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#132635 - 04/24/10 07:11 PM The usefulness of UL gear.
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3973
Loc: Bend, Oregon
The purpose of this post is to maybe demonstrate to beginners that ultralight gear is not better gear and to consider what you actually need in a piece of gear as being more important than what it weighs.

I chose not to put this in the "light weight" forum because those people have a separate reality that is more important to them than an objective reality. shocked I chose to put it in the beginners group because maybe is not too late to explain to those not yet committed, why the ultralight crowd and their warped ideas are forcing manufacturers to produce inferior products. You are much better off with a heavier set of gear that works and is durable and warm and dry, than by meeting any body else's weight considerations. crazy

Finally after 30 years my LLbean down coat which weighs 25 ounces has had zipper problems. I decided to spend the bucks and get a modern jacket with 850 down and ultralight shell material, but no zipper cover or snaps anywhere. So my new 14.9 ounce super jacket is just an under stuffed sweater. I would need two of them to be as warm as the $60 jacket they replaced. With tents, modern tents have given up on many extras to produce tents that are an ounce lighter than the competitors. They now put super thin bottoms on tents so they weigh less, then sell you a tent footprint. "Foot print" you NEVER heard such a thing back when tents were made to be warm, windproof, water proof and they weighed 5-8 pounds. The point is not whether you want to carry an 8 pound tent, but whether you accept that the 4 pound tent will not function as well nor be as durable or water tight as the old heavy tent.
They're not BETTER because they are lighter, in fact they are inferior because they are lighter.
Don't shoot for a 12 pound or 5 pound pack unless you are prepared to have a bunch of flimsy delicate gear with no zipper covers and is only really functional in the warmer parts of the country during the warmer months. I would much rather carry a 16 pound pack with durable gear than a 12 pound pack that was at the limit of function during good weather.

Tents vs tarps. A tarp is a non breathable single walled tent with no doors no floor nor mosquito nets. You need a ground cloth to put your stuff on and many people use a bivy sack to protect their ultralight sleeping bag with a porous , but light weight shell, from the elements, because it seems lighter to buy a sleeping bag without a water proof shell and if manufacturers did put durable waterproof shells on them they would be too heavy to sell to the UL crowd, again, you get less because it weighs less, not more.

The purpose of this post is to maybe demonstrate to beginners that ultralight gear is not better gear and to consider what you actually need in a piece of gear as being more important than what it weighs.
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#132638 - 04/24/10 07:32 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: Jimshaw]
sabre11004 Offline
member

Registered: 05/05/07
Posts: 513
Loc: Tennessee
My ultra-lite gear works just fine and is much easier to carry. You just need to know how to take care of the ultra-lite stuff. You just can't abuse it like you can all that cheap heavy weight stuff. I will put it like this. Preying on the newbies is just praying on their inexperience. I really think that if the knowledge was there, you take two packs fill one with the old fashion heavier stuff and one with the newer technology and light weight stuff, and all the gear was functionally the same, 99 out of a hundred hikers would take the lighter pack. It's just a no brainer to me. The new lighter weight stuff functions just as well as the old fashioned heavier stuff, but it is a lot easier to deal with, easier to carry and to most of us, just makes more sense....sabre11004...
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#132642 - 04/24/10 08:26 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: Jimshaw]
ChrisFol Offline
member

Registered: 07/23/09
Posts: 387
Loc: Denver, Colordo
Wow Jim, I never thought that I would hear such bias. I mean really, wow.

Originally Posted By Jimshaw

You are much better off with a heavier set of gear that works and is durable and warm and dry, than by meeting any body else's weight considerations.


Why take a 50lb fully-loaded pack, when a sub 25lb pack works too just as well. With the correct knowledge and experience you will stay warm, dry, safe and your gear will last you a lifetime.

Originally Posted By Jimshaw

I decided to spend the bucks and get a modern jacket with 850 down and ultralight shell material, but no zipper cover or snaps anywhere.


Do you really need a zipper cover or snaps? UL gear takes all the bells and whistles that are nothing more than marketing gimics off of products. The jacket still has premium 850 fill, but is lighter because it omits features that are not really needed.

Perhaps it is your rose-tinted glasses that make one of the best down jackets on the market not warm enough. I mean really; I have been down to around 30 degrees in mine with just a Capilene 3 baselayer underneath.

Originally Posted By Jimshaw

With tents, modern tents have given up on many extras to produce tents that are an ounce lighter than the competitors. They now put super thin bottoms on tents so they weigh less, then sell you a tent footprint.


Again, "extras"-- bells and whistles which are not really needed.

Footprints are another marketing gimic that are redundent. Again, knowledge and expierence of camp-site selection eliminates the need. Use your common sense-- move sharp rocks, sticks etc.

Originally Posted By Jimshaw

4 pound tent will not function as well nor be as durable or water tight as the old heavy tent.


