Mountain SuperUltraLight Backpacking – Going SUL in the Mountains with Adequate Shelter, Insulation, and Rain Protection. Part 3: M-SUL Base Weight Gear Lists

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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Mountain SuperUltraLight Backpacking – Going SUL in the Mountains with Adequate Shelter, Insulation, and Rain Protection. Part 3: M-SUL Base Weight Gear Lists

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    Stephanie Jordan


    Locale: Rocky Mountains

    "I've never been sure about that. Maybe if you take bacteria from your colon and put them in your stomach you could have a problem?"

    One way to find out…. ;o)

    Might there be a reason why Mommy told you to wash your hands after doing number 2?


    "I should have know better that post a comment on a site populated by fanatics. The weights in Will's most excellent article are listed down to thousandths of an ounce or tenth of a gram. To strive for such accuracy and leave out essential items seems like an over-site to me. And yes, I DO consider soap, map, compass and car key essential. After all I would like to be able to return home at the end of my trip."

    Mobius me lad, you yourself have left out the most essential item of all, and it weighs nothing: A sense of humor. :0)

    John Coyle


    Locale: NorCal

    Nice article with lots of good ideas. When I backpack though, I simply must take something for enlightenment, a book, a Kindle, a small radio, an mp-3, lightweight binoculars, even an Overton Whistle. I mean come on, when you get to camp what are you going to do, just sit there and twiddle your thumbs?

    Justin Baker
    BPL Member


    Locale: Santa Rosa, CA

    I practice random bushcrafty skills in camp. Catch some fish, gather some edibles, twist some natural cordage, carve a spoon, practice fire skills, or whatever. I will also try to climb anything climbable around camp.

    Henk Smees
    BPL Member


    Locale: Spanish Mountains

    >I mean come on, when you get to camp what are you going to do, just sit there and twiddle your thumbs?<

    When I'm out with friends, we talk and have a great time (can't tell jokes reading a book); when I'm on my own (not often but it happens sometimes), I walk all day (12 to 14 hours) and then, the only thing I want to do, is have a nice *warm* meal and go to bed – no energy left for anything else :(.


    "When I backpack though, I simply must take something for enlightenment, a book, a Kindle, a small radio, an mp-3, lightweight binoculars, even an Overton Whistle. I mean come on, when you get to camp what are you going to do, just sit there and twiddle your thumbs?"

    Maybe just find a nice, comfy place to sit, motionless and silent, and pay attention to what is going on around you? The means to draw a little closer to enlightenment are all around you, and they neither weigh anything nor take up any space in your pack.

    C Nugget


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    " Mike C! has thoroughly tested food weights and advocates (last I checked anyway) 1.2 lbs (or 19 oz) per person per day. "

    I could be wrong or maybe his opinion has changed, but in his book, "Ultralight Backpackin' Tips: … " Mike Clelland's formula was worked out to 1.4lbs per person per day.

    Food weight is individual both by how one goes about calculating amounts & by end weight. Mike C's approach was a great starting point for myself. I was able to exit with zero food on my last 9 day trip in the Grand Canyon.



    "Food weight is individual both by how one goes about calculating amounts & by end weight."


    That said, if one is willing to include a certain amount of body fat in their dietary calculations, 19 oz/day is not unreasonable. It is my standard carried food weight for trips up to 8 days. As usual, YMMV.

    John Nielsen
    BPL Member


    Locale: Matanuska Valley, Alaska

    Where do you find the turtle fur windtech hat? I'm not familiar with this one. Can't find it on the net. Oops, just noticed Will's note, no longer available.

    Jamie Shortt
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Carolina

    Will, Great set of articles, I am truly enjoying this series.

    A lot of content, but I will comment quickly on the amount of food/day as this is an area I continue to tweek.

    I typically go out for 2 nights at a time so I need food for 2-2.5 days. Here is a picture of what I took this week on a trip to the Smoky's (6/4-6/6).

    Jamie Food for 2.5 Days

    It weighed 42.5 oz including all packaging and my cuben food hanging sack. I returned with a little bit of jerky, snack mix, and twizzlers that weighed 4.1 oz. This is pretty close to consuming 19 oz/day including packaging. I typically hike for longer periods and when I do I don't feel the need to eat as much, this might work opposite for others and might not be true for longer trips. But for me, this consumption repeats itself each time I hike. I am rarely hungry.

    Next time I plan to reduce the jerky and snack mix. I might go to all Jelly Belly's as those things are great.


    Buck Nelson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Alaska

    Water treatment and good hygiene practices together will reduce your chances of getting sick as a huge amount of NOLS data has shown. They treat water AND practice good hygiene and have a fraction of stomach upsets vs the general backpacking population. Certain pathogens are passed human to human, and animal to human, and human to animal. For giardia it is all three.

    People are right that the amount of food depends a lot on the person. Many can get by 19 oz or so of food a day for shorter trips. Experience will tell you what you need to carry. For thru-hikes and the like I think it's fair to say that most people need about 2 lbs a day to avoid losing excessive amounts of weight.


    "I might go to all Jelly Belly's as those things are great."

