Jan 20, 2011 at 8:39 am #1267989
@butukiLocale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Seeing as almost none of the recent forum discussions touch upon anything but gear purchases lately I am getting utterly bored with BPL. This is just my view, of course, but I think I may finally, after ten years with this site, have reached BPL burnout. I hardly read anything here anymore and more often than not absent-mindedly click through the front page and "recent threads" without stopping to look further. I guess all things change. Though, after ten years, it's a bit melancholy.
Just thought I'd post the link to one of the earliest BPL articles and still, ten years later, one of the most memorable and my favorite: Not Your Ordinary Lightweight Backpacker: An Interview with Bill Merchant.
If you had to choose only ONE article or forum thread from your time at BPL, what would be your favorite?Jan 20, 2011 at 8:55 am #1686217
@sharaldsLocale: Gallatin Range
Miguel, you might enjoy reading Hendrik's latest commentary on gear vs. trips, a look into the current state of online backpacking media. You also pose a question and off the top of my head my favorite BPL article is A Lightweight Guide to Backpacking in Sustained, Cold Rain
Techniques by Alan Dixon from 2006-12-27 (link will open in new tab/window). I like this article because it highlights a combination of gear and technique.Jan 20, 2011 at 9:14 am #1686222
@lopezLocale: San Gabriel Valley
Thanks Miguel for starting this thread. I'm new here so dont have much to contribute but enjoyed the article you posted immensely and look forward to more.Jan 20, 2011 at 9:18 am #1686225
the technical articles …. the last good one was mr caffins cold weather canister one
IMO the gear reviews and trip reports you can get many other places …Jan 20, 2011 at 9:30 am #1686236
@butukiLocale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Sam, ah, that article is one of my favorites, too. I loved the early days of BPL because so much was still new and untried. It was exciting to be part of everyone's enthusiasm, which was incredibly infectious. I miss a lot of the old forum members from that time who no longer post very much or at all anymore, including Ryan Jordan, Alan Dixon, Glen van Peski, Henry Shires, Ron Moak, Carol Crooker, Bill Fornshell, PJ, Vick Hines, to name just a very few.
I read Henrik's article and the following comments. He wrote it a few days after he and I had a discussion via Twitter concerning the overly heavy emphasis on selling and buying gear and I mentioned that I was losing interest in the UL movement. I was surprised, as many people were who read his blog post, that he agreed with me, especially because he definitely has become one of the most vocal and popular UL gear promoters over the last two years. The reactions to his statements were as interesting as his own statement.
Personally, one of my favorite forum threads was this whacky one.Jan 20, 2011 at 9:36 am #1686239
@wandering_bobLocale: Oregon, USA
Ryan Jordan's 2003 Overview of Thermoregulation
Darin Banner's 2008 classic, epic, and should-be-mandatory-reading article "Hypothermia".Jan 20, 2011 at 10:31 am #1686260
@verberLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
The post I find myself referring people to the most is Richard's chart in the thread he started about best clothing for backpacking and hiking. While about gear, it is also about how activity and conditions affect what's needed. I think the thread pails in comparison to the chart.
The article that put the biggest smile on my face was toilet paper free which I still haven't mastered.
–MarkJan 20, 2011 at 10:47 am #1686265
@dangLocale: Pacific Northwet
"The Original Ultralight Hikers: Seeking Wilderness Simplicity from Modern Day Nomads"
This is one of my all time favorites and probably the first I read. I think it was from before this site was a subscription site.Jan 20, 2011 at 11:36 am #1686285
@sbhikesLocale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
A lot of forums seem to evolve like this. There's some new thing, people do a lot of discussing and inventing and testing, companies come in and start making and selling, then the forums turn into sites where people just go shopping. "What XYZ should I buy?" It's happening right now in a discussion I follow on barefoot running.Jan 20, 2011 at 4:13 pm #1686389
For me personally, my enthusiasm on BPL has waned a bit mostly because a lot of stuff isn't that new and interesting to talk about anymore. It's not BPLs fault…I've just already participated in a bunch of threads on Topic X, so when yet another one pops up, I'm not quite as interested as that first time. It's just like any hobby. I'm still super into UL hiking, but there's less of a need to talk about it online. I just go out and do it. To me the most exciting thing is pushing my personal skills and limits on increasingly difficult adventures. Off trail routes, packrafting, and winter ski touring trips are what gets my heart pulsing these days. I've been ski touring probably 30 out of the last 60 days. I've actually been enjoying not talking about it online, because it's giving me more time to actually go out and do it. The mountains are incredible.
