Mar 8, 2006 at 5:53 am #1217982
@walksoftlyLocale: Piney Woods
Just for fun.
My first exposure to UL can with an April, 1994 article in Backpacker Magazine by Mark Jenkins entitled “Less is More”. While backpacking through Europe with a companion, Mr. Jenkins had his gear stolen in Italy. With just the clothes on his back, a down coat, a jackknife, a plastic cup and a metal spoon, he and his partner continued their vacation by hiking throuh Western Europe for the next six months living as vagabonds. This article really struck a chord with me.
I spent my first overnight without a tent and a sleeping bag in July, 1994 on a ten-mile loop trail near my home. Although I was comfortable I didn’t get much sleep that night. I did learn some very valuable lessons: 1) I wasn’t eaten by wild animals; 2) I wasn’t consumed by snakes; 3) I wasn’t covered in silk and carried off by giant hairy spiders.
I first encountered rain on an overnight in September of that year. I was sitting cross-legged with my back against a tree wearing my military surplus poncho. (It would be years before Colin Fletcher showed me how to turn this poncho into a shelter). Anyway, with my poncho spread around me I had created an island of warm and dry in a world of wet and windy. It was then that I knew that my hiking had forever changed. Now I was thinking lighter and simpler.
LESS IS MOREMar 9, 2006 at 7:37 am #1352180
David PattersonBPL Member
My gear addiction (which more or less revolved around the gear you could find in the Backpacker magazine articles at the time) eventually led me to this site, and at that instant, I feel I took my first solid step towards being an ‘ultralighter’. The thing is, I only found this site about, eh….1.5 months ago, and my base weight since then has dropped from 25-30 lbs to about 6.5 lbs. Needless to say, what I’ve learned here is much more useful than the garbage I pick up in my philosophy and psychology classes everyday! :)
-Dave:)Mar 9, 2006 at 11:19 am #1352195
@vickrhinesLocale: Central Texas
1968, when I first encountered Gerry Cunningham’s gear and philosophy. As far as I know Gerry was the first UL guru. LIGHTWEIGHT CAMPING EQUIPMENT AND HOW TO MAKE IT and HOW TO CAMP AND LEAVE NO TRACE are classics.Mar 9, 2006 at 1:44 pm #1352207
Dale WambaughBPL Member
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
Henry David Thoreau published Walden in 1854– talk about less-is-more philosophy.
I did some miserable overnight hiking in Boy Scouts in the 1960’s, committing all the outdoor sins. Things improved in the 70’s as I became an adult and could afford some good basic gear– an aluminum frame pack, a mummy bag, a GAZ stove, and nylon A-frame double wall tent. My boots and clothing were terrible. I did sporadic overnight hikes and got into sea-kayaking later. Then came kids and family duties, but we did a lot of car camping and day hikes, but no overnights or multi-day trips.
The kids are teenagers now and I have more time for outdoor adventures. Something was missing and a day hike really told me what it was– I needed to get outside.
So early last year I started going through all our old gear and started reading and surfing on new gear and found the UL revolution. It made a lot of sence to my old bones and joints :)
I like tech-y stuff, and it’s fun to try to squeeze the maximum out of my gear, and to learn new ways of thinking and doing. I like the back-yard-garage nature of UL product development and all the very clever people who are trying to think outside the box.Mar 10, 2006 at 7:50 am #1352245
@vickrhinesLocale: Central Texas
I wasn’t around then. Feels like it sometimes though.
