Dec 18, 2013 at 10:44 am #1311148
I'm fairly new to ultralight backpacking, and I've been trying to look for the following information with not too much luck.
What is the longest -AKA how many days- can you go with no replenishment before you cross over the line of ultralight backpacking? For instance, is it possible to comfortably hike for 10 days with everything you need -water & food- on your backpack and still call it ultralight? I'm wondering at what point food and water is so heavy that it can't be called ultralight anymore, or can it?
If you have any examples that includes gear list with food and water, it'll be helpful.
Thanks for your help,
Portland, ORDec 18, 2013 at 10:51 am #2055586
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
The ultralight distinction is about base weight, not overall weight.
To answer your question though, once you get over 30 pounds the weight will start to slow you down.Dec 18, 2013 at 10:55 am #2055588
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
In my mind, the crossover comes when your UL pack doesn't carry the base weight + food + fuel comfortably. That can be avoided with a more substantial pack, but then your base weight is up.
A few scenarios:
3 days = 5 pounds food + 8 ounces fuel on top of a 8-pound base weight and that all works.
10 days = 15 pounds food, 1-2 pounds fuel, + 8 pounds base weight = 25 pounds which is getting to the limit of many packs (that allow you to have an 8-pound base weight. So beyond that, you probably have a pack that weighs 2-3 pounds instead of one that weighs one pound. But I'd still call that UL.
One trick I've used when starting a trip when I have more food weight, is to put 5-10 pounds in a 2.4-ounce sea-to-summit day pack and wear it on my chest. After a few days of food consumption, the day pack gets tucked away.Dec 18, 2013 at 11:18 am #2055595
Thanks for the distinction! I was getting confused.Dec 18, 2013 at 11:21 am #2055597
That's very good information. What kind of 1 pound pack can carry 25lbs comfortably for an average let's say 20 miles a day? I've been reading about frame and frameless packs, and it sounds like it may have to be a frame packed to carry it comfortably, but can you recommend 1 pound pack frame pack that can carry 25lbs?
Thanks for your help,
MiquelDec 18, 2013 at 12:16 pm #2055613
Miquel—I've been asking this question for a couple years and never seem to get a satisfactory answer. As far as the food load goes, Skurka carried 2 lbs 2 oz of food a day for his Alaskan-Yukon trek. Jardine recommends hauling 2.5 lbs a day for a "thru-hike". I agree with these weights—in fact when Skurka did a 14 or 17 day section w/o resupply his pack approached 60 lbs.
So no, maybe you can't be UL when your food load alone is 30 or 40 lbs. I know, I know, the base weight thingie-doodad-whatever is still uber light but then throw in 40 lbs of food for an 18 day winter trip and things change fast. In fact, the usual weekend pack won't work, will it?
But it's a fascinating topic, as in this question as a corollary: How long can a backpacker stay out without a food cache or resupply? Imagine stepping out of a car on Day 1 of a 30 day wilderness trek with no interruption? Prepare to haul some weight.Dec 18, 2013 at 12:20 pm #2055615
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
I fly for a lot of my trips (so I like something that is sturdy enough to check as luggage) and have a fleet of Jam 70s and Jam 50s for the adults and kids in our family. Those aren't 1-pound packs, they are just under 2 pounds.
To get down to one pound and carry 20-25 pounds, one option is a pack that uses your sleeping pad as part of it's structure. A z-lite for instance, tucked into a pocket against your back.
Hopefully others can chime in with makes and models of near-one-pound pack, but maybe that's another thread.Dec 18, 2013 at 12:27 pm #2055619
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
"Hopefully others can chime in with makes and models of near-one-pound pack, but maybe that's another thread."
I go out with a pack that is near one pound, but it is on the other side of one pound. My current pack weighs between 13 and 14 ounces. It is supposedly comfortable for a 20-pound load, and I find it fine for 25. At 30, it becomes noticeable. At 35, it is no longer fun.
–B.G.–Dec 18, 2013 at 12:46 pm #2055628
@servingkoLocale: Intermountain West
I carry an SMD Swift at 18oz. With a base weight of 10lbs I can go 12 days without resupply comfortably. That puts me at 28lbs to start with pack weight dropping about 1.5lbs per day. For me it is more of an issue with volume rather than weight – I just run out of room in my pack.
Compounding this is that I need more food when out longer than 8 to 10 days, I just get more hungry. I suppose you could try much more calorie dense foods but I don't know how much peanutbutter and Nutella I could stomach.Dec 18, 2013 at 1:04 pm #2055636
Zpacks has a good lineup. There is the frameless Blast and Zero. People will debate how much you can carry comfortable in these frameless packs. For me, I start to notice weight at about 25 pounds.
The Zpacks ArcBlast line has a frame and I think can carry quite a bit more, but I don't own one. They weigh about a pound.Dec 18, 2013 at 1:10 pm #2055643
@andrew-fLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
Check out Ryan Jordan, Roman Dial and Jason Geck's Arctic 1000 expedition:
http://packrafting.blogspot.com/2010/08/2006-arctic-1000-625-miles-in-24-days.htmlDec 18, 2013 at 1:30 pm #2055652
@ryanLocale: Northern Rockies
Miquel — lots of information in this article for modeling the answer to this exact question:Dec 18, 2013 at 1:34 pm #2055653
@wandering_bobLocale: Oregon, USA
There is no one answer to this question. There are simply too many variables involved.
trail conditions – good trail or bushwacking
topography (up, down, or level? how much elev gain and loss? frequency of same?)
the hiker's metabolic needs
the hiker's fitness level
food preferences and rejections
hydration needsDec 18, 2013 at 2:57 pm #2055682
Inaki Diaz de EturaParticipant
@inaki-1Locale: Iberia highlands
A frameless pack can carry 25lbs and more reasonably well provided that:
– you make a virtual frame for it, typically using a sleeping pad and careful packing.