Regarding the state of UL hiking in general, I would say the rate of development has slowed (as it does with all new things), but UL hiking is still getting better all the time. Cuben has been an amazing development as it's made it possible to create even lighter shelters and SUL packs that are actually waterproof. That's two of the big 3 items that have been made better by cuben.
Ultimately though, new gear doesn't matter that much. Gear that is good enough for UL hiking has been around for a long time. Real skill development is more interesting. I would say that maybe the issue here isn't the abundance of gear talk, but rather the lack of skills talk. This is a tough one though because I find the best way to learn and hone a skill is to just go out and do it. One of my favorite things is to go for a quick 24 hour trip when the weather is looking absolutely terrible. It's a fun challenge to myself and I always come away learning how to do something better.
Regarding the actual topic of this thread, I would say that my favourite old BPL article is something by Skurka that teaches advanced techniques like 'Ultralight in the Nations Icebox' and 'Trekking Techniques for Early Season Conditions':Jan 20, 2011 at 6:58 pm #1686456
Miguel, I think the old BPL podcasts talked about the people, places, and gear. For me I think of people, places, and skills. Gear will come and go.
My favorite article from BPL is "EXPEDITION: The Great Western Loop" by Andrew Skurka. I've listened to Andy's tale many times over and still enjoy it.
(Seconding Sam's choice) "A Lightweight Guide to Backpacking in Sustained, Cold Rain" by Alan Dixon. What a great picture of bringing the whole together — skills, gear, and attitude.
2005 Backpacking Light Trip Planning Spreadsheet Contest Entries by BPL Staff. The creativity of the crowd. Lots of good ideas.
The Poncho Tarp: Techniques and Gear Systems for Inclement Conditions by Ryan Jordan and Alan Dixon. Remembering the fun of learning UL backpacking.
Boy Scout Gear List: Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico, Summer by Doug Prosser. Doug is such a great guy. I've given this article to more people than any other (I'm a Scouter). I hope to one day approach the amount of joy that Doug has spread by encouraging them to lighten up and enjoy the outdoors. Excellent piece!Jan 20, 2011 at 7:35 pm #1686469
I haven't been here that long compared to many of you however before I started posting much I read a ton of the archives and noticed a similar shift. Even since I started reading in late 2008 it seems like the general attitude of these forums has shifted and people balk at what was once common UL ideas and practices. It seems like the average poster/reader at BPL is afraid to give up many luxuries these days and would prefer to go light with fancier gear instead of just less gear. In my opinion the lighter gear made from fancy modern materials shouldn't be an excuse to add more items into the pack because to me this dilutes the experience.
My favorite article would have to be this one by Mike Clelland if only for the wonderful illustrations. http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/toilet_paper_free.html
However, my true favorite isn't really an article but the poncho tarping section in Ryan's book.Jan 20, 2011 at 7:46 pm #1686473
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
"Even since I started reading in late 2008 it seems like the general attitude of these forums has shifted and people balk at what was once common UL ideas and practices. It seems like the average poster/reader at BPL is afraid to give up many luxuries these days and would prefer to go light with fancier gear instead of just less gear."