Jim, that is such rubbish and you know it. Way to slap everyone such as Henry in the face.

Originally Posted By Jimshaw

Don't shoot for a 12 pound or 5 pound pack unless you are prepared to have a bunch of flimsy delicate gear


Really, my SpinnTwinn tarp, bivy, Feathered Friend's bag, G4 pack, Ti pot etc have lasted me many, many years and even more miles-- I have done the CT twice and CDT once-- nothing broke, I survied, stayed warm and dry. Even without those beloved zipper covers.

Originally Posted By Jimshaw

because it seems lighter to buy a sleeping bag without a water proof shell and if manufacturers did put durable waterproof shells on them they would be too heavy to sell to the UL crowd, again, you get less because it weighs less, not more.


Really Jim, if you had a fully waterproof sleeping bag, then why even bother to bring a tent or tarp? Just sleep out in the open with a mossy net-- if you do sleep in a tent or under a tarp, then isn't a waterproof bag pointless? You are already protected from the rain, are you not? Perhaps you are careless with your gear.

Again, I mean really Jim-- who does sleep out in the open in any bag? Waterproof or not. Synthetic or down. You protect your bag with a tent or tarp-- if you use the latter, than people also use a bivy. What is wrong with that? I don't spend half the the night looking for a level flat surface with enough space to pitch a tent. I am also 5 miles into my hike the next morning before most with "real" tents have even been taken down and stuffed back into an 80L pack.

Jim, you are so far off the mark that it is even funny. What is important to demonstrate to beginners is the necessary skills and knowledge required to be safe in the outdoors. When deciding on gear, pick that which is better suited for your needs and over-time, experience will really help you decide what is unnessary.

If you are going to help beginners, then please be un-biased. I have carried both 50lbs and 20lbs packs. I know which I prefer from experience. But, hey according to you, my light gear will kill me and I should only venture out in the summer.




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#132644 - 04/24/10 08:29 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: sabre11004]
Pika Offline
member

Registered: 12/08/05
Posts: 1814
Loc: Rural Southeast Arizona
Before we get into an acrimonious debate of conventional versus lightweight gear, let's take a deep breath and look at the basic philosophy behind lightweight backpacking. To me, the main idea is to carry with you a thought-out and carefully considered inventory of gear. What this means is that every item in ones pack has been examined through the filter of 1) do I need it?; 2) if so, is it as light as possible given my specific criteria and the specific trip that I am taking?; and 3) what should I have with me as insurance in case things turn bad?

What this boils down to is that a particular individual may feel better with a somewhat heavier piece of gear than is the lightest available. I am guilty of this; I prefer a double-wall tent over a tarp and I like a more substantial parka/rain jacket than many use. I don't like hammocks and I don't use hiking poles. I like a pack with some sort of suspension system. With all of this, my three season gear (including camera, Ipod and book BTW) weighs about 12 pounds. All of my choices are well thought out for me and the places I go.

I am reasonably experienced (or possibly have one years experience repeated over sixty times). Most of my experience has been in the western mountains where the weather is unpredictable at best. I have camped with a tarp for longer than many on this forum have been alive and make no apology for now preferring a tent. Some of my old 600 fill down gear is heavier than the newer, lighter stuff but it is also warm and much more robust than the newer 800 or 900 fill gear. I use one or the other depending on what I anticipate and don't begrudge the extra weight.

Ultra-lite gear does take more care. This is fine if you are well fed and well rested. But, if things go sour and a storm hits, and you barely have the energy to make camp after trying to out-hike the weather, then the heavier and more robust gear might serve you better and keep you warmer longer.

I agree with both of the above posters; go with what your experience tells you you need. Beyond that, don't judge another hiker until you know why they have made the decisions they have made.

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#132646 - 04/24/10 08:55 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: Pika]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6760
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
I'm not going to comment except to say that if it weren't for lightweight gear, I could not go backpacking! So I say hooray for the lightweight stuff! Over the past 5 years (since I acquired it) it has held up to lots of gnarly conditions (plus considerable "testing" by my grandkids starting at age 5 and my tail-wagging 80-lb. mostly Lab dog) just fine! I've taken beginners (mostly kids) out with it. There's no reason this gear wouldn't hold up for a beginner as long as he/she doesn't fall over on the tent, drag the backpack over rocks or throw it off a cliff, and other such mistreatment.

Jim, does that mean you're returning the Montbell jacket?


Edited by OregonMouse (04/24/10 09:02 PM)
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#132652 - 04/24/10 09:52 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: Pika]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
I'm not sure any of us could have said it any better, Pika. Well done!

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#132653 - 04/24/10 10:15 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: Jimshaw]
Trailrunner Offline
member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 1835
Loc: Los Angeles
Carry whatever works for you, beginner or not.

Given equal function, any reasonable person will agree that lighter is better.

