- Jan 12, 2009 at 1:34 pm #1469640Jamie ShorttBPL Member
@jshorttLocale: North Carolina
Evan, It might help to answer the question "is Alan walking the line of wilderness survival" by defining wilderness survival. Can you provide a definition of "wilderness survival" and examples of what in Alan's XUL trip are like your definition?
JamieJan 12, 2009 at 7:22 pm #1469704Doug JohnsonBPL Member
@djohnsonLocale: Pacific Northwest
And I disagree with you on this point Chad. I think that there is a great deal of trickling down of ideas between genres of backpacking.
I think lw backpacking has had an impact on traditional backpacking and mountaineering as seen in trends toward lighter weights and fabrics.
I also think that alpine-style mountaineering has had a big impact on ultralight and SUL backpacking (poles, bivies, etc.)
And I think also that SUL/XUL backpacking is having an impact on UL backpacking too. If you look at cuben and spin fabrics used in full-bug shelters or trimmed frameless packs, tarp/bivy combos, or any radical trimming of weight, you'll start to see the influences. It's the guys pushing the limits that first bring these items into the field.
That said, the influences are not for all. There are a lot of folks that lighten up to a certain point and call it good. For them, SUL may be entertainment, or possibly idiocy. But for many others, I would suspect that learning about these lists and techniques has had some influence…at least in seeing what's possible.
That's why I have enjoyed my SUL sub-4 base weight trips- they've opened my eyes to what's possible and have built my backcountry skills. And they've also made me really appreciate the other items that make their way into my pack for most trips. And at the end of the day I get to choose my style- and that's good for me.
To each his own. And influences are choices that we make as well, along with our criticisms. Black Sabbath had fans and critics, as will XUL and just about anything that pushes a limit.
Best, DougJan 12, 2009 at 7:56 pm #1469708jim baileyBPL Member
@florigenLocale: South East
Well said Doug,
Check out Brian Doble's blog, guy yo-yo hiked the AT with sub 4lb base weight and had a pretty good time doing it, now an east coast legend as far as this hiker is concerned.
check it out at:
he is way too humble too promote his own success
HYOHJan 12, 2009 at 8:07 pm #1469711John WhynotMember
@jdw01776Locale: Southeast Texas
>>But for many others, I would suspect that learning about these lists and techniques has had some influence…at least in seeing what's possible.
Count me as one of those who learns from the SUL lists and techniques presented. If Doug, Alan, or any of the other BPL staffers can do SUL or XUL trips, there's no reason I can't do them either.
I look at pushing limits as a way to learn…Jan 12, 2009 at 8:13 pm #1469712Sam HaraldsonBPL Member
@sharaldsLocale: Gallatin Range
Chad, you disagree with me yet you restate my point:
personally feel that people who push ultra light principles like Dixon and Fornshell do provide some level of insight to other backcountry.
You do go onto make the point that you feel the vast majority of changes in ultralight have been made by 'regular folks' trying to simply lighten their load. With you on this I agree, my original point however was that we can learn from people pushing SUL. This in addition to learning from the less extreme crowd as well.
