- Feb 10, 2020 at 4:08 pm #3630737Diane “Piper” SoiniBPL Member
@sbhikesLocale: Santa Barbara
Used to be that it was about the inventing and thinking outside the box and it’s a lot more about brands now. I’ve never been SUL, so maybe that’s now where the DIY, and radical ingenuity is. Kind of like the whole barefoot shoes thing. It went from DIY and experimenting to fully corporate. Maybe there are just so many people out hiking the long trails now that the cottage makers couldn’t keep up so it all had to go corporate just to provide the products. Maybe we’ve invented everything that had to be invented.Feb 10, 2020 at 5:23 pm #3630746Dave HeissBPL Member
@daveheissLocale: Pacific Northwest
No, I just think the BPL community is getting older. Using me as an example, when I made a push toward UL in the early 2000’s I got to a base weight of about 15 pounds. Yeah it wasn’t ultralight per se, but it was for me. Loved the lightness on the trail, but found myself wanting more comfort in camp. Now that my bones are nearly 20 years older I don’t just want more comfort in camp, I need it.
I always keep an eye out for lighter gear when the time comes to replace an item in my kit, and sometimes I do pull the trigger on a lighter alternative, but I’m kinda-sorta light already and overspending to save an ounce just doesn’t motivate me like it used to.
Maybe the UL cottage manufacturers have recognized this as an industry trend and aren’t putting as much effort into developing new UL products, because there are fewer buyers.Feb 10, 2020 at 6:02 pm #3630749Jenny ABPL Member
@jenniferaLocale: Front Range
I think it might just be in a bit of a hiatus. In my job outfitting people for their outdoor adventures, I see more people than ever wanting to backpack and actually getting out and doing it. Witness the increasing numbers of people starting and completing long through-hikes, the crowded parking lots at trailheads on weekends (at least here in Colorado), and the difficulty of obtaining back country permits in advance at many national parks. But many folks who are just getting started don’t know about lightweight gear yet and still think they need 40 lbs of gear for an overnight. The gear that is perceived to be “affordable” at REI, Cabela’s, and Walmart tends not to be lighter weight gear, and many people don’t want to pay for that weight difference anyway until they become wiser and older.
There is also a big trend towards renting gear, and that gear is most definitely NOT lighter weight. It can’t be because it cannot hold up under rental use and abuse.
When the millenials get older, they will come to see the light. So to speak. Just my $0.02.Feb 10, 2020 at 6:05 pm #3630750Geoff CaplanBPL Member
@geoffcaplanLocale: Dartmoor, Devon
I think a lot of us have been through the trad-gear > light-at-any-cost-epiphany > light-enough-but-still-warm-and-comfortable cycle – especially for longer hikes.
A lot of the cottage suppliers seem to have realised that most customer value functionality and durability as much as lightness, and are offering more balanced products to meet the demand, even if the weight has crept up a bit.
As for the branding, I do rebel a bit against the fan-boy “nothing but Dyneema” brands – the Apples of the hiking world. To me, they seem to be moving away from the spirit of the thing. But to be fair, their products are pretty good if $$$ is no object, and many suppliers are still producing innovative products – for example the emergence of transverse ridge trekking pole shelters over the last few years.
So the reality is that for most of us, the choice is so wide now that a little research should turn up something to our liking. There’s much less motivation to DIY.
Not me though. Like many here, I’m a compulsive improver and get a lot of fun making my own gear to precisely meet my needs. There’s something uniquely satisfying about moving through wild country with kit you made yourself.
Having said that, to make anything that’s really good there’s a lot of time, effort, and cash outlay involved. All my projects are still at the prototype stage, and I’ve been pottering at them for a couple of years now! So I guess it’s only for the truly obsessional geeks like me…Feb 10, 2020 at 6:16 pm #3630752W I S N E R !BPL Member
I’ve been out backpacking the last two weekends and will be getting out this next one with a <10# base weight so UL is certainly alive and well in my world. As for talking about gear, DIY, innovating, etc., I simply don’t need much of anything so there’s no point. My kit has not substantially changed in years and I see no reason to start now. I’ve also found that once arriving at ~10#, further reductions in weight are often expensive, would require replacing perfectly good gear, and are barely noticeable to me anyway. And since I’m not in the market for much new gear, I don’t pay a lot of attention to what manufacturers are doing. Definitely still have the UL spirit here!Feb 10, 2020 at 7:39 pm #3630758J RBPL Member
“Has the spirit of Ultralight been lost?”