To condemn any type or category of gear as being unsuitable for everyone in any situation is an exercise in futility.
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If you only travel on sunny days you will never reach your destination.*

* May not apply at certain latitudes in Canada and elsewhere.

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#132655 - 04/24/10 11:16 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: Trailrunner]
DTape Offline
member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 666
Loc: Upstate NY
Y'all got it wrong. The only true way to experience the wild is the way we were designed to, nekkid and with only the stuff we make with sticks and rocks we find out in the woods. My FSO weight is 0.0oz, take that suckas! wink
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#132657 - 04/24/10 11:37 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: Jimshaw]
skippy Offline
member

Registered: 12/27/09
Posts: 129
Loc: CO
[quote=Jimshaw]The purpose of this post is to maybe demonstrate to beginners that ultralight gear is not better gear and to consider what you actually need in a piece of gear as being more important than what it weighs.

quote]

I can kind of see what Jim is saying in some respects. Let's say that X piece of gear needs to fulfill XYZ functions but is only tough enough to meet X and Y functions due to compromises made to cut weight. So if it only fulfills X and Y but leaves out Z then it doesn't meet your needs and might need replaced with a heavier more functional item.

I personally am really working on cutting weight but also making sure the item performs. However often what we think we need is actually only a want and therefore can be ditched for a lighter item. Or eliminated altogether.

On the flipside I also think that some light gear is more durable than more complicated heavy gear. There are just less zippers and parts to fail so you tend to up the reliability this way.

I hope I am making sense as I am very tired from work.

Have a good one,

Trevor

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#132658 - 04/24/10 11:47 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: skippy]
ChrisFol Offline
member

Registered: 07/23/09
Posts: 387
Loc: Denver, Colordo
Originally Posted By skippy
[quote=Jimshaw]The purpose of this post is to maybe demonstrate to beginners that ultralight gear is not better gear and to consider what you actually need in a piece of gear as being more important than what it weighs.

quote]

I can kind of see what Jim is saying in some respects. Let's say that X piece of gear needs to fulfill XYZ functions but is only tough enough to meet X and Y functions due to compromises made to cut weight. So if it only fulfills X and Y but leaves out Z then it doesn't meet your needs and might need replaced with a heavier more functional item.


I agree completely-- all gear, has its place. in winter, my fancy feast stove and SP 600 pot is staying at home and out comes the Whisperlite and 1.5L pot.

I guess what Jim missed is that if a piece of gear only meets X and Y, then you do not automatically need to switch to a heavier, all-in-one item to meet all three functions. Perhaps one piece of light gear does X and Y, and another piece of light gear does Z. Case in point hydration-filters.

Some filters do XYZ (bacteria, virus and protoza) but, they weigh in at a pound or more. So you instead pick up some ClO2 tablets (0.9oz) to kill X and Y. Then perhaps a frontier pro filter (2oz) to take care of Z. Total is 2.9oz verses 16+oz. Result=the same.


Edit:

Here is my gear-list:
https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AtPFXdtIdI3pdHdQRTlsdHdkUk1qNFJuRlRJLXNramc&hl=en

Please feel free to inform me of what I am missing, what comforts I am sacraficing or saftey that I am breeching.

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#132659 - 04/25/10 01:13 AM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: ChrisFol]
balzaccom Offline
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 2087
Loc: Napa, CA
Jim is a bit of a curmudgeon, and as someone who is sometimes accused of being one as well, I think I understand his post. And yes, there are pieces of equipment that I use that some others might think are too heavy or "out of date."

But frankly, I am tired of backpackers who always know what works best. Different equipment works better in some places than others, and in some seasons better than others. Some people don't mind an additional couple of pounds in their packs (my wife always takes two books!) and others like to go as light as possible.

And as long as they get out into the woods and enjoy the experience, the rest of us should probably shut up about it. And all of our advice should carry the warning, YMMV. Your mileage may vary!

Having said that, I do want to point out that the most recent edition of The Compleat Walker includes major sections and recommendations for lots of the new ultralight equipment. And Fletcher is a bit of an old curmudgeon too! (he had help on this section of the book.)


Edited by balzaccom (04/25/10 01:16 AM)
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balzaccom

check out our website and blog: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/home

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#132660 - 04/25/10 02:58 AM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: balzaccom]
ChrisFol Offline
member

Registered: 07/23/09
Posts: 387
Loc: Denver, Colordo
Originally Posted By balzaccom


But frankly, I am tired of backpackers who always know what works best. Different equipment works better in some places than others, and in some seasons better than others. Some people don't mind an additional couple of pounds in their packs (my wife always takes two books!) and others like to go as light as possible.

And as long as they get out into the woods and enjoy the experience, the rest of us should probably shut up about it. And all of our advice should carry the warning, YMMV. Your mileage may vary!