– it's got a good waist belt. Does not need to be thick or heavily padded but it must be wide.
– it's got well padded shoulder straps.
Load transfer to the hips is surely worse than what you get with a frame but it can be surprisingly good
I've carried as much as 43lbs that way. It was fine. The pack was almost 2lbs though but could have been lighter without hurting the carrying systemDec 18, 2013 at 4:58 pm #2055715
Some folks could take a 6 lb pack, 3 lbs of gear, fill the pack with 50 lbs food, and go out for a month in desert conditions. They would still be UL. It applies to the gear weight, not the total weight.Dec 18, 2013 at 5:31 pm #2055726
@millonasLocale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Not super interested in the answer to the original question, but I was reading in Ryback's first book (the PCT one) a few days ago that he routinely did ~ 300+ miles on a single resupply, and I'm pretty sure he had cans of food in his pack most of the time! I think he only did what we would call "moderate" miles per day (< 20) but maybe that would have to be considered big miles considering the weight!
I'm sure that is nowhere near any kind of record, but it gives a whole new perspective on the uses of a pack that could handle a crazy-heavy load – freedom and simplicity on an extended trip.Dec 18, 2013 at 7:37 pm #2055777
I remember Ryback's description of leaving a town with 20 days worth of food and supplies on his back and how good it felt to be so supplied. I read this in the Hiking The Appalachian Trail two volume book set put out by Rodale Press.Dec 18, 2013 at 9:23 pm #2055818
@drusillaLocale: Wild Wild West
Yes but he also wore his pack out continuously and was always making repairs.Dec 18, 2013 at 9:25 pm #2055820
@anthonyjhuhnLocale: Mid West
Not to toot my own horn….
But someone other than myself namely Ryan Jordan and Roman Dial did 600 miles unsupported.
Andrew Skurka was going to try to do 800 miles on the AT but ended up calling it off. He said that he expected his pack to be 70 pounds
Long story short it sounds like it sucks, and is definitely not for me. I guess that's why I work retail and they are pros.
AnthonyDec 18, 2013 at 9:51 pm #2055828
I absolutely love this forum. Thanks all for chiming in…this is a great amount of information and I'll do more research based on everybody's answers.
M.Dec 18, 2013 at 10:21 pm #2055837
@millonasLocale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
"Andrew Skurka was going to try to do 800 miles on the AT but ended up calling it off. He said that he expected his pack to be 70 pounds"
As compared to the "idiots" like Ryback who wore blue jeans and carried more weight than that than that without even thinking it was something special. We are certainly light, but we are certainly capable of over-thinking things at times. LOLDec 19, 2013 at 6:08 am #2055880
@fluffinreach-comLocale: no. california
here's how Not to do it.
sans major ul efforts other than the usual sewing of stuff sacks and such trickery, using conventional gear (with raft) and a stout food load is good for about 3 happy weeks. that's not ul, but it's not horrible.
as said by others, big weight slows you down in a major way. it's depressing as well. but if you put those issues aside, and Max out the food weight limits, i'd think a fit individual with a sense of humor could wander for about 5 weeks without difficulty.
in practice, the "issues" hit larger than the actual task.
as food/gear mass increases, the desired gain in miles fades, and the weight situation spirals disfunctionaly into the ground, just as Ray Jardine explained to us lo those many years ago.
and That is why Ryan made BPL !
superior physical conditioning is Vastly More Important than exact proper gear.
example : perfect shoes will just not ever make an Ultra Runner out of peter.
there's another end of that death spiral too, in that one quickly reaches a point where any more trendy ul weight loss don't add much in the way of miles either. so then there you are at x -miles out, you got more wind in you could use it, but your feets are blown, and There You Sit. at that point you can continue thru the pain and damage your feet permanent, or set up an expensive cuban tarp and enjoy the view.
about then you will appreciate that old italian guy who brought plenty of rum.Dec 19, 2013 at 9:11 am #2055923
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
First define UL backpacking. If you want to use base weight is less than 10 lbs, then it is easy to do 2-3 weeks unsupported. You will suffer if you want to use a frameless pack or a pack with a quasi-frame. Except for winter, my base weight is almost always under 10 lbs, even when I use my McHale LBP36. The pack itself is NOT the item to save weight on. You can choose light versions of everything else.
When I started backpacking it was not uncommon for many of us to go 2-3 weeks without re-supply. 20 miles per day was about my daily average, although many folks, myself included, frequently took a sabbath day off each week on the trail to clean up, contemplate, fish, or generally do nothing.
Back then, my base weight was around 18 lbs for long trips. Gear weight was limited by the technology of the day.
Peter has talked about what can be done, and he has done it, doing one of the longest through hikes ever.
In our hurry-up and get it done world, I see many people want to do big miles and do it fast. Cover large territories, stay on trails so they can re-supply every 5 – 7 days. Their route and time is often limited by jobs and family commitments. There is nothing wrong with that, if it is what you want to do.Dec 19, 2013 at 10:10 am #2055936
@bfornshellLocale: Southern Texas
Check out this link and others hidden within the thread: (You will need to do a cut-n-paste for the link)
It is called "Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes" and is from 11/07/2006.
The thread is 6 pages long but worth the time to read it. On about page 5 is a post by me listing a bunch of related links – that still work – with a lot of additional information on this topic.Dec 19, 2013 at 10:53 am #2055948
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