I do feel you're not giving enough credit to the fringe. Doug puts it nicely in his noting the use of various lightweight fabrics. Spinnaker and cuben fiber fabrics were found only in the most fringe, homemade gear as recently as a few years ago. Now it is available in production model equipment from small manufacturers. It's only a matter of time before The North Face, REI, or another large backpacking company picks it up and mass produces it – thereby fully realizing the trickling down of this knowledge.Jan 12, 2009 at 9:01 pm #1469718Tyeen TaylorMember
Ah backpacking, an exercise in the philosophy of comfort…because, that's what its all about isn't it? We try to draw lines in gray areas with gray leaded pencils and its hard to see and remember where they are drawn. Comforts defer, as do the definition of SUL, UL, LW, and their "creators". Because we have the technology, it becomes (mostly and conveniently) a matter of comfort instead of the alternative; pure survival. What is backpacking and if this is determined, how much? A ten by ten sheet of visqueen? For me, an aspiring alternative attempt in the pursuit of purity in our modern day world would be to limit myself to gear I could make from raw materials, i.e. aluminum, plastic, textiles, etc. That would be cool. Sorry, please continue…Jan 13, 2009 at 1:36 am #1469750Roger CaffinModerator
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
> an aspiring alternative attempt in the pursuit of purity in our modern day world would
> be to limit myself to gear I could make from raw materials, i.e. aluminum, plastic, textiles, etc
Oh, we do already. Try the MYOG channels … :-)
CheersJan 13, 2009 at 4:59 am #1469754t.darrahBPL Member
@thomdarrahLocale: Southern Oregon
I enjoyed Alan Dixions writing. His description of what/why in regard to gear selection was well written and interesting. I thought he made a true effort to push himself personaly through kit selection, hiking location and less then ideal weather. I, for one, would enjoy reading more from Mr. Dixion. If nothing else this helps me to step back and take a hard look at what I take and why I take it.Jan 13, 2009 at 6:36 am #1469759Chad MillerMember
@chadnscLocale: Duluth, Minnesota
Sam Haraldson wrote:
“You do go onto make the point that you feel the vast majority of changes in ultralight have been made by 'regular folks' trying to simply lighten their load. With you on this I agree, my original point however was that we can learn from people pushing SUL. This in addition to learning from the less extreme crowd as well.
I do feel you're not giving enough credit to the fringe. Doug puts it nicely in his noting the use of various lightweight fabrics. Spinnaker and cuben fiber fabrics were found only in the most fringe, homemade gear as recently as a few years ago. Now it is available in production model equipment from small manufacturers. It's only a matter of time before The North Face, REI, or another large backpacking company picks it up and mass produces it – thereby fully realizing the trickling down of this knowledge.“
Ah but you too have restated my point that “the vast majority of information learned by the SUL crowd is only useful for people who wish to go SUL.” Most lightweight backpackers don’t use cubian fiber or spinnaker, those particular products are typically reserved for those attempting to peruse a SUL. What many of use often forget is that a good number of us are already in the ultra light fringe so the information gained by the SUL crowd directly impacts us. It does not however directly impact the wide range of typical backpackers which includes the UL crowd. I know many people will be offended to be classified with what some refer to as ‘heavyweights’ but you’re all in the same group. You hike, you camp, and you sleep. Unless you’re doing long distance, multi-week trips the only difference between you and the ‘heavyweights’ are about six pounds of gear. Those six pounds of gear does not change who anyone is.
I do have respect for the SUL community; I just don’t think they have made any large contributions to backpacking. What they have done is taken lightweight backpacking principles and gear and customized them to suite their own pursuits. While the accomplishments of SUL are amazing the core contributions they make to backpacking are no different or greater than what others have done before them. In fact with the exception of the great physical stamina and endurance of many SUL backpackers (75 miles a day) they are no different than any backpacker regardless of pack weight.Jan 15, 2009 at 8:08 am #1470346John S.BPL Member
And the thing about many of the SUL/XUL gearlists is, many of them are not accurate. They carried cameras and stuff to document their trip. So they pick and chose what goes into a gearlist to make it fit their agenda.Jan 15, 2009 at 9:31 am #1470365Sam HaraldsonBPL Member
@sharaldsLocale: Gallatin Range
I think the discussion between Chad and I has run it's course although I still say that much of what has been envisioned by SUL'ers is in fact finding its way into the designs from mainstream gear manufacturers.
Now, John's comment about SUL'ers gear lists being false – that's a pretty broad statement, grouping everyone into one little cluster of liars. When I set out on a sub-five hike I bring the items on my sub-five list (4lbs., 8.11oz.) and nothing more. If I bring my camera with me to document it my gear then weighs 4lbs., 15.01oz. I think four pounds fifteen is still sub five – – just sayin'…Jan 15, 2009 at 6:29 pm #1470491Dave TMember
.Jan 15, 2009 at 6:53 pm #1470498john griffithMember
@jgriffithLocale: Southeast U.S.