I agree, my wife is my main backpacking partner and she loves her comforts! Combine that with our 3 year year old lab retreiver and any weight savings is gone-- but you know what, it is worth everything extra pound that have to carry to have those who mean the most to me, experience what I love. I would rather carry that six pound, three person, double walled tent on my own back than not have my love ones enjoy the outdoors.

So am I am the first to admit that a tarp+bivy is not for everyone, but given the choice my SpinnTwinn is the pack over that 6 pounder.

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#132662 - 04/25/10 06:26 AM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: balzaccom]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
One of the important points that Fletcher makes, early in the book (and in Complete Walker III) is that ultralight is not somehow an isolated perversion of backpacking. Instead, he sees it as one end of a spectrum. He also said that it's not for everyone, or for every set of conditions. One thing that happens is that those on the bleeding edge demonstrate what is possible; manufacturers then make an effort to develop lighter gear as those leaders start to convince the rest of us that we don't need a 9 pound tent or 8 pound pack. They may never get a commercially-viable version of that half-pound pack, but the 2 pound pack they come up with is one I'll gladly carry. His comparison was Indy racing: there's a lot of technology developed there that make it into "regular" cars, but we probably shouldn't bash our Fords, Chevys, and Hondas down the highway at 200 mph.

You're exactly right: "what works best" always means "what works best for me," and those judgments will always contain both objective and subjective elements.

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#132664 - 04/25/10 08:53 AM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: Pika]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
You've got it exactly right. Experience, knowledge, and skill are more important than the gadgets you carry, if for no other reason - E, K, and S enable you to make reasonable, elegant gadget choices for any particular trip

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#132672 - 04/25/10 03:26 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: Jimshaw]
aimless Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/05/03
Posts: 3183
Loc: Portland, OR
I think the flaw in Jim's analysis is that it presumes that pieces of UL gear should be interchangeable with pieces of heavier, but more durable gear. In other words, he compares the two, discovers that lighter gear does not perform equally to heavier gear when placed in situations where heavier gear makes more sense, and concludes that this makes lighter gear inferior.

This all seems to have been triggered by Jim's new down parka purchase. He was expecting that the new parka would perform exactly like his old one, except be 10 oz. lighter. It didn't. It couldn't. The 850-fill down and the gossamer fabric were not enough to account for the 10 oz. difference in weight. He had to give up some features and some warmth, and he wanted those features and that warmth. His conclusion was that the new parka was overhyped and a poor value.

Undoubtedly, Jim, for you that new parka is a poor value. It doesn't fill your need. You should return it. Don't stew about it. Rectify the situation. Buy a parka that is warm enough and has the right features for you. But for someone else whose situation and needs are different, that parka might be perfection itself.

As others have said, and you too have often said, it's all about matching the gear to the mission. This gear is just a mismatch you hoped would turn out better than it did.

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#132676 - 04/25/10 05:22 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: aimless]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6760
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Aimless, I think you've said it all!

_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#132686 - 04/25/10 10:06 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: Jimshaw]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3973
Loc: Bend, Oregon
I carefully reread my original post, and there is nothing that I would change. Many people quoted me using half of my sentence in order to carefully skip the meaning and to demonstrate their own point.

I generally go out with a base weight of 16 to 18 pounds and Anybody who says I advocate 50 pound packs is full of it. smile I don't feel the need to repeat anything I said, I said it clearly the first time.

The purpose of the post was to tell beginners that if they think they have the right gear because it falls under some artificial weight concept _ like 12 pounds, that they might have been fooled by others into taking too light of gear. I waited quite a while to comment on this, I wanted everyone elses input and I respect your points of view.

I never return gear. The montebell sweater is nice, its just not a winter down coat. It is a layering piece and may be right for summer camping in the Cascades or for winter day skiing. However to say that it is better because it is lighter is patently ridiculous. The old coat has more detail, more insulation, more warmth and is more functional. It is a more valuable more functional and yes "better" piece of gear than the UL sweater, the ONLY thing the UL sweater has going for it is that its lighter.

If its going to rain, I take rain gear capable of keeping me dry, not a poncho. When its going to be cold, I take a warm sleeping bag. If I'm going to be melting a lot of snow, I take a heavy duty stove. To me there is absolutely no difference between carrying a 20 pound pack or a 25 pound pack. When I go into the mountains during a winter storm warning I carry a 4 season mountain tent. My 8 pound TFN mountain 24 IS a better tent that your tarp, although I generally take my Bibler, the TNF is the correct choice for some trips.

My original post was to explore, has the crase for less weight been worth the trade offs in the products that we buy, I say no, some say yes. Beginners need to be exposed to these ideas. Judging from the aount of unsolicited email I get from readers, supporting my ideas, I will continue to give them.
Jim have a nice day.