A sure sign of the ageing of the Boomers.Jan 20, 2011 at 8:05 pm #1686479
Not sure I've been around enough to have a favorite article. But I think what I've gotten out of BPL the most is the people. I've really enjoyed chatting/discussing with folks, 'meeting' people, and especially actually meeting some folks (and I'm excited to meet a bunch more in a few weeks). I'd go so far as to say I've made friends through this site. So, for me, it's not so much the forums or the articles, though I've enjoyed many articles and many threads, it's the camaraderie. As very few of my friends are into lightweight backpacking, I can't easily find that any place else.Jan 20, 2011 at 8:20 pm #1686485
@maynard76Locale: New England
It is a shame that as much thought and experimentation hasn't gone into technique as has been put into gear.
Things like site selection and risk assessment of back-country water ect…
Its probably just a lot easier to lighten up with gear upgrades. Plus its fun and easy to shop and do gear comparisons when your stuck in the house on the computer.
It would be interesting if we could further blur the line between backpacking and bushcraft.Jan 20, 2011 at 8:25 pm #1686488
spelt with a tParticipant
@speltLocale: SW/C PA
Being new, I admit I've wondered about the gear-heavy discussion focus. It's been helpful for me personally. I don't have the budget to buy and try a million things, and lots of research has yielded a minimum of purchases, most of which have worked out very well so far. I'm grateful to the gearheads for sure.
Yet, I've been slightly disappointed with the lack of other kinds of dicussion. People are happy to state preferences–"I'd rather pack extra ounces for a good night's sleep," in an air mattress thread, for example. But very little of the whys on LW and UL. It's something I'm thinking a lot about myself, but maybe, as others have said, the forum as a whole has evolved past the introspection that led me here in the first place.Jan 20, 2011 at 8:52 pm #1686497
I think there is still room for good stuff from BPL — one area might be to look at the current crop of 60g jackets and see what they are good for vs. other pieces we know. Seems like there is a push by manufacturers towards using stuff like the nanopuff as a cold weather mid layer where the micropuff was more of a belay jacket.
I'd love to BPL to look into this and make heads or tails of it – without me spending money on a jacket to try it myself.
New ideas might be slow, but good topical reviews would be nice. Think New Yorker Book reviews/essays vs. the by the numbers ones we see every other week. They are good, but that critical content seems to be missing somehow.Jan 20, 2011 at 9:18 pm #1686511
I think there are always trends, first you go lighter, then you go simpler and then you work out it's not heaps of fun sleeping on a 1/4 piece of foam on rock hard ground, so you put back a bit of comfort. Then you find a happy medium. I now have one pack with everything that works for me. there are always alternatives to the gear I use, but in the end they do they same thing, give me food shelter or water. I also know that with a 3 kg base weight, even if I have a kilo of luxuries on top of that I can't really tell much of a difference actually carrying my back pack, it is still way lighter than what i hiked with 10 years ago. I gloss over most of the posts now, I realise my OCD can be tamed!!!
Back to the topic: i loved all of the early stuff, but maybe just because it was all the new and exciting frontiers – tarp poles were made from golf ball retrievers and and you had to go to a sailmaker to buy silnylon – no one at the outdoors shops knew what you were talking about.Jan 20, 2011 at 9:41 pm #1686520
@djohnsonLocale: Washington State
I've very much enjoyed looking at some of these early articles and forums. It was a really exciting time for me with so much to learn and try- with BPL I was like a kid in a candy shop! These days I'm more about refinement and experiences and I've got my gear pretty well figured out. Still love reading the forums though- still read every week- and still like to publish an article now and again. Since my first review in 2004, I've published something like 60 reviews or articles here. Here are a few of my personal faves down memory lane…
This article was about an epic failure of a trip- and
a HUGE part of my ultralight learning curve!
Being the shelter editor sometimes required me to field test in ridiculous places. Like pitching this tent on the 8 ft2 summit of Mount Baldy in the Cascades in the middle of winter. I was literally TRYING to get the tent blown off the mountain. No luck- this tent rocked!
