XUL vs. Survival vs. Adventure Racing vs. FUBAR

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Home Forums Off Piste Other Activities XUL vs. Survival vs. Adventure Racing vs. FUBAR

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    W I S N E R !


    So I've been reading again lately on bushcraft, outdoor survival skills, etc., and I'm thinking "Hey, why don't I start taking more ULTRA minimal trips and practicing some of these skills?"
    The idea of carrying VERY little appeals to me.
    I'm not talking about running around and chopping down trees and trying to murder local fauna, but more along the lines of going for 1-3 night trips in which you're only carrying the "ultra" basics. I want to see how little I can get by with; I've done the SUL/sub-5 thing but want to push a bit further.
    But that's where I start thinking in circles and want to open this idea to discussion…

    So what are the "ultra" basics? What exactly constitutes "survival" vs. XUL vs. an adventure racing style (i.e. long miles, little sleep, little gear, lots of suffering) vs. being straight-up FUBAR and having nothing?

    I was watching a video of a self-described "survival expert. He was carrying a Becker BK 9 (read gigantic knife) and a full-blown survival kit- space blanket, first aid, firestarting, water treatment, etc.
    His justification for the giant knife was "building shelter".
    Know if we're judging by weight, his kit's a complete failure. Why not skip the 2 lb. knife and carry a bivy and tarp and never worry about building shelter?
    Now if we're talking being stuck indefinitely on a deserted island, I'd probably choose the Becker BK 9 over a cuben tarp and build some nice, permanent shelter.

    But it just doesn't make sense…If your "survival" weighs in at 3-5 lbs, why not just never leave home without your SUL kit?

    So is this about weight, having an ultra-COMPACT kit….what?

    I suppose "survival" hinges upon being prepared to spend an indefinite amount of time somewhere, thus carrying items of long term utility/durability…

    I was thinking I'd go out and spend a night or two practicing a more realistic scenario: getting lost/injured while on a solo 50K trail run and ONLY having what I'd typically carry trail running (my Nathan race vest, a space blanket, a small knife/first aid kit, firestarter, LED, some water pills, etc.) I'm sure this will tell if I'm lacking anything.

    Or it will only tell me that spending the night in a space blanket under a makeshift lean-to on top of a bed of leaves is miserable, but survivable. Or more comfortable than I thought.

    But isn't this pretty much just adventure racing?

    Coming from SUL, having a well stocked survival kit sounds like nothing but an SUL trip without the tarp and sleeping bag.

    So is the point simply pushing your suffering/comfort level? I think there is something to be said for doing this from time to time.

    So maybe the best way to practice "survival" skills in the woods is just driving out after work one day and spending a night or two carrying only what's in your pockets…

    I suppose the first question is "what do you really want to learn?"

    Any thoughts on these ramblings?

    Jamie Shortt
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Carolina

    Craig, I think I know where you are going with this…as I have been asking many the same questions after seeing the same types of posts…"that's just survivor man". I'd like to know what that means.

    Here is my thought…wilderness survival can not judged on weight…as you point out with the heavy knife. My opinion is that you cross into wilderness survival when you require significant materials from nature and the skill to use them to survive without great discomfort.

    So what do backpackers require from nature?…water is about it. Maybe you need a spot to toss up a tent or tarp…but not much more. I'd say the biggest extension of this would be the backpacker that needs a fire to cook.

    So assuming people have skill to use what they bring I'd take a look at a list and ask "does this person have what they need except for water and a spot land to camp?" If the answer is yes then its not even close to survival its backpacking…whether is heavy, UL, SUL, or XUL. Weight makes no difference.

    So lets look at Alan's XUL 2.5 lb kit… he has shelter, he has a warm quilt, he carried treking poles, a rain jacket and even used a stove for hot meals! Yes he pushed his quilt a bit, but I bet he was more comfortable then most of the backpackers that hiked those same days as he did in the Shenendoah's.

    My conclusion is weight makes no difference in judging survival, it is a question of having what is needed without taking it from nature.