Edited by Jimshaw (04/25/10 10:10 PM)
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#132692 - 04/25/10 10:56 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: Jimshaw]
ChrisFol Offline
member

Registered: 07/23/09
Posts: 387
Loc: Denver, Colordo
Originally Posted By Jimshaw
Many people quoted me using half of my sentence in order to carefully skip the meaning and to demonstrate their own point.


Please, show me where your original meaning was taken out of context and I will gladly apologize and correct the post.

Originally Posted By Jimshaw

The purpose of the post was to tell beginners that if they think they have the right gear because it falls under some artificial weight concept _ like 12 pounds, that they might have been fooled by others into taking too light of gear.


Nobody argued any other way. Weight is secondary to purpose.

Originally Posted By Jimshaw

The montebell sweater is nice, its just not a winter down coat.

YMMV-- for many people it is a fine winter parka and FWIW-- all clothing should be purchase for layering purposes. So yes, this parka is meant to be layered.

Originally Posted By Jimshaw

If its going to rain, I take rain gear capable of keeping me dry, not a poncho. When its going to be cold, I take a warm sleeping bag. If I'm going to be melting a lot of snow, I take a heavy duty stove.


Obviously, but just like you heavy rain coat the poncho as its place in a pack also. Short spring/summer showers spring to mind. You take a bag that is relative to expected temps-- +20 is fine for three-seasons and is what everyone advocates. Warmth does not come at the expense of weight. My FF Swift is 18oz and is fine to 18degrees with the correct pad.

Stove was mentioned-- I take a whisperlite and 1.5L pot in the winter, but why would I take this during spring/winter/fall when a 0.3oz alky stove and 2.2oz pot is more than adaquate. Again, pick the right gear for the right occasion.

Originally Posted By Jimshaw

When I go into the mountains during a winter storm warning I carry a 4 season mountain tent. My 8 pound TFN mountain 24 IS a better tent that your tarp, although I generally take my Bibler, the TNF is the correct choice for some trips.

Really, are we flogging a dead horse here Jim? Comparing a four-season tent to a three-season tarp is like comparing apples and oranges.

A tent is a better tent that a tarp, but a tarp is a better tarp than a tent.

Why I am going to carry an 8lb winter tent in the fall or summer or spring, when a 10oz tarp is just fine? No-one is arguing against using a winter tent, in winter!

No one is saying not to use the correct tool for the job-- but you Jim, or obviously full of bias.

Jim, please take off those rose-tinted glasses.





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#132697 - 04/25/10 11:15 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: ChrisFol]
balzaccom Offline
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 2087
Loc: Napa, CA
I had to laugh a bit at Jim's last post, because my base weight is also about fifteen pounds. Of course, that includes a bearvault, a water filter, and some Crocs for camp. Take those out and I closer to ten or eleven pounds. Then again, without my UL tent and bag, I probably wouldn't want to carry the extra weight of those things sometimes. It all depends on how long the trip is, how long the hike is, and what the weather is like.

But I will also say that I can tell the different between my wife's pack and mine, just by picking them up. Hers is usually about 8-10 pounds lighter at the beginning of a trip..and there are days when I am envious!

Chris--I think you are angry about this in a way that says more about you than it says about Jim. Relax. We're all here to have fun.



Edited by balzaccom (04/25/10 11:16 PM)
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balzaccom

check out our website and blog: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/home

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#132698 - 04/25/10 11:34 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: balzaccom]
ChrisFol Offline
member

Registered: 07/23/09
Posts: 387
Loc: Denver, Colordo
Originally Posted By balzaccom

Chris--I think you are angry about this in a way that says more about you than it says about Jim. Relax. We're all here to have fun.


I am an attorney by profession so perhaps I am more argumentative than most; but angry, not in the slightest. This is just a forum and I am just trying to show the other side of Jim's love affair.

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#132702 - 04/26/10 02:55 AM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: ChrisFol]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
I thought we banned lawyers a long time ago, especially litigators, moderators excepted. lol
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#132703 - 04/26/10 07:16 AM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: TomD]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
Actually, we ought to get more lawyers to go hiking - keeps them from being in the office, doing mischief.

And, of course, I'm only kidding. (Got to watch how you talk to litigators; otherwise, you end up talking to them in places and ways that are no fun. I got to testify to a federal grand jury once, and placed that in the same category as military basic training: I'm glad I had the experience, but it's nothing I'd choose to do twice.)

Keep posting, Jim and Chris - you both bring up some excellent points. Just try not to let it get personal between you.

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#132707 - 04/26/10 10:00 AM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: Jimshaw]
phat Offline
Moderator

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada

I don't think you've "demonstrated" anything here Jim, and would question the placement of this in the beginners forum. Frankly, in my experience there is a lot of very good lighter weight gear out there that is very appropriate in many situations. It's also quite durable when you pick the right stuff, (and of course here's the key) use it correctly. But then again "use it correctly" is the trick with any piece of gear.