Remember, Thoreau climbed Kitahdin and has a spring named for him on the plateau. Thoreau Spring on Thoreau Plateau. Eau!Mar 21, 2006 at 2:29 pm #1353043
Douglas FrickBPL Member
Everything changed between the mid-80s (which weren’t much different than the mid-70s) and 2004. When I got back into backpacking (after fifteen years of bodysurfing in Hawaii), I went on a trip with a guy going “ultralight”. He had on running shoes and a frameless backpack with no hip belt filled to about 30 pounds. He was absolutely miserable due to his feet and shoulders aching, while I was feeling fine with my waffle-stompers and my comfy 7#10oz Dana pack and 40-pound load. I thought the whole UL thing he had talked about was silly. But that night we met up with the rest of our small group, two of whom were PCT/AT thru-hikers. They were carrying 20-pound (total) packs, and their example was totally different. They were faster and warmer than I was, and I could see exactly what they were doing right in their approach to UL. Suddenly it made sense. They were non-judgemental and glad to answer my questions, which kept me from being defensive about my own packing decisions. They recommended Ray Jardine’s Beyond Backpacking; a few months after that I found BPL; and a year later I’ve cut my base weight by a third, and I’m about ready to cut it by a third again. Not only that, I’m warmer and less tired at the end of the day.Mar 22, 2006 at 6:45 pm #1353192
@pyeyoLocale: pacific northwest
When I had so much light weight crap I couldn’t carry it all which oddly enough happened at the exact same time I got a real job, started gaining a tad bit o’ weight, and left the dirt bag climber/surfer life style stenching up the past.Mar 23, 2006 at 4:12 pm #1353280
Mark LarsonBPL Member
@mlarsonLocale: Southeast USA
Oh, I remember the days I got my first outdoor education from GORP and Backpacker. I was looking for a 5000ci pack for Georgia 3-season hiking. Then in some lucky accident, I stumbled on http://www.backpacking.net, which eventually led to some great personal websites, like Michael Connick, John O’Mahoney, Adventure Alan, Kenneth Knight, etc. Next thing you know, I got a copy of Beyond Backpacking… found BPL… got some serious miles in.
The rest is unfolding as we speak.
-MarkApr 10, 2006 at 11:24 am #1354560
@tarbubbleLocale: dirtville, CA
after i had my first child. we took him on his first bp trip at 5 months. i carried him in a frontpack and carried baby gear in a daypack. my husband’s pack was so heavy that i literally couldn’t pick it up. after that trip, i thought “there has to be a better way to do this.” i bought Beyond Backpacking, sewed a tarp, discovered alcohol stoves and have been balancing maternal paranoia vs. UL ever since. ;)Apr 10, 2006 at 2:56 pm #1354576
@jtgishLocale: Coppell, Texas
My next trip to guadalupe mountains np and big bend np will be my first ultralight trip. i have always carried between 25-30 pounds until finding this site a few weeks ago. i am in the process of attaining new gear. My trip was actually going to be this weekend but im not going until i get all my ultralight gear. all i need is the shelter and sleeping bag.Apr 10, 2006 at 3:43 pm #1354581
Ken HelwigBPL Member
@kennyhel77Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Two years ago. After a bunch of years of carrying way too much gear I needed a change or my body would have broken down. I did the famous Rae Lakes Loop in Kings with a 65lbs pack for 4 days. I had a Gregory pack that weighed 8lbs, a North Face Mountain tent that weighed in at 9lbs..two person and just one occupant…me, a 3lbs sleeping pad, and a nearly 3lbs Western Mountaineering bag best suited for Winter camping. I was in total misery mode the whole hike.
Now? 8-10lbs base weight and total skinout for a week at 18lbs. Now I hike ache free and enjoy the hike.Apr 10, 2006 at 7:25 pm #1354598
@eaglembLocale: AZ, the Great Southwest!
When the heredity in my knees started speaking progressively louder…Apr 11, 2006 at 6:56 pm #1354644
For me it was (officially) in 2001. Prior to that I had done all of my backpacking with my dad and brothers back in the 70’s & 80’s all over the SE. Obviously, ultralight gear selection way back then was pretty much non-existent and it was not uncommon for us to carry quite a load including the kitchen sink when we hit the trail. Even so, I have nothing but fond memories being out in the woods with my dad and brothers.
With that in mind, I thought that my son would enjoy it like I did and we could create our own memories. So I dusted off all my old gear and planned our first trip in October 2001.