No. Ultralight was never “about” inventing and thinking outside the box so much as those were the necessary and only available ways to attain UL since an industry didn’t exist. There was nothing inside the box so the thinking had to be outside of it.
UL is about carrying the lightest functional versions of only what’s really needed. The macho chest-thumping over bragging rights for hauling the heaviest pack has given way — even those knuckleheads are grudgingly admitting that carrying lighter is better. As UL has caught on, manufacturers have responded and consumers now have choices they never had before, and that’s a good thing. The manufacturers are doing plenty of inventing and creative thinking to come up with gear that is even lighter and/or involves fewer trade-offs than ever and making UL more attainable than ever. Nobody took away the creative/DIY option, that’s still there.Feb 10, 2020 at 7:46 pm #3630760Will ElliottBPL Member
@elliott-willLocale: Juneau, AK
I think innovation is still unfolding in the type of trips people are doing, not necessarily the gear, short of incremental progress in materials science. Luc Mehl’s 200+ mile backcountry traverses on nordic skates, or the group with lightweight homemade wooden skis in the Neacolas, in 2016, come to mind.Feb 10, 2020 at 8:56 pm #3630764Ryan JordanAdmin
@ryanLocale: Central Rockies
I still love to tinker with my kit and explore *my* limits of ultralight. Right now that focuses on using a fastpacking kit to cover as many miles on snowshoes or skis as possible in winter conditions (cold temps, deep snow). To that end, while I’m carrying a very basic snow shovel and often a saw, I’m also carrying a pocket tarp, a minimalist stove kit, and a small (30-35L) pack. Often, my winter weight is less than a more casual (e.g., High Sierra) summer trip, when I’m packing a chair, better food, fishing gear, more supplies for longer durations, etc.
I find myself diverging – cutting weight for more extreme trips and adding weight for more sublime trips for additional comfort.
I enjoy this dichotomy immensely.Feb 11, 2020 at 4:07 am #3630783Monte MastersonBPL Member
@septimiusLocale: Changes Often
The spirit of ultralight hasn’t been lost one bit. As others have stated, the need for DIY has lessened because now you have many cottage companies that produce the very light gear backpackers want. What’s more, you currently see numerous mainstream companies trying to get in on the ultralight wave. For example, Big Agnes Carbon tents, Osprey Levity packs, REI quilts, MSR Carbon Reflex tents, etc. All you need to do is look at the plethora of ultralight options and you’ll see that it is very much alive and well.
Nevertheless, I still get surprised by how many people I encounter out on the trail who haven’t yet seen the light. I try to not push ultralight on anyone unless they ask. Often times they will look at my small weekend kit and ask if I’m dayhiking. That’s when I slowly try to plant the seeds of ultralight theology.
Feb 11, 2020 at 9:25 am #3630809Mike MBPL Member
- This reply was modified 1 week, 4 days ago by Monte Masterson.
No spirit loss here :) Like many, my trips range from very spartan to fairly luxurious (especially when I bring my wife!!!!!), but regardless the packs remain pretty lightweight (to very lightweight).
I do think I’ve reached a point where weight, while certainly a concern, isn’t the only concern. Durability is certainly a factor (especially with high $ items), as is functionality ie I’ll carry a slightly heavier (but not heavy :) ) pack vs a lighter one simply because it’s more comfortable.
I still have the bits where I could probably put together a SUL kit, but simply don’t see the need for it now- 8-12 lbs on high mileage trips is plenty light, more comfortable and adds more of a safety margin.
The spirit lives on!Feb 11, 2020 at 10:48 am #3630823Nick GatelBPL Member
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
I’ve been out backpacking the last two weekends and will be getting out this next one with a <10# base weight so UL is certainly alive and well in my world. As for talking about gear, DIY, innovating, etc., I simply don’t need much of anything so there’s no point. My kit has not substantially changed in years and I see no reason to start now. I’ve also found that once arriving at ~10#, further reductions in weight are often expensive, would require replacing perfectly good gear, and are barely noticeable to me anyway. And since I’m not in the market for much new gear, I don’t pay a lot of attention to what manufacturers are doing.