Outdoor gear stores are full of salespeople who will reiterate the same mantra to oversell gear, I call it the "what if you take it to Everest" scenario - selling beginners on the huge four season tent when they are going nowhere near a place where such a thing is needed, Mountaineering gear when they are going nowhere near anything like an alpine climb. etc. etc.

Is there a place for such gear, Absolutely! but it's not everywhere, or frankly, even most places. To me Lightweight backpacking is about realisticly understanding what your needs are for the situation you are putting yourself in, knowing what your comfort level is, and most importanly, thinking about everything you are taking so you are not taking *extra junk* but are taking *everything* important.

But calling ultralight gear inferior? I disagree, in most cases, *for the purpose it is designed for*. Would I camp on an exposed ridge with 100 km/h winds and snow load in a shires Tarptent? - no. But that sure doesn't mean I need to take and carry such a thing and carry it constantly even when I expect to be nowhere near such an area.
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Any fool can be uncomfortable...
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Winter list.
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#132708 - 04/26/10 10:00 AM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: Jimshaw]
finallyME Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
Originally Posted By Jimshaw
The purpose of this post is to maybe demonstrate to beginners that ultralight gear is not better gear and to consider what you actually need in a piece of gear as being more important than what it weighs.

....... You are much better off with a heavier set of gear that works and is durable and warm and dry, than by meeting any body else's weight considerations. crazy

................

The purpose of this post is to maybe demonstrate to beginners that ultralight gear is not better gear and to consider what you actually need in a piece of gear as being more important than what it weighs.


Hopefully I didn't quote you out of context. confused But, I am going to.......AGREE with you. But, you actually might not like me doing so. shocked

I have a lot of gear that I carry that the ultralight crowd wouldn't even consider, or think it too heavy. Some of it is that I am somewhat of a luddite.
According to ultralight mantra, you don't need a big knife, and can get away with a small razor blade. I always carry my multitool AND a fixed blade, usually a Mora. I also always have something to sharpen it with. My reasoning is that I want something that works and is durable. That is also why my knife is sharp, it needs to work. I also carry EMT shears. So, I generally have 3 items that can cut.
According to ultralight mantra, carry light weight water bottles. I always have 2 gatoraide bottles, and no nalgene, but I also like to take my stainless steel bottle as well. I can boil water in it, and it is very durable. Sometimes I take a small aluminum .7 liter pot, and sometimes I just take my SS bottle.
According to ultralight mantra, Down is the best insulator, and synthetic compressible batting is the second best for outerwear. And in the winter, you need a down parka and down bibs. Sorry, but I think I am better off picking clothes that are heavier that work and are warm and dry. I like to layer in fleece and wool. I always like to have a wool outer layer. The wool has good properties when it gets wet, and it doesn't melt when I get a spark from the fire on it. Ultralights don't like fleece because it is too heavy. My wool jackets are much heavier than fleece. In winter I wear a wool jacket that I made from a wool blanket. It blocks the wind and breathes wonderfully. In summer I have a lighter wool sweater (US airforce I bought at thrift store). Because I can't wear wool next to skin, I always have a 100 weight fleece that goes under. In winter, I wear a couple of fleeces under the wool.

Anyways, Jim, I find your rant humorous. All your gear is ultralight, and now you want to tell beginners that ultralight gear is not better. Your 4 season 8 lb tent is ultralight. Your down everything is ultralight. Your backpack is superultralight. Your 16 pound pack with durable gear is ultralight.
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I've taken a vow of poverty. To annoy me, send money.

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#132720 - 04/26/10 01:00 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: finallyME]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
Actually, I think this thread has done a good job of laying out the extreme ends of the spectrum. On the one hand, you have the old-school, that's-the-way-we-always-did-it crowd, that claims ultralight gear is trash because you can't, as Phat put it, take it to Everest. On the other hand, you have the bleeding-edge, light-is-always-right crowd. Listen to the first, and you're going to be lugging around a 50-pound pack that includes winter clothing, even though you're hiking in Tennessee in August - "because you never know when it might snow in the mountains." Listen to the second, and you and your 10-pound pack might be seriously up s--- creek without a jacket some November day in Canada.

Fortunately for the rest of us, we can lounge around on the middle ground. I probably fall in the lightweight crowd, but nowhere near the bleeding-edge folks. Since I know my own limitations, have decided to limit my hiking to long weekends on-trail (in general terms, Appalachian Trail or similar conditions of weather and terrain), and am willing to pull the plug on a trip based on weather forecasts, I can generally go toward some of the ultralight gear. However, I also temper that with some comfort items, and I find a certain amount of durability is needed to put my mind at ease. End result: I rarely carry more than 23 pounds, and never have any serious issues come up.

If I were to change my limitations, you can bet I'd also be changing my gear.

