a smaller pack with a lighter frame, for sure. i'm definitely focused on comfort - no interest in having my shoulders feel hammered because the pack suspension solution isn't up to the task. getting old, i guess.  

11:41 a.m. on June 12, 2018 (EDT)
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You see folks on the internet labeling ultralight as a certain weight range which is really artificial. I have also heard folks say "we ultralighters" proudly. These terms mean nothing to me. Not sure I know anyone who doesn't want to lighten their pack to the extent they feel comfortable...that comfort may be in camp, or with the safety of their equipment vs conditions. The shifting balance for me as I age is lightening the pack to ease my knee and back issues while adding the luxuries like chair and pillow so camp is comfortable. Everyone has their sweet spot...mine is the range I mentioned although that doesn't include severe winter weather where I'll switch to a heftier pack, bag, and clothes etc. I don't want to be one of the ones you pass and chat with on the trail who complains about how cold or wet they have been...usually due to lack of proper equipment.

1:27 p.m. on June 12, 2018 (EDT)
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FlipNC said:

You see folks on the internet labeling ultralight as a certain weight range which is really artificial. I have also heard folks say "we ultralighters" proudly. These terms mean nothing to me. Not sure I know anyone who doesn't want to lighten their pack to the extent they feel comfortable...that comfort may be in camp, or with the safety of their equipment vs conditions. The shifting balance for me as I age is lightening the pack to ease my knee and back issues while adding the luxuries like chair and pillow so camp is comfortable. Everyone has their sweet spot...mine is the range I mentioned although that doesn't include severe winter weather where I'll switch to a heftier pack, bag, and clothes etc. I don't want to be one of the ones you pass and chat with on the trail who complains about how cold or wet they have been...usually due to lack of proper equipment.

 Exactly -- the problem with going "stupid light" (a la Andrew Skurka) is that you might be mighty cold after that 2 hour thunderstorm because you saved 250g by leaving behind the rain pants. I seem to recall seeing a cluster of bare-legged ULers shivering under the trees in ponchos after a nasty hailstorm on the JMT. That can become more than a comfort issue in a hurry.

Once again, that ever-useful Norwegian saying:

"Det er ingen dårlig vær, bar dårlig klær"

There's no bad weather, only bad clothes.

3:39 p.m. on June 12, 2018 (EDT)
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I agree with all of the above, to a point. But on the flip side (no reference to Phil intended), I see many who say they want to lighten their pack but seem to purposely want to stay well shy of "ultralight" territory (base weight <10 lb).

Ultralight doesn't automatically mean stupid light. It's more a mindset that you can apply as loosely or selectively or stringently as you want. And one of the best things about being ultralight is that once you have pared your weight way down you have given yourself the ability to add back in items (and thus weight) for convenience or comfort however pleases you most and still leaves you "enlightened".

6:28 p.m. on June 12, 2018 (EDT)
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A good point JR...I basically did just that...reduced to the lowest weight I could then added back items I feel needed for comfort. I never got near the ultralight level as I like slightly more durable gear due to my penchant for off trail scrambles etc. Durability may not be a major long term concern for some...good excuse to shop for new gear.

My problem with these labels and weight ranges is they may suggest to some without the knowledge and experience in this discussion that you can consistently be ultralight and not adapt for terrain (ie off trail routes) and severe weather. That is where I think the stupid light label  comes into play. There are a lot of very competent hikers out there with minimal weight after thorough consideration of conditions who are fine without the comfort items but take the safety items.

6:43 p.m. on June 12, 2018 (EDT)
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Or you can just keep paring away without ever getting to UL and having to work your wayback up. That's basically what I've been doing. I dare say it's saved me some money...

6:58 p.m. on June 12, 2018 (EDT)
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That's kind of what I meant just not good at explaining... gradually replaced old items with lighter ones and got to the lowest weight gear I was happy with then tried going without the trail chair, pillow, etc but decided that wasn't worth the sacrifice and added them back in.

9:09 p.m. on June 13, 2018 (EDT)
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I think UL is one of those labels that can get even experienced people in trouble.  I was on a trip two years ago with a guy who was attempting to go (kind of) UL.  He had enough experience that you would think he would know the repercussions of his choices.  It was a mid September trip known as the North Lake/South Lake Loop, originating out of Bishop, Ca.  The trip spends most of the time above 10,000'.  I informed him the temps were predicted to drop to the teens at night.  He brought a bag rated for 40⁰ F  and clothing for perhaps slightly colder temps.  My partner did not have sufficient cold weather clothing for the high camps, and slept poorly in his bag, even with all clothing layers.  Two nights ended up in the single digits.  Additionally he was not sufficiently provisioned and ran out of food.  We ended up cutting off a zero day, and finish two days earlier than planned.

My wider experience with several UL advocates is the doctrine as popularly interpreted, nowadays, is better suited for warmer weather.  UL is a relativistic term.  Cut too much off your kit in summer and suffer some discomfort.  But cut too much off in dead winter and you risk a crisis.  Given most contemporary, EXPERIENCED winter campers have long ago traded in their military winter issue woolies for fleece and down, there really isn't much you can do to further reduce weight without also reducing the safety margin. (This said, excepting the option of a pyramid tarp over that of a four season dome or tunnel tent). To a lesser degree the limitation of going UL applies to wherever sub freezing temps are anticipated. 

Ed

Ed 

10:50 p.m. on June 13, 2018 (EDT)
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Hmmm...

My first thought is to ask:  Really?

Reason for this question is my own experience.  I took my base weight down from 55lbs to 15lbs without breaking a sweat.  And then tried over the next several years to cut into this; no cook meals, 3/4 length pad, frameless UL pack, etc.  Yes, I could get the weight to 10lbs but was never comfortable and my hikes less enjoyable.

So I've settled for the 15lb "plus".  Plus can mean a DSLR camera, or a pint of single malt scotch, or just the 15lb kit.  

Net it all, I didn't "leave going light" as I regularly hike with a pack weighing 40lbs less than it did on my 1998 CDT section hike.  But I did leave trying to go ever lighter.  

Back to my question:  Really?  Did you really leave going light?  Or did you, like me, find a weight that strikes that right balance and leave trying to go ever lighter?

6:58 a.m. on June 14, 2018 (EDT)
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Again, going UL and going "stupid" are two different things.

May 26, 2019
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