My sentiments exactly and I couldn’t have expressed it any better.Feb 11, 2020 at 1:05 pm #3630832John S.BPL Member
Alot of the younger ultralighters are on the reddit ultralite group. I met about 16 of them in Arkansas a few weeks ago, and they had alot of the latest packs, shelters and sleeping bags. It was fun for an overnight trip.
Feb 11, 2020 at 1:32 pm #3630837Ben CBPL Member
- This reply was modified 1 week, 4 days ago by John S..
No loss of the spirit here either. I’m dialed in around 8 pounds base. I don’t need a lot of new gear,so I don’t talk about it as much. I’m more interested in seeing new places people go.
I suspect John is right. Lots of older folks here already have the gear figured out. Younger people who are just figuring UL principles out are over on reddit.Feb 11, 2020 at 1:44 pm #3630839Edward John MBPL Member
True Ultra Light is a high dollar game I’ve never really been able to afford but when replacing gear it’s always been the lighter choice if I could afford it, but lately when I have been able to get away my pack is about a kilo heavier because I really need that extra sleeping comfort of a big, thick, soft bed to sleep on, otherwise I don’t sleep well and the week-end is ruined.Feb 11, 2020 at 5:32 pm #3630863M BBPL Member
I havent lost the spirit
But I certainly don’t care as much
I don’t like to think about what I want to bring so I just bring the same stuff all the time. Some stuff that I even know I won’t need. Some stuff that’s a little heavier because I know I’m more comfortable with it. As long as my pack is under 23 lb with food and water I really couldn’t care… It’s all the same to me
I’m going to disagree with the post above, it’s not about money at all. Unless of course somebody wants to bring ” stuff ‘and don’t want that stuff to weigh much.
There’s a few people that have hiked thousands of miles oh, many thousands, with packs under 5 pounds….they don’t get there by using expensive gear they get there by not bringing” stuff”
Confession : I like my stuff as much as the next guy. Especially a nice comfy inflatable pad.Feb 11, 2020 at 6:08 pm #3630872Derek M.BPL Member
@dmusasheLocale: Southern California
What is “ultralight” again? This is the age old problem. It’s impossible to say if the spirit of something has been lost when we can’t even agree on a definition of what that something is.
Now, if we are talking about gear in general getting much lighter for the same price and the same function, then I think we are in the heyday of “ultralight,” as it’s never been easier for the Average Joe/Jane to shave many pounds off of his/her base weight with only a modicum of research and common sense, and a little bit of disposable income.
Lightweight gear is more readily available than it has ever been.
The very lightest end of the spectrum is where we really run into diminishing returns, IMO, and maybe this is what the OP was talking about…
Feb 11, 2020 at 6:38 pm #3630879obx hikerBPL Member
- This reply was modified 1 week, 4 days ago by Derek M..
@obxcolaLocale: Outer Banks of North Carolina
Seems like I stay @ 8, but that doesn’t mean I’m not watching and evaluating and changing. My pad has gone up, cooking system went down. Shelter up a few ounces, clothing down. That sort of re-configuring. I really like having a nice 25″ wide 2.5″ thick pad! New innovations allow getting more comfort and safety without gaining weight. As a side sleeper who tosses and turns and is old enough to be the grandparent of a young reddit reader, theoretically at least; the better night’s sleep on a nice wide thick pad helps keep me going strong and so it’s an efficiency improvement.
Like Monte I also get often mistaken for a dayhiker. I always tell them no I’m out for 8 days (even if it’s only 4-5. Why not get them thinking) I also don’t volunteer anything else unless they ask. I don’t want to be “that guy on the trail!” ;)
For example I’m currently really eyeing that FF Tanager; but then I’m quite likely to go up or add something else; so it’s a give and take situation.Feb 11, 2020 at 7:11 pm #3630885KarenBPL Member
I’m still learning to lighten up (ha!) so I still enjoy reading posts about UL, especially about techniques for minimizing overall items to bring. Using one item to do two things, that sort of thing. Thinking through how you use each thing in your pack, ideas for better efficiency, all are good. I have zero interest in making anything because I don’t have a sewing machine and doing things with my fingers is so painful (RA). I do think a lot of my ability to pack lighter is the current availability of lighter gear, some of it expensive and some not. That certainly doesn’t lessen the enjoyment of using it and carrying a lighter pack!
