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Re: [John Muir Trail] So for those of you who have gone ultralight

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  • Spencer Goodwine
    I ll add that moving to ultralight is much more than just bringing lighter gear, it s a change in philosophy. It s bringing exactly and only what you
    Message 1 of 38 , Feb 1, 2012
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      I'll add that moving to ultralight is much more than just bringing lighter gear, it's a change in philosophy. It's bringing exactly and only what you need....not what you want. And bringing what you need takes some thinking. Do you really need Teva sandals for a stream crossing? Or could you just keep you shoes on and cross it knowing that they will dry quickly (as trail runners do)? IMO, I don't think ultralighters have any loss in comfort or piece of mind... at least I never heard an ultralighter complaining of such.

      On Wed, Feb 1, 2012 at 2:38 PM, Spencer Goodwine <sdgoodwine@...> wrote:
      I'm not quite ultralight....I think my entire pack (everything including 2L of water) on my last trip weighed in around 33lbs for a 6 day 5 night trip into the cascades. I'm hoping to knock off another lb or 2 this year by switching to a titanium stove/kitchen set-up.  My prior trip was a 6 night excursion through the Canadian Rockies which was the catalyst for change. I started that trip off with a 50lb pack, hiking boots, the works and it just about killed me (or severly maimed me)...literally. I was coming down switchbacks after a long day of hiking and I was exhausted (due to carrying the heavy pack, no doubt) and I slipped on a turn and landed on a nice boulder. I thought I had broken my femur at first and my girlfriend (who is an ER doc) who witnessed the fall thought I had shattered it as well. I was 2 days from anything and no SPOT.  Luckily, I ended up with just a very deep bruise on my thigh and a limp for a week. I managed to finish out the trip as well. Anyway,  After that trip, I swore that I would knock my kit down by 20lbs. I bought a kitchen scale and weighed everything that I normally bring on a trip and dropped it into a spreadsheet. From there, it was like a game....what could i get rid or change out to get my pack weight down? Anyway, My hike in the Cascades this year was the most enjoyable I've had simply because it didn't physically hurt. I felt like I was flying on the trail and I never regretted the cuts I made. Question, do you really need an 85L backpack? What do you do with all that space? I switched from a 90L Kelty (5.5lbs!) to a 67L frameless Starlight SMD pack and I have more than enough room in it for a weeklong trip. I can actually fit a bear canister in it horizontally and still have enough room for everything else. Anyway, I'm not criticizing. If you feel good with a heavier pack and it brings you piece of mind, then I say go for it. But if you're sick of watching people fly by on an uphill with light packs, then, yeah, you might reconsider what you're bringing.
      On Wed, Feb 1, 2012 at 1:59 PM, Ron Cordell <ron.cordell@...> wrote:

      ok, I'll bite.

      I went piece-meal and tried different things as I went along. For example, I ditched the Whisperlite for alcohol and tuned my food selection so that I never carried anything that actually needed cooking - just boiling 8oz water (or whatever) is enough for a meal, for example. Once I experimented with that on short and longer trips I felt I had a system with a variety of options. I still have the Whisperlite, and I also have a gas canister setup that works well - for shorter trips I'll take alcohol; for longer I'll take gas canister, for example.

      Shelter was the same way. I always used at least a 3 season tent, for example. I then tried a SMD Lunar Solo and totally loved it and still have it. I took it a step further with the Gatewood Cape. This final step allows me to combine a rain poncho/shelter and use my hiking poles as tarp supports. I now cowboy camp most of the time and actually prefer that - but it took some experimentation and getting used to it, especially since I don't like bugs. Mind you, I did a lot of this tuning on the AT on the east coast before I moved to the Bay area several years ago, so bugs on the ground were a big issue. Anyway, I did that experimentation over time as well and on several length trips.