So, to any beginners who are still awake and reading this thread: don't blindly subscribe to any particular style, and don't be afraid to change. Decide what kind of hiking you want to do, then pick the lightest gear you need for that. Of course, the lightest gear that fits your needs may weigh more than the lightest gear that fits mine - and you know what? We're both right!

Happy hiking.


Edited by Glenn (04/26/10 01:02 PM)

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#132727 - 04/26/10 03:55 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: Jimshaw]
ringtail Offline
member

Registered: 08/22/02
Posts: 2296
Loc: Colorado Rockies
When I think of gear for a beginner I think of "if I could only own one shelter and might not use it often - what would it be?"

All purpose gear like all purpose autos is a compromise. Not a good idea to take the kids to school in an Indy car.

Most of my gear is specialized and matched to the trip. The gear that I use is not appropriate for someone that is only going to own one pack, or one tent or one sleeping bag.
_________________________
"In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not."
Yogi Berra

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#132739 - 04/26/10 07:45 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: ringtail]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3973
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Thanks everybody for taking the time to write. :)I guess I didn't properly craft my statement, but thats ok, we have heard from many people. I was really writing about light vs UL, and whether that 51 ounce tent is really better than a 52 ounce tent that has some other "better" feature left out of the 51 ounce tent just to make it the lightest. The UL crowd doesn't want to consider what they give up in function in the last few ounces.

I posed this as a set of questions in another group and without exception all 9 respondents said "take the lightest gear that has the function and durability required for the trip, regardless of the weight."
Anyway my wife retired from a law firm after 30 years and I am used to ignoring lawyers. No problems here...
Jim smile
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#132741 - 04/26/10 08:03 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: Jimshaw]
ChrisFol Offline
member

Registered: 07/23/09
Posts: 387
Loc: Denver, Colordo
Originally Posted By Jimshaw
The UL crowd doesn't want to consider what they give up in function in the last few ounces.

What are we giving up, that we cannot live without? People's mileage may vary of course.

Originally Posted By Jimshaw

I am used to ignoring lawyers. No problems here...
Jim smile


Is this your way of flirting with me Jim.

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#132743 - 04/26/10 08:06 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: ChrisFol]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3973
Loc: Bend, Oregon
"Is this your way of flirting with me Jim."

Sure Chris, I mean you were the one who picked up the ball and said all of the things that proved my point, so thanks.
Jim
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#132753 - 04/26/10 10:13 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: Glenn]
hikerduane Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/03
Posts: 2124
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
And sometimes you need to go either way, to see what you are comfortable with. Hopefully you haven't spent a whole lot of money finding what works, but by then, gained a lot of experience.

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#132761 - 04/27/10 12:17 AM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: hikerduane]
Cstolworthy Offline
member

Registered: 12/30/07
Posts: 74
Loc: American Fork, Utah
Keep in mind that while i have quite a bit of hiking / camping / outdoor experience, I don't have a lot of experience with finding gear(I inherited a lot of mine).

I have found that when you are on the bleeding edge of anything you are usually paying a premium. You are also usually paying to do the "beta" testing of that product.
You are the one that gets to find, and live with, the flaws that weren't caught in test conditions.

Typically I will buy what I say is "right behind the curve". Products that have proven usability and are finally out of that "premium, shiny new" red zone on cost.

Yea you can buy the latest greatest stuff, but if you buy something 6 months old it typically will work nearly as well at much less the cost.

I assume that this probably doesn't apply nearly as well to backpacking gear as it does to computers, but I have found that the principal more or less stays true.
_________________________
A tent is a bad place for an argument, because when you are angry you walk out and slam the flap. How are you supposed to express your anger in this situation? Zip it up really quick? ~Mitch Hedberg

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#132777 - 04/27/10 11:54 AM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: Jimshaw]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Originally Posted By JimShaw
I was really writing about light vs UL,


That's the way I took it. And I completely agree with your conclusions too.

I think "Gear Envy" is akin to what Jim was touching on here too. There is nothing wrong with buying the toys that are made for your hobby, but we don't need to get too caught up in thinking we must have the latest, lightest, most expensive, gear.

I do have some fairly lightweight tents. The Eureka Solitaire is the lightest I have, and yes, it's a big trade off to use it instead of my exponent inyo2.

But I have less than $130 in both those tents together and I bought them new. Like all hobbies, it's fair to say that some of the expensive gear we are offered is really nothing more than jewelry.

That's fine too, but one should be aware of that when they're buying it.

Having worked on autos for many years, I think the "Indy Car" analogy is a good one. Indy Cars are designed and built to go 500 miles and not a mile more than that.

Some ultralight gear is built with the same kind of goals in mind. Weight is more important than long term durability.
So durability is engineered to last only long enough to complete the one trek you are making. In some cases that's a good and even necessary choice.

But I think that for most all of us here, especially beginners, it's neither.