The people here are the best- from the writers to the readers! I got to go to one Outdoor Retailer and it was a joy to hang with Will, Carol, Ryan, Alan, Ken, and the rest of the gang in real life (rather than far away in Seattle via the web).
My first family review with my son Henry– he's 4 now and has been on over 10 trips! My kids changed backpacking in a major way for me and it's been a joy to have them along for the adventures!
And last, this video was the most fun to make– working with great innovators in the industry like Bruce at Luxury Lite, Henry Shires, Ron Moak, Ron Bell, Glenn Van Peski, Grant Sible, and many others- it has been and continues to be a real pleasure.
Thanks for the great times Backpacking Light! I'm looking forward to many more great years to come!Jan 20, 2011 at 9:44 pm #1686521
"it's not heaps of fun sleeping on a 1/4 piece of foam on rock hard ground"
Hence why my current 3 season solo list hovers right around 5 pounds basewieght with a 2.5" pad. :)Jan 20, 2011 at 10:34 pm #1686534
I feel the same way about Christmas. It was so magical as a child, and as I've grown, things have gotten too mundane. I've spent the last two Christmases trying to figure out what was missing. How could I get that excitement and magic back?
I also have not been on BPL as much lately, but some of that is due to more important things cropping up, like planning a wedding. Its also partly due to what Miguel describes.
The UL movement has simply slowed for some people. Yes, there have been some recent fantastic developments (namely cuben), but the rehashing of shelter designs, same-old same-old packs, etc., just don't have people jumping up and down like they used to. How many variations on a silnylon pyramid or cuben flat tarp can there be? However, for the new folks, this stuff is probably just as fascinating as we once thought it was.
While it's still true that every ounce counts, once you get your gear dialed in to a comfort level that you are, well, most comfortable with, a new pack that is a few ounces lighter, or a new rain jacket with a negligible increase in breathability just doesn't spark the excitement as it once did. Probably because you're also experienced enough to realize that those tiny differences aren't going to be noticeable. Gee, will that new coat which boasts 20,000 gr in breathability be so much more comfortable than mine, which has 18,000 gr? Probably not, and so we gloss on over these discussions.
Sure, if I tried, I could get my 11-12 lb. baseweight down to 8-9 pounds, but that would mean tarping instead of Tarptenting (which by no means is supposed to imply that tarping can't be comfortable), less of a sleeping pad, hacking off any extraneous straps and labels off my gear, and several other things. But losing an extra pound isn't as important anymore. Maybe for some, and that's perfectly fine. I just want to be out there more. Kenosha, WI isn't exactly a treasure trove of places to backpack. I envy you people near the coasts and mountains.
I also wonder if the economy and current state of affairs has something to do with it. People are down about their jobs, the crappy financial crisis, faltering foreign relations, wars, and just a general darker mood about things than in the early part of the 2000's. People may be less inclined to spend money on gear or trips, thus dampening the conversations on BPL. I dunno. Maybe that assessment is off the mark.
However, I do know that I'll be getting a packraft soon. I've been reinvigorated with a whole new set of ideas, skills, techniques, gear, and excitement! So, we can't fault BPL for anything of this sort. We maybe just have to find our own ways to make the online participation exciting again.Jan 21, 2011 at 12:33 am #1686544
One of my favorite BPL articles dates back to 2002. If I've got the link below copied correctly, it should take you to that article, which reviews a quilt that Ryan and crew obtained from Nunatak for "testing" by BPL (which is a ploy that has never worked for me when I try to lay hands on some new gear free of charge) —
Two reasons the above BPL article is [one of] my favorite
First, that article that introduced me to the notion of using a quilt rather than a sleeping bag. Later in 2002, I read Ray Jardine's "Beyond Backpacking" and discovered Ray had adopted quilts several years earlier.