Needless to say, a lot had (has) changed with respect to gear from back in the 70’s/80’s. I retired my trusty Kelty external to a Dana Terraplane (now a Marmot brand!) thinking that I needed something more current… BIG, CAVERNOUS, HEAVY! Between my 7lb. pack (empty), my 4-5lb. Vasque leather boots, all my other old gear and stuff we carried it just about wore me out! This on top of the fact that I was 25 years older and 40lbs heavier. Overall, we had a great trip but while on the trail the misery index was high!
Afterwards I figured that there had to be a better way and came across a few websites that were all about ultralight backpacking. I liked the fact that by going lighter I could go farther in more comfort and enjoy the trip while on the trail rather than being completely spent by the end of the day. So since then I’ve continued to make wholesale improvements to all my gear and of course it’s made all the difference.
Today my packweight is consistently down around 17lbs when we go together and around 20 – 22 lbs when I go solo and of course I’m enjoying our trips more than ever.Apr 12, 2006 at 9:10 pm #1354728
Dale WambaughBPL Member
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
I was just 15 and a guy was hanging out in the alley behind REI. He said, “Psssst! Hey, kid– you wanna try a six ounce backpack?” He got me hooked — they called him Dr. J on the street :) I’ll never be the same…..Apr 12, 2006 at 10:25 pm #1354738
Well, I decided to take my girlfriend (now my wife) for a hike in the redwoods about 4 years ago. I borrowed a pack from my brother. Packed all the gear that I thought she would need. Put most gear in my pack. I believe she may have been carrying 30lbs. I was carrying 60+lbs. We made it a mile before she told me she could not go any further. I took some more things out of her bag, but it was still too much. I had to do something that would allow me to hike with her. I started to do some reading, and came across Ray Jardine’s Beyond Backpacking. The rest is history.Apr 13, 2006 at 6:47 am #1354749
Phil BartonBPL Member
The UL light clicked on for me while lugging a 30 pound pack up the Bright Angel Trail (south rim of the Grand Canyon) in April 2003. That was the pack base weight only as I’d finished both food and water by that time. My pack weight has been dropping ever since. :-)Apr 19, 2006 at 9:27 am #1355119
Steven HanlonBPL Member
@asciibaronLocale: Mid Atlantic
my first backpacking experience was an eye opener, and a back breaker. it was the summer of 1983 and i was in Boy Scouts doing the C&O Canal.
my pack must have weighed 30 pounds – just a sleeping bag, clothes, and some other junk – no tent, no food, no stove. it was hell, but i still had fun.
jump ahead to college a decade later and i had reduced my pack weight to 30 pounds with everything needed for a weekend in the woods. this did not include the gallons wine we all brought.
after college, i didn’t get out much and (luckily) sold off or lost most of that gear. in the past 5 years i started to put together a backpacking equipment cache – going first for the more durable gear to make sure it would work for me. the heavier gear will see use while car camping and small adventures with my young son.
with my current skills and comfort, my base weight is just under 20 pounds. the bulk of my reductions have come after signing up to this site and talking with others i backpack with.
-steveApr 19, 2006 at 9:33 am #1355120
@erichlfDale Wambaugh wrote:I was just 15 and a guy was hanging out in the alley behind REI. He said, “Psssst! Hey, kid– you wanna try a six ounce backpack?” He got me hooked — they called him Dr. J on the street :) I’ll never be the same…..
Was the first one free?Apr 29, 2006 at 5:16 pm #1355644
Sometime in the late 80s, I bought a used Jansport external frame pack that was positively massive. Metal wings on the frame to support the hip belt and everything. I loaded that sucker up one time in the summer of 1990 with everything but the kitchen sink and proceeded to the bottom of Linville Gorge. 35mm SLR, binoculars, Phoebus 725, extra fuel, you name it.
Shortly after that trip I sold that confounded pack and bought the Dana Design Hyalite I still carry today. At the time, I thought it was crazy small–and that was exactly what I wanted. That winter we took a very cold trip into Lost Cove and I have been trying to get lighter ever since.
Traded the binocs for a collapsible telescope and the Phoebus for a WhisperLite and now a Penny Stove. Got an early UL-long Therm-a-rest and a TNF Tadpole. While I many not exactly fit some folks’ UL standards, my big three are under 10 pounds and my base weight is well under 20. I have a new used Luxury Lite pack on the way that should drop my base weight by about 2 pounds and probably force me to lose one or two more with the smaller pack space.May 25, 2006 at 11:19 am #1356949
Right after back surgery followed by a divorce.
