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SuperUltraLight (SUL) backpacking, by definition, calls for a base pack weight less than 5 pounds (2.27 kg). It's fallen out of favor because of the perceived difficulty of achieving such a low pack weight. Back in 2005, Backpacking Light Editor Carol Crooker published a series of articles on going SUL in different locations and styles to show how it's done. But undeniable drawbacks about SUL then were undesirable compromises and going without. Many of us concluded it is best suited for warm/dry conditions. Fast forward to the present; going SUL is much easier now, with no compromises, and less going without. We now have over 40 small companies designing and selling ultralight backpacking gear, and the big outdoor gear companies are in the game too. Now SUL is easier and better than it's ever been.

But there's one more hurdle to deal with: going SUL in the mountains, where more shelter, insulation, and rain protection are needed. All of us want to backpack in the mountains in the summertime, so SUL needs to evolve beyond secure warm/dry conditions to better meet our needs. It needs to be adapted for mountain conditions - Mountain SuperUltraLight backpacking (M-SUL).

In this series I discuss the concepts, scope, expected conditions, and appropriate ultralight gear and techniques for Mountain SuperUltraLight backpacking in five parts as follows:

Part 1: Concepts and Scope - I present my rationale for M-SUL and define its scope. Part 2: Selecting the Lightest Most Functional Gear. (this article) I identify the best gear options by category – those that provide the functionality needed for summertime mountain backpacking, with minimal weight. Part 3: M-SUL Base Weight Gear Lists. I present gear lists that demonstrate how easy it is to “make weight” for M-SUL and at the same time have all the shelter, insulation, and rain protection you need to stay dry, warm, and comfortable in the high country. Part 4a: Reviews of Selected Gear—Backpacks, Shelters, Sleeping Bags and Pads, Cooking Systems, Water Treatment, and Trekking Poles. Reviews of gear tested for this series of articles. Part 4b: Reviews of Selected Gear -- Rainwear, Insulated Clothing, Handwear, Headwear, Footwear, and Gaiters. Reviews of gear tested for this series of articles.


  • Overview
  • Selecting the Lightest, Most Functional Gear
    • Backpack
    • Shelter
    • Sleeping Bag
    • Sleeping Pad
  • Preview of Part 3

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