    You're on the right track there, Jamie. They will provide the carbs necessary to support the metabolism of body fat, which will provide you will ample energy for 2-3 trips, unless you are severely underweight. In most cases folks have enough extra body fat, which provides ~3500 calories/pound, to last them at least a week as a supplement to carried food providing 2500 calories or so, if they provide the carbs necessary to support its metabolism.

    Richard Mock
    BPL Member


    Locale: The piney woods

    I wash my hands with small amounts of soap and water and finish with Purell. Dosen't everyone?

    Jason Livingston
    BPL Member


    Thanks Will:

    Great article!

    I enjoy these articles for many reasons. One, I read what is possible for lightening my pack. Two, I really appreciate the time and effort Will has made in accumulating the information based on his experience. He does so humbly and as a benefit to fellow backpackers. I'm sure he would be the first to admit that he doesn't expect anyone to take what he has to say and follow it verbatim. This is just what works for him and am grateful he's spent the time to share it with us. I know Will goes to drastic lengths to back up his claims. Even with the exhaustive research and passion he puts into his articles, some of it boils down to personal preference.

    As a Cascade Designs rep in the Rocky Mtns, I am always intrigued by the insights I get from Some I agree with, others I don't, but I always find something that I can learn from.

    I do have a few small inexpensive items that I would recommend for Will on his list. One is the newly updated MSR Spoon, Spork, and Fork. They weigh in at 5 grams each and are foldable meaning they can be extended to a long-handled utensil. I used the spoon recently on a 60 mile trip into Escalante National Park and was very pleasantly surprised. One of the guys we were with used it to clean out his plastic peanut butter jar and felt it was robust enough for that purpose (he admittedly has a bit to learn about UL backpacking).

    The other is our new MSR Aquatab Tablets (passed EPA for sale in all 50 states just recently). These new tablets are not chlorine dioxide but Troclosene Sodium. The pills themselves are not toxic and therefore the packaging is easy to open. They are incredibly light and inexpensive ($12.95 for 30). This is a good alternative to Aquamira. Check out for more info. Cascade Designs is the sole distributor of Aquatabs in the US.

    The Platypus 2L bottle is 8g heavier than the Sawyer 2L flask, but built much better and is meant for long-term use.

    Thanks again for a great series on M-SUL! Can't wait to read more…

    Jim Milstein


    Locale: New Uraniborg CO

    I have a Nalgene Wide Mouth 1L Cantene, onto whose lid I grafted a standard narrow beverage neck. This weighs 63 g and is very robust. It's robust enough that I also use it as a squeeze bottle for the Sawyer Squeeze Filter.

    1L WideMouth Nalgene Cantene with Mod

    Ken Thompson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Right there

    If you don't want to do that yourself now you don't have to.

    Steven McAllister
    BPL Member


    Locale: Arizona, US

    @Bruce W.

    Regarding 30 lbs,
    Interesting observation as I have always had this concept of a maximum ceiling of 30 lbs for a worst caae scenario. Extra water for arrid hikes and/or extra food for wilderness.

    I remember once during a droubt, hearing from a hiker that the next water source was dried up and people were camped up ahead that were out of water.
    So I packed 7 liters and proceded to hike over the next couple of mountains to meet up with them.

    I was surprised at how I felt fairly comfortable carrying the extra weight, but also felt that I was at the maximum before it became uncomfortable with my framelss pack.

    I figured I was just below 30 lbs total pack weight.

    John Giesemann
    BPL Member


    Great job on the series.

    I would make a comment on the difference between the first and second gear lists in that (it seems to me) the only real difference is in the fleece bottoms and the gloves for a real difference of only 3.6 ounces.

    Why? The difference in the shelters really seems to be extra room. You could add the mesh and the extra beak to the single Hexamid shelter and have practically the same comfort level without the extra room (and weight) of the twin. You also wouldn't need a larger groundcloth. You could save at least 3 ounces with the equipped Solo as opposed to the Twin and achieve the same features of mesh and extra beak. However, adding the mesh and extended beak to the solo would put you a couple of ounces over the 5 pound limit.

    Also, why a different water treatment system that weights 2.7 ounces more(including the heavier bottle required) that does the same job as the original system. You may prefer the Steripen system, but it does the same job as the Aqua-Mira.

    Third, the different rainwear options may be a little more breathable, but, how often do we wear rain gear and really how much more comfortable would you be? The first system achieves what is needed without the extra weight.

    So, now we can go to the third system. The third system of course incorporates the extra weight of the second class and adds weight for the pack, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, hat, and cooking system. This adds up to a total of 16.6 ounces if my math is correct. All of these seem to be legitimate weight additions given harsher conditions in the mountains.

    Thus, given the comments above, the real difference between the first system and the third system is only 20.2 ounces instead of approximately 33 ounces. All of this weight is in improved clothing and sleeping systems from a temperature standpoint. This puts the heavier system at 6.2 pounds, just slightly above the second list. Also, this list is just as functional as the third list. Saving .8 pounds and being just as functional seems to make sense to me.

    Just another way to look at the difference between the systems described.