The ex didn’t like the outdoors, and when I re-engaged with backpacking I found my back couldn’t handle the old external pack with the 5 lb sleeping bag and 6 lb tent with the stainless steel cookgear anymore.Jun 13, 2006 at 9:18 pm #1357966
I spent most of 1976 bumming around Europe with a big heavy external frame pack. By the time I got home I was really sick of lugging that thing around. In the summer of 1977, just after I turned 26, I decided I wanted to go for a little weekend backpack trip in Oregon’s Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. I borrowed my wife’s ruck sack and tossed in a skimpy down bag I’d used for hosteling the summer before in Europe. I also threw in a plastic tube tent, about 15 feet of rope and an early gortex jacket in the unlikely event it rained. I decided not to carry a stove, so I packed a hunk of dried salami, a bag of gorp, some granola and a water bottle. I wore these new shoes I had from a company called Nike that had been formed by some guys I went to college with.
As I recall I left work early on Friday, drove to the trailhead and walked in a few miles to a lake where I slung my tube and crawled in. I woke up just before dawn Saturday morning, stuffed my tube and sleeping bag in my ruck sack and wandered off munching granola. Around 8 or 9 o’clock, after I’d walked 6 or 7 miles I found a big rock in the middle of a meadow and took a break. I pulled out the sleeping bag and draped it over the rock to dry off the dew. As I was relaxing there in the morning sun I encountered something I had never seen in the wilderness before. It was a hiking forest ranger. And she was a girl!
She commenced to lecture me about camping in this fragile meadow. I informed her I hadn’t camped here, I was just drying out my sleeping bag. She asked me where I camped and I named the lake. “Well, how did you get clear over here?” she wanted to know. “I got up early and walked here, ” I said. “You walked seven miles already today?” She didn’t believe me. Why would I lie? “Where’s the rest of your gear?” she asked, looking around. “This is it.” I said. So she gave me a lecture about being prepared and proper gear and whatnot and was on her way.
I packed up my gear and took off. By early afternoon I arrived at my ultimate weekend destination and was nowhere near ready to quit walking. I decided to start back to the trailhead and camp along the way. I sailed down the trail and by dusk was already out to my car. I spent Sunday hiking somewhere else.
After that I sometimes used the rucksack technique when I was going solo and the weather forecast was favorable and sometimes went heavy when I was with a group or heading into bad weather.
In the 80’s and 90’s I got busy with law school, career building and family raising and didn’t do much backpacking. I got the itch to do it again in about 2003 and picked up Jardine’s book. As I began to read, I recalled my great trip in the Mt. Jeff Wilderness and a big smile spread across my face.
I wonder what happened to the forest ranger lady. I’ll bet she’s a granny by now and her knees are shot.
So now I’ve got my Gossamer Gear G4 and a Golite tarp and a Hennessy Hammock and a Super Cat Stove and a pair of trail runners and I’m trying to recapture my lost youth. It’s pathetic, I know, but I’m having fun.Jun 13, 2006 at 11:40 pm #1357972
Miguel ArboledaBPL Member
@butukiLocale: Kanto Plain, Japan
I’d been doing a lot of alpine walking for over ten years circa. 1990 (and about ten earlier years of lowland trail walking) where my pack weight kept getting progressively heavier. As I learned more about what I didn’t need and what I could handle up above treeline I began to take only essentials… a cut-down ridgerest instead of thermarest, the outer shell of a North Face Tadpole, fabric hiking boots… but even that was still too heavy. By 1995 I was using a Dana Designs Terraplane when hiking with my wife and groaning under the weight. My knees started going bad.
