My first sub 5 lb trip!

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    George Matthews
    BPL Member



    Thanks for sharing. Looks great to me. I'm working on it. See next post.

    George Matthews
    BPL Member


    SUL Story

    About four years I tried half-heartedly and unsuccessfully to significantly reduce my base weight for backpacking. I did not make much progress due to distactions and lack of serious effort. About two years ago, I decided to give getting much lighter another shot.

    What inspired me was reading Ryan's 'SuperUltraLight: Breaking the Five-Pound Barrier' and especially statements from the article like: "When I was researching this topic, I found less than ten people – in the U.S. and Europe – that actually practice sub-5-pound backpacking on a consistent basis". Ryan wrote the article in 2003. Since then shared knowledge and innovative products from Ryan and his peers have made it possible for any focused and diligent backpacker to achieve a sub5 base weight.

    If you are above sub5 base weight and want to get there, then consider the following strategy I used.

    READ or RE-READ Ryan Jordan's SUL article. If you have the bible, 'Lightweight Backpacking & Camping: A Field Guide to Wilderness Hiking Equipment, Technique, and Style', the article is Chapter 15.

    I first read the article a few years ago. I was just beginning my journey along the light backpacking path. At that time, I understood the concept, but its objective seemed more dream than practice to me.

    Over the past two years I've reduced my base weight to a bit over six pounds. I did this one piece of gear at a time, and again lost focus at times. For example, I tried different stoves – alcohol, solid fuel , wood – when either would have been a solution as part of a sub5 base weight. Same thing with sleeping pads. Also, I spent much energy on 'Clothing Worn and Items Carried' – trailrunners, sticks, etc. that is not included in base weight. Important yes, but I was neglecting things in my pack.

    Thanks to the James Shortt My first sub 5 lb trip!
    thread, I was inspired again to go for it sooner rather than later. It was more than just the pound of base weight to me. It was going for something that at one time I thought was impossible.

    So here's what I did:

    1. Listed Ryan's items and their weights in a column
    2. In a column next to Ryan's list, lined up my items and their weights
    3. Inserted rows for my items that Ryan did not have
    4. Calculated the difference between Ryan's and my items

    In total, I was nearly 1.5 pounds over.

    The detailed comparison quickly showed me where I needed to take action.

    My Actions
    a) eliminated items on my list that were not on Ryan's list, where possible

    b) reduced the weight of my items that weighed more than Ryan's (see My Rules)

    My Rules

    i) If I had items weighing less than Ryan's, then I could be heavier than his for my other items, if necessary

    ii) If I did not have items that Ryan did have, and I didn't need them, I could be add something and be heavier elsewhere

    I started thinking in terms of a goal of less than 80 OUNCES not 5 POUNDS. This grandularity helped me find opportunities for weight reduction.

    Summary of Ryan's SUL Base Weight

    Lb Oz Function
    2.5 40 Packing – shelter – sleeping
    1.0 16 Extra clothing packed
    0.5 8 Kitchen
    0.5 8 Micellany
    4.5 72 Total

    I rounded the weights. Note that you have almost 8 ounces of wiggle room. Also, I included a goal to keep 'Clothing Worn and Items Carried' to less than 3.5 pounds so as not to cheat myself by moving gear from my pack to my pockets or under my hat.

    I'll be done with my Sub5 gear list after I tweak the Micellany items. I am at 70.3 ounces or 4.4 pounds pending the tweaks. My 'Clothing Worn and Items Carried' will be about 3.1 pounds. My TSO should be about 7.5 pounds. My sub5 base weight will provide me with adequate safety and reasonable comfort.

    I will post my gear list and details upon its completion. Following the new James standard, I will take pics during my hike and share them post-trip next month.

    Thanks BPL, Ryan and James!

    Erik Graf


    Locale: Southeast


    Enjoyed your post. Never gone below 12lbs myself but I'm still working my way down.

    Perhaps I'll see you on the trail some day – I'm in Wilmington, NC.