I’m less interested in gear chatter in these forums though, because mostly I just want less stuff with me. So I don’t need to read about all the little doodads one could bring along (especially electronics). Or I’m happy with what I have; I have three stoves and choose the best one for the given trip. I don’t really see upgrading any of those for a long time to come. They’ve come a long way from the original Whisperlight! Thank goodness. I did make an alcohol stove out of a pop can, only because it was a fun thing to do with my son. It’s not very efficient and I don’t like using alcohol so that was the extent of my experimentation with DIY stoves. Plus all the alcohol evaporated out of the can it was stored in, so that was that. I do like knowing that I could use a bit of my bourbon to boil some water in an emergency, but i probably wouldn’t.
I do read reviews; I’d like to lighten up my shelter still. Probably a Notch Li if they ever sell them again. that’s a bucket of money!! I may stick with my Moment, which is almost 3 pounds. Still thinking about the shelter. I might consider an Aeon Li, but I’m still dubious about single wall (it rains a lot here), and I like having two doors. I love the Moment DW!
I’m really happy with my warm sleeping bag, even if not the lightest (Feathered Friends Egret). I’m not even tempted by quilts or other lighter options, because I hate, hate, hate being cold. Think of me as Sam McGee. Definitely want to be cremated just for the warmth. So no UL on that item. I will never try a quilt until the person wanting me to try one is there with my warm sleeping bag in case I get cold. I’d rather save a few ounces somewhere else. It’s going to be minus 30F tonight. I might be developing frigophobia.
I don’t see a reason to evangelize when I’m out on the trail, and I say nothing about lighter gear or carrying less stuff unless someone is complaining about a heavy pack, or specifically asks suggestions. I’d rather talk about the views, the wildlife, plant life or the weather than talk about gear, at least on the trail. Sometimes just discussing the topic makes people either very competitive or uncomfortable with the difference in pack weight and gear brought. It’s the silliest place to be competitive in our hyper competitive society, and I won’t poison the water we’re all drinking by bringing it up out there. Unless they ask.Feb 11, 2020 at 11:14 pm #3630906Luke SchmidtBPL Member
When I started in the 2000s there was still a sense of experimentation. As a group I don’t think we’d really worked out the best way to hike lighter. Was it SUL with a poncho tarp? Was a 5 lb baseweight so awesome that you could live with a skippy sleeping pad? Were frameless packs worth the lack of support to save a pound?There was a tremendous amount of fun in just doing a weekend trip to try a new “system.”
After a while there wasn’t much left to try. I’d done SUL, I’d done a longish hike, and I’d tried pretty much every kind of pack design. I’d figured out a 8-10 lbs system that worked pretty much everywhere. I knew my personal limits and the limits of my gear.
I started packrafting for something new to try. That was fun. Other people seem to have started experimenting more with bike packing. UL principles helped but the challenge was in other areas such as navigating a river or dealing with bikes. No one seemed to worry about being warm enough or whether their new tarp tent would survive.
Other than replacing broken stuff I haven’t made a major gear change in years because nothing new would add to my capabilities or enjoyment of hiking or packrafting. For me backpacking is more of a simple relaxing pleasure now, not an adventure to test myself or my gear.
On the other hand living in Alaska gives me a different set of challenges to enjoy. I’m doing some amature gunsmith work to build the shortest, lightest rifle possible. Plan is to packraft a river, shot a critter and float the meat and hide out on a river. The challenge now is the hand loading, the mechanics of shooting, learning the habits of the game etc. The backpacking gear is basically an afterthought because its dialed in.
I think a new hiker starting out would still enjoy that sense of discovery in trying new things. But the learning curve might be easier because there is a greater body of knowledge. And more gear choices that have been proven. Heck if you shop smart you can have a UL kit without making any real sacrifices (like poncho tarps or tiny pads). That’s cool. But it won’t be an adventure to figure out.Feb 12, 2020 at 3:51 am #3630919Edward John MBPL Member
Saving grams can be a very high dollar game, Cuben and Titanium cost a lot more than PU nylon and aluminium. Etc:
The difference between 15 kilos on my back and 25 could be many hundreds [ if not thousands of dollars to get down to 10 kilos] but I walk in winter not much in summerFeb 12, 2020 at 8:21 am #3630940obx hikerBPL Member
@obxcolaLocale: Outer Banks of North Carolina
What is “the spirit of ultralight” ? I could make a case that it’s to go further . With further being at least 3-dimensional.