I would say that lightweight/UL/SUL/XUL backpacking has in fact made a huge contribution to backpacking. As you travel down the continuum from heavy to extremely ultralight there are numerous benefits. From the increased mobility, the "adventure" of doing more with less, the reduced chance of injury, and the intellectual challenge of finding new ways to do the same things with less stuff. In my book these are all huge benefits, and guys like Alan Dixon act as inspiration for those of us that lack the desire to experience a 90+ mile sufferfest in the name of pushing the boundaries, but we still get to benefit from his experience.Jan 15, 2009 at 7:17 pm #1470504W I S N E R !BPL Member
I completely agree that SUL has gravity on the rest of the backpacking community- it certainly does on me, whether a sub-5 pound base is purely an exercise in theory and lacks practical benefits or not.
I enjoy the pursuit- I'm not as bent on achieving a weight goal as many around here, but the "fringe" definitely exerts its pull on me. The knowledge that SUL shelters, bags, techniques, etc. even exist causes me to question all of my choices and influences my thinking heavily (as well as my spending habits).
Mountain Hardware has lost a customer. The North Face has lost a customer. Most major manufacturers have lost my business because they fail to deliver, especially in light of what I know is achievable. This is definitely the influence of the SUL community at work. Once knowledge of this stuff spreads, it has people asking questions- many then begin taking the first steps.
I just "converted" an old acquaintance to UL a week ago. He worked at REI and is geared to the teeth with traditional heavy gear. After 3 conversations about gear he already wants to sell his Mountain Hardware jacket and tents…another mainstream customer lost. He can envision UL weights but the unfamiliarity of SUL horrifies him at the moment- yet I can see it completely fascinating him, drawing him ever closer already.
If the SUL community spreads at the rate UL is going now…
As to Dave T's
way to contribute dude!
I didn't realize you HAD TO read threads that bore you.Jan 15, 2009 at 10:51 pm #1470557Bill FornshellBPL Member
@bfornshellLocale: Southern Texas
I have enjoyed reading most of the comments on this thread.
I don't know who coined the term XUL, I once called my lightest gear setup "Hyper-Light".
I did a short Sub-2 pound hike in October of 2006 using the AT starting at Springer Mountain. I went back and added up both the packed gear and the gear I was wearing and it came to 5.6 pounds. It was all listed along with my current weight. I had 38 different items on my gear list, Alan had 27 items.
I don't want to knock what Alan did on his hike but I see nothing magic about Alan's skin out sub 5 gear list.
I would have never taken that kind of risk but I don't have to and I can still be under the 5 pounds total if I that was the goal.
Since I make most of my gear I can build back-up in my gear list and still be under the 5 pound mark. Alan used store available gear and could not build any backup into his gear list and stay under his 5 pound limit. I had two 45 degree synthetic quilts that I could double up with if necessary and he trusted his life to one Down Quilt that he could wear. I had a Pertex Quantum/Cuben Bivy, more clothing, two pair of socks along with a pair of my Toe Cozy's, a couple of heat packs, TP, potty trowel, compass w/ my watch, and a lot of the things most hikers carry and he left behind. The big difference is I can make gear that is much lighter than most of what you buy so I can carry more of what normal hikers carry.
Alan was lucky this time and I hope his luck holds out. I would rather trust my life to a more reasonable gear list and not to luck.Jan 16, 2009 at 4:54 am #1470577Jim ColtenSpectator
Haven't read much of this thread because while I might be influenced by arbitrary external standards, I'm not inclined to abide by them.Jan 16, 2009 at 5:41 am #1470581Devin MontgomeryBPL Member
@dsmontgomeryLocale: one snowball away from big trouble
>Alan was lucky this time and I hope his luck holds out. I would rather trust my life to a more reasonable gear list and not to luck.
I think that's a bit dramatic. Given the possible weather conditions, the geographic situation of his hike, his gear, and his experience, I just don't see any reasonable scenario where Alan wouldn't have made it out alive.
If something had gone wrong would he have been (X)tremely uncomfortable, or forced to ditch early? Sure. But dead? No.
There's no more damning criticism you can make of an experienced hiker than to say to they're surviving on luck, and Alan's no neophyte.Jan 16, 2009 at 10:18 am #1470618Dave TMember
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