    Btw, any chance you drive a red pickup? You look like a guy from the "Raleigh area" who gave me a lift from Smokemont to Newfound Gap in GSMNP a couple years ago when I finished a one-way hike…..this gent told me he was hiking every trail in the park just to see if he could….

    Jamie Shortt
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Carolina

    Erik, Sorry, but the fellow that gave you a ride wasn't me. My truck is a gold/tan Nissan. Kinda funny though the picture below of me and my truck was taken a few miles from Newfound Gap on the road that heads to Clingman's Dome. It was last November, Thanksgiving week. My sig picture was taken the same hike near the truck 4 days earlier. That trip was my 12 lb base weight trip.

    It would be cool to cross paths one day.


    My truck

    Erik Graf


    Locale: Southeast

    Not you…but I'll keep a look out for your car! Again, congrats on the trip…

    John Frederick Anderson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Spain

    Fantastic thread, inspirational, I'll try to emulate this this summer for sure. I'm nearly there.
    James, you mentioned that you didn't have a comfortable pillow, I use my 2 liter Platypus -inflated when empty or full of water- really comfortable. Works for me, nothing extra to carry.

    Thanks again for an educational and inspirational thred- great pics too


    mark henley


    I've used the Platy thing for a while now ….. but with a twist … ha ha …

    Turn it sideways and put half under your pad. Then put your clothing stuff sack on the top part with whatever you happen to have left thats not hanging with your food.

    The Platy makes a good shoulder pad for us side sleepers too.

    Derek Cox


    Locale: Southeast

    Hey James. Congrats on the trip and getting that weight down. Thanks for the pictures and gear list as well as the reference. I really love actually seeing what works for certain people and how they bring it all together. So much more helpful for me at least than simply reading a gear list or seeing a stock photo online. Here's the thread i started a while back that didn't really catch on like i hoped it would.

    I really would like to encourage everyone to post something similar to what james and others have done. Just snap a few extra pictures of your setup and gear while you're out there to include in any trip report or just in general to show others how it works and what it looks like actually being used. Its kind of like making a bunch of short, mini reviews or how to's. Take some pictures and say how it did or didn't work, either for you or in general. Thanks again.

    Ken Thompson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Right there

    I was just rereading this thread after modifying my ion further this evening. I was wondering if and how George's hike went this season? My load is still closer to six than five, dang pad! I'll have to get some photos up as well.

    te – wa
    BPL Member


    Locale: Phoenix

    i love the gear list/photos. great work!
    here is a photo of the sub5 trip i made last February. overnight temps were 38-40
    what is not seen is the Montbell down inner vest and the MH micro-dome beanie (wearing it) and the 24×60 evazote 1/4" thick pad* (in hammock)
    it helps to have a prototype Blast 1600 @ 3.8 ounces!
    the total weight was 4 lbs 6 ozsub5 in Supes

    *many have asked how the pad worked at 38°
    i used the pack under the legs and the gray shirt under the torso, with the down vest as a pillow.
    I cant say I was toasty, but I lived. The ccf pad in 1/4" thickness is better suited to 48-50° IMO.
    since then, my entire sleep system has changed so Im no longer at sub 5 (unless above 50°) but at a smidge over 6lbs I can easily sleep in a DIY bridge hammock down to 25° and be toasty warm.
    GG also makes a 3/8 pad that would work well to the low 40s.

    Ryan Jordan


    Locale: Central Rockies

    Dear Jamie,

    I just found this thread, late tonight, after spending the entire day poring over financial data, consumer spending projections, cash flow models, etc., and I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to be reading your posts, and the replies from everyone.

    It brightened my day, and I feel pretty good about going to bed and getting a peaceful night's sleep knowing that you went out there and tackled this awesome milestone.

    GREAT work. Keep it up. Tonight, you inspired me. Thank you.