    Again, a great job looking at the system as a whole and thanks for the series.

    Will Rietveld
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southwest Colorado

    Finally got the corrections made to gear list weights; thanks Eric!

    As expected, the BPL faithful came through, correcting all of my oversights and adding their wisdom. It was fun doing this series and I think it accomplished its goal to get people thinking. The primary messages are: 1) going SUL in the mountains requires an extra pound of base weight to provide adequate protection and comfort, and 2) it's amazing the amount of protection and comfort you can have within a 6 pound base weight.

    But all this lovely gear requires $$, and most of use are not going to go out and replace all our gear with the latest and greatest UL items. For most, its a dream gear list and a gradual upgrade process, but its nice to be aware of what's available and set your sights on a gear wish list.

    One big consideration is that its easy to purchase an item and find out later that something lighter and better is available. That's a bummer because you have already spent your money, it's call buyer regret. Articles like this can help reduce buyer regret, or perhaps (as per Ryan's message) help you realize you can get by without some things.

    At any rate we all love backpacking, and when we're not out in the backcountry we dream about it. And streamlining our gear get is part of the gratification.

    Thanks for your comments and compliments, and Happpy hiking! Will

    Gary Pikovsky
    BPL Member


    Locale: New Hampshire White Mountains

    Will and BPL readers,

    Based off your original I created an even lighter (yet arguably more comfy) M-SUL list for New Hampshire's White Mountains. Wanted to share with all of you. Seems to work pretty well for rough and windy conditions here and could apply to general lists overall. What do you all think? Maybe this will help folks on this thread. Could REALLY use some tips and suggestions.

    NH / White Mountains 3 season gear list

    Temps expected: 60-25F, often very windy
    Terrain: above tree line hiking and overnight camping (6000 ft altitude)
    Time range: 2-3 day hikes
    Season: May to October
    Water availability: clean water available at treeline

    BASE WEIGHT: 6.8 lbs
    WORN: 2.8 lbs
    FOOD: 1.8 lbs/day

    Down shell – Montbell Ex-Lite 6.1oz
    Base bottoms – Rab Meco 120 4.4oz
    Sleeping socks – PossumDown socks 2.2oz
    Hat – Ambler Patroller 100% merino hat 1.5oz
    Gloves – Rab MeCo 165 wool gloves 1oz

    Shell – Westcomb Shift LT Hoody Neoshell 11.3oz
    Shell pants – Montane Minimus 5.1oz
    Mitt shells – ZPacks Cuben Fiber Mitts 1oz

    Tarp – MLD Trailstar 21oz
    Tarp stakes – Easton Full Metal Jacket 0.19 each (10 total)
    Ground sheet – Gossamer Gear Polycro cut sheet 0.88oz

    Backpack – Laufbursche huckePacke customized cuben pack 8.5oz
    Packliner – Lite Trail NyloBarrier Packliner 1oz

    Sleeping Bag – Mountain Hardwear Mtn Speed 32 Long 17.4oz
    Pad – Peak Elite AC S 8.9oz

    Esbit stove system – combo of LiteTrail / Gardner Outdoor / Suluk 46 T.E.A. – 2.2oz
    Spoon – STS Long Handled Spoon – 0.3oz

    Water bottle – Poland spring 0.35
    Misc sack – TP, first aid, contacts w/ solution, ear plugs, lip balm, SPF in REI case, repellent, map, vitamin pill 1.5oz

    OTHER (possibly optional, not sure yet
    Backpad for frame – Gossamer Gear thinlight 2 sections 2.4oz
    Camera kit – 5D mark II (too heavy too list, I'm a photographer)
    Camera pocket – Gossamer Gear waist pocket 0.66oz
    Stuff sacks – 4 cuben sacks for sleeping bag, food, clothing and misc 1.8oz
    Pillow – still figuring out (looking for light, but actually comfy)
    Headlamp – Fenix H31W 100lumens 2.2oz
    Thermometer – 0.4oz
    ? Balaclava liner (optional) – 1.5oz
    ? GTX socks – if rainy 1.6oz

    Shoes – Innov8 Roclite 315 20.74oz
    Base top – Rab MeCo 165 long sleeve Zip-T M 8.2oz
    Shorts – Nike Running shorts 5.0oz
    Underwear – part of shorts
    Socks – Wigwam Cool-Lite Hiker Pro 1/4 height 1.8oz
    Trekking poles – Ruta Locura Yana adjustable poles with baskets for both 8oz
    ? Liner socks – do you think I need these w/ such light socks?
    ? Gaiters – maybvDirty Girl / MLD 2oz

    Elliott Wolin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia

    "With all the ultralight gear options available today, that perform just as well as heavier alternatives, why would anyone choose to carry the heavy stuff? There are still a lot of people to enlighten out there!"

    Why you ask? The answer is: money!

    I would be very happy to be enlightened by someone to the tune of many hundreds of dollars to retire our older, formerly but no longer UL equipment and replace it with new stuff. Since we unfortunately don't get out much my equipment doesn't wear out quickly, so replacement opportunities are few and far between.

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