Take a pretty obvious aspect: distance. Is that measured from point A to B? or # of days? or even age of the backpacker?
Ultralight heavily (haha) impacts all 3 of those. There’s a reason thru-hikers are pretty much all ultralight and a reason there are more frequently “oldsters” attempting longer hikes.
How about the terrain covered? Difficult off-trail routes are more likely to be attempted successfully with lighter gear. Really amazing trips and routes are opening up with options like pack-rafting.
Then there’s the dimension of simplicity tempered as it should be by prudence. A real sort of Zen aspect to backpacking light.Feb 12, 2020 at 9:09 am #3630943Tipi WalterBPL Member
It’s hard to go “ultralight” when carrying 21 days worth of food and fuel and a couple books to read and burn. Heck, Colin O’Brady’s Antarctica trek included a sled with 400 lbs of gear.
In December 2019 I pulled an 18 day trip and in Jan/Feb just got back from a 21 day trip and didn’t see a single ultralighter—in fact I didn’t see a single backpacker for either trip except in Jan. when I had a meetup with a buddy in the very beginning.
Then there’s the snobbish elitism expressed by some ultralighters—as in JR’s post of heavyweight backpackers being “knuckleheads”.
And it must be remembered that for the last 70 years backpackers have as a rule used light equipment—the old Kelty externals were very light and the best down bags were also a very light solution to staying warm. Ensolite pads weren’t heavy either.
I started out in the late 1950s using a canvas Yucca pack without the frame—it was way before the modern craze for the “frameless backpack”. And yet it was frameless and light. (Pic taken in 1963).
Here’s a pic of Jim Shattuck pulling the AT in 1966. (Photo taken by John Green in the Hiking The Appalachian Trail Two-Volume book set). His stuff is as light as possible for the times.
Here’s a pic of Andrew Giger’s kit on the AT in 1969. Pretty sparse. (Taken from Hiking the Appalachian Trail books). Point is? Backpackers have been using the lightest gear they could get for a long time.
Backpacker Martin Rye used to have a blog on UL stuff and wrote this wonderful assessment which got people talking in 2015—
MARTIN RYE’S SCREED ON ULTRALIGHT BACKPACKING
It can be found here—
Well, it used to be here: summitandvalley.com but it has disappeared.
Here are some good quotes—
“Backpacking it’s called. Nothing more.”
” . . . there is a notion that others take a shelter like us, food and the like and achieve more. I am of course referring to those who profess to go ultralight.”
“What is UL? The pursuit of an identity in backpacking for the sake of claiming some stupid pre-defined base weight as the goal rather than seeking the real aim—to go outdoors.”
“I am so sick of the stupid label, tag, and to be honest arrogant bollocks that comes from the ultralight community!”
“It’s backpacking and nothing more! . . . and not a defined base weight to stroke an ego and say look at me . . . Just go backpacking.”
“The end is to go outdoors . . . not to identify as an UL elitist who somehow does more than others.”
I interject this thought: Man, I’ve been saying this for 10 years. And remember BPL’s tag line? Pack Less. Be More.
“Then there are the skills that the UL community makes a lot of. Does the person who is carrying the big pack and wearing boots lack skills? Get over yourself, please.”
“UL as an identity, as an aim, rather than to be able to enjoy the outdoors and as a concept, needs to die. Just go backpacking.” THANK YOU MARTIN RYE.Feb 12, 2020 at 9:23 am #3630946David UBPL Member
Seems like you may have made an incorrect turn somewhere on the web.Feb 12, 2020 at 10:36 am #3630953M BBPL Member
The goal of modern ultralighters
Is not to carry LESS gear
Its to carry MORE gear, that is lighter
Im one of those….i could leave half my pack behind…..but at 8-9 lbs….i can have everything i want, most of the time.
Thats how ultralight changed. Most dont want to carry frameless sacks, sleep on thin 3/8″ pad, sleep under a tarp without bug protection, and not filter water. And they no longer have to.
And everyone wants phone and backup battery…….Feb 12, 2020 at 7:20 pm #3631017idesterBPL Member
@doug-iLocale: The Cascades
Tipi, those look like old Army jungle boots you’re wearing in that photo. I hated those things! (Probably because I didn’t have a set that fit me).
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