    Best Regards,
    Ryan Jordan

    Mike Clelland


    Locale: The Tetons (via Idaho)

    I did my only sub-5-pound trip about one year ago, to the day, as I write this.

    I did an overnight solo down in the Grand Canyon. Along the Tonto Plateau, a little over 30 miles.

    When I singed in for a backcountry permit, the rangers were very skeptical. I did an impromptu "ultra-light" class for them in the visitor center, and the pack weighed in a just a smidge under 5 pounds (a surprise to me!).

    No tarp, no stove… so in a way I was "cheating" …

    But, I took a 33 ounce down (20 degree) sleeping bag instead of my itty-bitty quilt (I was worried it would be too cold). I was TOO warm, and had to strip layers during the night.

    I was set for two nights, but I finished way ahead of schedule, so one night only.

    The hike was really beautiful!

    Mike Clelland


    Locale: The Tetons (via Idaho)

    listFIVE pounds in THE GRAND CANYON.

    This blurry photo was taken in the parking lot of when I got back to my car. It was a little blurry so I outlined the stuff. If the national park scale is to be trusted, this comes in at pretty much 5 pounds on the dot. <<< A LIE! see below >>>


    1. GoLite wind shirt

    2. Silnylon stuff sack (didn't need it)

    3. Vapr bivy sack (didn't need it)

    4. GG whisper G5 backpack

    5. zip lock with minimal toiletries

    6. 20 degree down sleeping bag and compression stuff sack
    (didn't need stuff sack, and the bag was too warm)

    7. titanium cup

    8. silk-weight balaclava

    9. thin pile hat

    10. platypus (2+ liter size)

    11. map

    12. 2nd pair of socks

    13. stuff sack

    14. Pillow and straw

    15 Torso-LITE pad with yellow evazote foam glued on for my feet

    16. another stuff sack (didn't need it)

    17. puffy pants

    18. montbell down "inner" jacket

    19, GoLite long undy top

    I was wearing:

    a. Montrail Hard Rock shoes.
    b. thin little socks
    c. Dirty girl gaiters
    d. nylon shorts
    e. poly short sleeve shirt
    f. a nylon baseball cap
    g. sunglasses
    h. a watch around my neck on a string

    Mike Clelland


    Locale: The Tetons (via Idaho)


    My FOOD (no stove needed)
    [sorry, no weights, but I ate it all in two days of hiking]

    a. Big bag of GROOVY-BIOTIC gorp.

    b. starbux coffee in cans

    c. six bars (including protein bars)

    d. dried mango (as per Coup)

    e. Smashed cheddar cheeze Pringles

    Mike Clelland


    Locale: The Tetons (via Idaho)

    Oh JEEEEZ – – – I lied, I just did a quick calculation of the gear, and it comes out to a pathetic SIX and a HALF pounds. I knew that government issue scale was defective (I Knew it!).

    It was chilly in the morning when I weighed my stuff. Maybe I was wearing the windshirt (4 oz) and the long undy top (5 oz). That takes me down to under six pounds, but that's still totally lame. (Why Oh WHY did I take that porky sleeping bag?)

    Anyway – Ignore my postings – I am a total gumby POSER!

    (You can take the boy out'a NOLS, but…)

    W I S N E R !


    Thanks for the posts everyone.
    My membership ended yesterday…To be honest, I haven't been real interested in the member content lately and it has had me wondering if I should bother renewing.
    It's posts like these that keep me interested in this community. Yes, I could chat here on the forums for free but I'll continue my support and renew today.

    Thanks to everyone for posting here…I'm planning my first (hopefully) sub-6 trip as we speak. Good to see what others are using.

    JT Croteau


    Locale: Shadows of the White Mountains

    Nice thread Jamie.

    Sub 5lb. is easy for most normal folk. However, when you are a bear like me at 6' 2" tall and 260 pounds it becomes more of a challenge. Everything right down to the tarp needs to be bigger and more material just makes everything heavier. My biggest problem is finding a super ultralight pack that actually fits my tall torso AND broad chest/shoulders. I've tried most of them including Z-Packs, SMD, and ULA.