Then in 1999 I discovered Ray Jardine’s “The Pacific Crest Trail Hiker’s Handbook”. I must have read it fifty times or more. From that day till now (in the meantime of which I went on to buy Jardine’s “Beyond Backpacking”, discovered Michael Connick’s Ultralight Backpacking Page, Adventure Alan’s website, Joe’s Ultralight Backpacking site, and two years ago joined this site) I have been continuously working on lightening my load and learning to make my own gear. I’ve made seven hammocks, five tents, four tarps, quite a number of stoves, and drawn innumerable sketches for lightweight gear ideas.
I’m now down to two packs, the Granite Gear Vapor Trail and the MountainSmith Phantom (similar to the Ghost, but top-loading and a little lighter, with mesh pockets on the outside), and am making a harness-style pack similar to the one Ryan is using in Alaska (I originally bought my POE Pneumo Mech drybag three years ago for this purpose but never got around to making the pack harness. I’m still playing with the idea of making a completely mesh pack into which I would insert the drybag). My shelter is either a SpinnShelter (which I also use as the tarp for my hammock, but that allows me to camp above treeline) or the TarpTent Rainbow. I use my hammock as both a hammock and a breathable bivy. My shoes are Inov8 Terroc 330’s. My rain jacket a Montane Super Fly or, if I don’t take a thinner insulation layer, a Paramo Cascada, which is the most breathable and versatile rain jacket I have used, though somewhat heavy. I don’t use rain pants, since I don’t mind my legs getting wet and the length of the Cascada keept my bum and crotch area warm and reasonably dry. My sleeping bag is a MontBell Alpine Ultralight Downhugger #4, supplemented by a MontBell Thermawrap Jacket. The base upper layer is the stretchy MontBell Sawa Body Zip Shirt, which was designed for shower climbing (sawa nobori… walking and climbing mountain creeks). And my sleeping mat is the new, torso-length MontBell U.L. Comfort System Pad, with inflatable pillow.
I’m hoping to learn to go even simpler, with less focus on thinking so much about buying gear and more self-sufficiency, thrift, and simplicity. One top priority is getting myself into top shape again and slowly re-conditioning myself to handle harsher conditions. Too much time has been spent letting myself get “soft”. And WAY too much time spent on accumulating and thinking about ever newer gear. I want to learn to be “ultralight” in every sense of the word, including my mind.Jun 18, 2006 at 12:00 pm #1358179
My First “ultralight” Backpack Trip – July 1968
Many of you will recognize the rock where we are posed. It is on the summit of Mt Whitney. The little guy in orange is me. In order for me to get my pack weight down I offloaded much of my gear on a sherpa, who more importantly is also my Dad.
Field notes –
1) Mom made my orange wind breaker out of some bargain bin nylon that even the slightest breeze could penetrate. I was elated when I finally outgrew it and handed it down to one of my younger siblings.
2) Mom also made my Dads wind breaker and he specified a new product called Velcro in lieu of a full length zipper. While this looked good on paper it was difficult to align the two sides and always ended up fastened in an odd wavy manner.
3) This was before the commode was built at trail camp. It is impossible to dig a cat hole there, ’nuff said.
4) This was my first experience with down. Upon awakening I was amazed to find frost on the outside of my rented sleeping bag. It would be years before I slept in a down bag again.
Unfortunately as I entered my teen years I backslid into the more traditional ways of backpacking (sigh).
On this Fathers Day I want to thank my Dad for taking me on my first “ultralight” backpack trip.
RobertJul 19, 2006 at 5:32 pm #1359502
Steven HanlonBPL Member
@asciibaronLocale: Mid Atlantic
sweet picture. my mother took us all over the place hiking. my poor dad got to play pack mule once the 4 kids were finished carrying whatever crap me just had to bring along.
good memories on the AT and in western PA. what a childhood.
-SteveJul 20, 2006 at 5:11 pm #1359549
after a trip to Big Bend last fall. my pack was between 50 -60lbs. by the time we reached the river via the Marufo Vega trail my left knee was in pain. had to hike out the next day with most of that weight. ended up I had ITBS. I was down for a while. Funny thing is, even with all that weight I was still carrying an Alcohol stove and grease pot. and whatever else would fill up a Kelty Redcloud to capacity. finally saw the light. been obsessed ever since.
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