    Matt Lutz


    Locale: Midwest

    I initially drafted a response to this thread, then deleted it. But Jamie puts it well – the more you need from nature, the closer you get to survival and the further you get form backpacking.

    As far as an ultra-compact kit goes, the smallest I know if is a single lockblade knife. With that, you can make or acquire anything. Without a knife, you must resort to bone or stone to get sharp edges.

    (On that note, I recommend everyone read Tom Brown's survival guide – knowledge weighs nothing.)

    W I S N E R !


    Well stated Jamie, a pretty simple definition.

    So I guess it's really just a matter of how extreme one wants to go, i.e. how much one wants to carry as opposed to improvising/taking from nature.

    Brian UL


    Locale: New England

    "Why not skip the 2 lb. knife"

    Good bushcraft knives weigh in at 3-5 oz. Mine weights 3.5 with sheath, its the same knife Kochanski recommends. so I don't know where you get 2lbs? For 2lbs Id get an axe. The axe is the true woodsmans tool. But are we talking about backpacking?
    "Survival" means you are in need of being rescued. Living off the land by using skill and knowledge of the environment is commonly called "bushcraft". Two different things.
    You can go naked into the woods and fashion every thing you need if you have the knowledge. Most people who could do that wouldn't because they have more sense. But a bushcraft kit can easily be SUL if you choose. Bushcraft is more about shunning modern industrial materials (ie. cuben,nylon packs and bags ect.) and getting back to nature. Its not about "survival" or pushing the limits as some people make it out to be.
    So, in that sense the amount of gear and comfort items you take is up to you just like it is in backpacking.

    Robert Taylor


    The more bush crafting skills you know the better, If worst came to worst its possible to make the tools to make other items but everyone should carry a multi-blade though, how many 100's of times as mine come in useful. Like already mentioned knowledge weighs nothing and having at least a fundamental understanding of how to make fire, erect a shelter and gather / hunt for foods may save your life one day. Not to mention its great fun. I recently made myself a bow and arrows and it was surprisingly powerful until I over did it and it snapped :). Next time your out try making a bow-drill and starting a fire with it, the sense of satisfaction you get the first time you succeed I garentee you will be trying other things out shortly after.

    Zack Karas
    BPL Member


    Locale: Lake Tahoe

    While I have very limited knowledge of true bushcraft, I do occasionally test myself. I imagine what I would do if I was in an emergency situation and have made 'forts', weapons (I love native american anything) and basically behave like a 5 year old in the woods behind my house. The neighbors must think I'm an idiot. Am I the only one who has been doing this since I was a kid?

    Possibly, if you want to be as lightweight as possible, learn bushcraft. As safe as possible (like both your legs are broken), carry a giant survival kit.

    Andy Berner
    BPL Member


    Locale: Michigan

    Hows does Bushcraft and LNT work out?

    W I S N E R !


    In many ways I don't think it does.

    Brian UL


    Locale: New England

    "Hows does Bushcraft and LNT work out?"

    This is probably the best explanation of the difference between the backpacking communities view on this and bushcrafts:

    Zack Karas
    BPL Member


    Locale: Lake Tahoe

    Nice link. Like most views, I'm sure the true idea of LNT lies somewhere in the middle.

    . Callahan
    BPL Member


    Locale: London, UK.

    For far less than the 2 lb knife quoted, a Gransfors Bruks Mini Hatchet, a Fiskars Sportsman (retractable) Saw and a Mora Clipper fixed blade knife will provide greater versatility.

    My GB Mini Hatchet with mask, Fiskars Sportsman Saw and Mora Clipper (stainless steel blade) weigh 18.3 oz (1 lb 2.3 oz).

    GB Mini weighs 12.2 oz.

    Fiskars saw weighs 3.4 oz.

    Mora Clipper weighs 2.7 oz.

    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    Benchmade 530 knife. 2.0 oz
    Perfectly adequate for anything real.

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