    My current pack weighs in at 3.5 lbs. empty so my current goal is to make everything else as light as I can. One of these days, I may send off this pack that actually fits me very well to Joe @ ZPacks and see if he can build me a custom blast back that has the same harness spacing and sizing.

    Joe Clement
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southwest

    I'm kind of surprised that ULA, SMD or GG can't build you a pack with the dimensions you need.

    JT Croteau


    Locale: Shadows of the White Mountains

    "I'm kind of surprised that ULA, SMD or GG can't build you a pack with the dimensions you need"

    I've contacted four manufacturers about this before after trying some of their standard packs: SMD, GG, MLD, and Fanatic Fringe. All said that custom packs would be difficult to build because of how their manufacturing processes are setup. I haven't tried asking Brian @ ULA but I have tried a couple of his packs and have the same problem.

    With all these super UL packs, my biggest problem lies with the shoulder straps. They are too close together and need to be farther apart on the back of the pack. Unfortunately, this would likely require making a whole new pack from scratch as it would require larger back panel dimensions.

    Linda Vassallo


    Locale: Eastbay

    JT Croteau
    I'm 6' tall and weigh 210lb. Joe @ Zpacks built me a Blast32 with 4.5" spacing between the shoulder straps. The pack feels and fits much better IMHO, than my wife's Zpack that has the standard strap width. Hope this info is helpfull. I've hi-jacked my wifes membership to send my first post. Dave aka:East Bay Hiker's Hubby!

    JT Croteau


    Locale: Shadows of the White Mountains

    Dave, thanks for the input. I actually emailed Joe @ ZPacks a little while ago. He's already replied and said he'd gladly build a pack based on the suspension of my heavy Gregory pack that fits me well.

    Diane “Piper” Soini
    BPL Member


    Locale: Santa Barbara

    Wow, this was a great thread. Loved the pictures.

    I have a question about the tarp. I can see how it is light and provides a poncho in case of rain, so why not bring it to be prepared for the unexpected, but if there was no rain in the forecast, and you lived somewhere arid like I do, would you leave it home? Also, why even set it up if there is no rain?

    Jamie Shortt
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Carolina

    Hi Diane, As far as poncho tarps go, when to use etc. In my region of the country I am hiking in mountains that often create significantly different local climates then are observed in the region in general. Within just a few miles you can have rain or snow or wind or much colder temps then are experienced in the surrounding area. I'm mostly hiking in the mountains of NC and VA. In this region I would not suggest "trusting the local forcast" and not bringing shelter. Your area being arid might be entirely different. In this case I could envision bringing only a bivy sack and being fine.

    Now as to why set it up even if you dont think it will rain…one reason is the word "think" you can never be sure until the night is past you that it wont rain. My poncho tarp setup takes me about 5 minutes to setup and another 3 minutes to put away. A tarp is not like a tent in that you dont have to spend all the time dealing with the "condensation wet" rain fly. So for a few minutes of work you have nothing to worry about after going to bed.

    Next reason is (just my opinion) that sleeping under a tarp is slightly warmer then sleeping in the open air. Winds is blocked, he is radiated back down, etc. Even if it only gains you a few degrees its worth it.

    Final reason, I gain some confidence by sleeping under a tarp when I am out in the woods alone. I have a little "home" to sleep in and it is nice. I suspect most traditional backpackers use tents not because they need them, but because they want something to hide in at night…get past this and serious weight can be saved.

    Again the time investment to setup a tarp is only minutes so I always set mine up.


    Diane “Piper” Soini
    BPL Member


    Locale: Santa Barbara

    Thanks for the answer.

    Where I live I can be sure for about half the year that if there's no forecast for rain it's not going to rain.

    I can understand the wanting a little house to hide in.

    Ben P


    Locale: London

    I just read this thread, its fantastic, thanks for sharing your experience!

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