      I try to combine clothes and sleeping bag to cover a range of temps, but I invested in a good Western Mountaineering bag that has done incredibly well for me in a variety of conditions; I use a 40 deg bag for warmer climes however. Padding is whatever you're comfortable with and a personal decision. I use a 1/2 length inflatable pad I got from BackpackingLight.com, for example, and that's it.

      Food is where I am getting tripped up on the JMT and the need for a bear canister really adds a lot of weight and makes things more challenging. I'm still working out my options/system there and will be doing some test hikes in the upcoming months to try them out.

      My gear has held up well, no complaints here. Most of the time I've used an Osprey Atmos 50 pack for 7-8 day trips, which I totally love. I also have a GoLite Jam which works well but isn't quite as comfortable depending on the weight. I've had both for several years.

      Bottom line is that I suggest you experiment with one bit at a time and see what works for you.


      On Wed, Feb 1, 2012 at 11:14 AM, Matt <masonmj84@...> wrote:

      What was the catalyst for getting you there?

      A couple of years ago, I upgraded all my gear. For my big items, I went with an Osprey Aether 85 pack, a Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 tent, a Marmot Helium sleeping bag, a Therm-a-rest ProLite 4 ground pad, and a Bearikade Expedition bear can. Collectively, these items weigh in at about 14 pounds, which, believe it or not, is about 8 pounds lighter than what I was previously carrying.

      I also carry a pair of Teva Hurricane sandals for stream crossings (and wearing around camp).

      I'm sure for an ultralighter, my gear list seems like an abomination. And I have to admit that when I'm huffing and puffing over a big pass, I can't help but be envious of the hiker who has their base weight down in the single digits.

      On the other hand, I just can't bring myself to step too far away from the REI showroom. I love how comfortable my Osprey pack is. I love being able to just throw everything in it without a lot of thought. I love knowing that my tent can be pitched in a jiffy in a variety of settings and will keep me dry in anything but the most extreme of conditions. I love knowing that my sleeping bag and ground pad will keep me warm and comfortable, even during an unseasonably cold night. I have serious doubts that substantially more minimalist gear can bring me anything close to an equivalent level of comfort and peace of mind.

      In addition, I'll admit to being lured in by the marketing of the larger outdoor retailers. When I go onto Osprey's web site, and look at their latest and greatest offerings, everything just looks so "cool" and I find myself wanting to reach for my wallet. Same holds true when I walk into an REI. In contrast, when I go onto a web site of a cottage industry ultalight gear manufacturer, everything just sort of looks cheap and shoddy. I expect it to be the quality of what I might find in the outdoor aisle of a Wal*Mart, only much, much lighter.

      I'm not trying to bag on ultralighters, as I'm sure I have some serious misconceptions about the quality of their gear. In that regard, I'd imagine that most ultralighters were once where I was. So if you've gone ultralight, I'm curious as to what finally "converted" you. I'm also curious as to how the transformation went (versus what you expected). Did it take a while (and some trial and error) to get your level of peace of mind back to where it was before you made the change? Or was it much easier than you expected?

      (Also not trying to stir up a hornet's nest as I know this can be a sensitive topic)

    • JamesB
      I m working at Ultralight because I am 71 years old, and can t do much real backpacking unless I carry very low weights. So, this can be sort of an alternative
      Message 38 of 38 , Feb 2, 2012
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        I'm working at Ultralight because I am 71 years old, and can't do much real backpacking unless I carry very low weights. So, this can be sort of an alternative view of the John Ladd approach, except that the emphasis is on being nearly as light as possible, or it can't be done.

        --- In johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com, "Allen C" <acurrano@...> wrote:
        > Good advice for sure!
        > --- In johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com, greg padgett <gregp701@> wrote:
        > > Biggest thing I've found is that the pack needs to be able to carry everything comfortably.If I'm carrying upwards of 30 pounds then give me a pack with real suspension. Hanging 35 pounds from your shoulders all day will turn any hike into a death march.
        > > I say save weight anywhere you can and feel comfortable doing so but not at the sake of being uncomfortable or unsafe.
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