And there I was in 2002, at least until I read the BPL article and Ray's book, still using a 3+ pound NF sleeping bag. Never more, not when carrying my bed on my back.
Second, the BPL article and Jardine's book opened up (to my world anyway) a whole new and rewarding way to "do" backpacking — going light. Ray called it "The Ray Way" — beating Ryan Jordan out of a marketing ploy ("The Ryan Way"). If I wrote a book now about my backpacking style pre-2002, it'd be marketed as "The Wrong Way." Chapter One would describe the benefits of a Trapper John Pack, with wooden frame that has heavy duty canvas "cushioning" to protect your back. Also makes a good stretcher when two of them are strapped together.
In one chapter of Jardine's "old" book (just noticed that he didn't assign numbers to his chapters — would have been a waste of time & numbers perhaps), Ray describes his personal evolution from sleeping bag to quilt, an awakening I experienced only thru the above article first, expanded by reading Ray's book, as opposed to learning from personal experience and experiment as Ray did.
So, after stumbling across that old BPL article about the new-to-me idea of quilts, I followed the yellow-brick road in short order to see the Wizard, oops, wrong movie. I've appreciated more and more the very substantial benefits of "lightweight" backpacking, with all credit due to the above article and to Ray's book that together opened the door in the first place.
And now, it's just live happily ever after because Life is much better.
PS — As for postings in this thread that express views of BPL's evolving role, mission, character, focus, and/or value, my observation from the peanut gallery is pretty simple: I've learned a great deal from this website, stuff that I might very well have never known to even exist (quilts for starters, plus going light the rest of the way), but for the efforts of Ryan Jordan, et al. to dream BPL up in the first place and bring it to life.
PPS — Ryan, please send the "gift card" to my usual shipping address. And please don't go "light" on the amount, either.
PPPS — Am also available for new gear testing. Same shipping address.Jan 21, 2011 at 1:23 am #1686550
@skopeoLocale: British Columbia
…Jan 21, 2011 at 8:41 am #1686626
I agree, about the only thing really useful these days and that you cant get elsewhere (I'm sad to say) is the occasional gear review, and the Outdoor Retailer coverage – which you'll just see in shops anyways.
Maybe I'll invest in a MLife, but that's more to stop the yearly fees then anything. I just haven't found any of the recent coverage really all that relevant or new.Jan 21, 2011 at 9:54 am #1686662
@verberLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
I have enjoyed people posting some of the favorite early articles. There were a couple I don't remember reading at the time (like the hypothermia article), so it was great to find them now.
I have to admit that I have not found BPL as useful as I did when it started. A big reason for this is that I have a lot more experience than I did when I first started reading BPL. I would have loved to have had the "state of the market" surveys when I got started. I a bit disappointed that there haven't been more science based analysis in the gear section. I really liked the early review of rain gear measuring moisture accumulation while running and the look at how collapse resistant various frameless packs were. While the methodology wasn't fully baked, it was a great start. Not only because I learned about specific gear, but I learned about some underlying science / principles that changed the way I thought about things or gave me deeper insight. I would have liked to see more of that. One of the more recent series of articles that I have really appreciated was Roger wonderful series on stoves. Something I don't think I would have seen anywhere else. I would also love to see some of the articles, like the one about using ponchos/minimalist tarps be updated and refined. I think some of the people who have continued to use poncho tarps would have additional tips for how to make it work. I expect the reason we are seeing more "comfort" orientation in threads is that with the newer materials we don't have to decide between "camp comfort" and "carry comfort".
When I was transitioning to a light weight approach I found the forums really useful. These days, I rarely learn much, though there are a few people who I keep an eye out for, because I almost always learn something from them. There are also a few people who I enjoy reading for their wit, reading their posts is a joy which I look forward to. Still, I would imagine for newbes, this is still very helpful, maybe a unique place to learn. That's why I continue to participate here, to give back to in the community that helped me transition.
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