Bill
_________________________
--

"You want to go where?"



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#132786 - 04/27/10 02:08 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: billstephenson]
idahosteve Offline
member

Registered: 11/05/09
Posts: 62
Loc: Idaho
This was great fun reading all these posts. As a very expereinced and gear savvy person I have gone thru a late in season mind/body/gear/ change of heart. After 35 years of climbing mountains all over the place, I gave up that pursuit, and have begun enjoying the walk instead of the climb. Its been fun to try new gear, without the emphasis on having something that my life depends on in extreme conditions. I don't need an additional 30lbs of climbing gear, so every step of the way gets rethunk! I'm finding that lots and lots of UL gear is very well designed, very simple, and very affordable. I am also pleased to see that its very durable as long as its treated with the intent it was intended for. The bottom line is that still the most important piece of gear we use is the one between our ears. Matching the tool to the job will always reap the biggest rewards. None of us who have been down the trail for a few years have the same kit we "started" with. To provide beginners with some sage advice that they will is IMO not very helpful. Better to tell them to go try everything in sight, borrow from all their friends, buy stuff on sale, on ebay, craigslist, and from thrift stores. Then a season or two from now, you will have a box full of junk you laugh at and tell stories about, and a pack full of stuff you enjoy using.... Just remember, get out on the trail and try it out all the time! Gear testing is such a great excuse for a trip!
_________________________
I dare you to move, like today never happened...
-Switchfoot-

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#132791 - 04/27/10 03:28 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: idahosteve]
ringtail Offline
member

Registered: 08/22/02
Posts: 2296
Loc: Colorado Rockies
Well said.
_________________________
"In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not."
Yogi Berra

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#132793 - 04/27/10 05:19 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: idahosteve]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2865
Loc: California
Idahosteve just about said my thoughts. I was dirt poor when I started climbing - my gear was actually home-made by my Mom! I went out with experienced people who mentored me - those wonderful people were my best "equipment" I had. After a period of not doing much because I was raising kids, I started in again - and guess what? I was again dirt poor (this time because I was paying some college expenses for a child). I bought cheap heavy but good gear and when the kids graduated, I spent the equivelent on upgrading to new light equipment. Some of my old heavy stuff I really like and still use - such as the Kelty external frame pack; other stuff was sent to the "car camping" box.

Since this is for beginners, nobody has mentioned the different requirements for different regions. Watch out for advise by those who have not had experience in the environment that you plan on being in.

One thing I have found, that since the 1960's, there now is a LOT more choice of gear, but that is not always great. You have to be really crafty to find the good quality stuff - so much hype and junk out there now. For example, be careful of weights cited on websites - some are flat-out wrong! My husband just bought a wading shoes - 12 oz they say - well that turned out to be 12 oz for each shoe! Another item for the car camping box.

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#132796 - 04/27/10 06:27 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: wandering_daisy]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6760
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
I've seen a lot of overstated weights, too! For some strange reason, rarely understated!

Unfortunately too many of the beginners here don't put anything on their profiles, so it's really hard to give them more than very generic advice. As you and I well know, backpacking in Wyoming's Wind Rivers is a lot different than backpacking in the southern California desert! Although I hear it's still snowing down there, too! Anyway, I'm not the first to complain about this. I'm just wondering if there's any way something could be added to the registration page to urge people to be a bit more specific in their profiles if they want to be helped!
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#132807 - 04/27/10 08:39 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: finallyME]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3973
Loc: Bend, Oregon
FianllyME said
"Anyways, Jim, I find your rant humorous. All your gear is ultralight, and now you want to tell beginners that ultralight gear is not better. Your 4 season 8 lb tent is ultralight. Your down everything is ultralight. Your backpack is superultralight. Your 16 pound pack with durable gear is ultralight. "

You mean my 4 season 4 pound 5 ounce tent is UL, but its also a 20 year old design made of goretex, and none of the features were spared to make it that light. My spectra backpack isn't UL, it weighs between 29 and 60 ounces depending on which modular features are in. My jackets are mostly goretex, and have pit zips. My down airmattress (which I just got back from Warmlight) is 20 years old and weighs 27 ounces, my WM down bags have goretex shells and are heavy compared to modern WM bags. My favorite stove is a Coleman Xponent. Even my Ti pots and pans are 20 years old - the originals, not as light as modern UL. My alcohol stove even weighs 1 oz not .5 oz. No the only piece of what I would call UL gear is the new Montebell coat and at 14 ounces its also not UL.

However my 16 pound base weight is almost UL even though the individual pieces of gear are not. What does this say? It says that even people carrying all UL gear are still carrying too many items they don't really need. Heck I wear fleece jackets and fleece pants and my down pants weigh 24 oz.
Jim
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#132819 - 04/27/10 11:15 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: Jimshaw]
ChrisFol Offline
member

Registered: 07/23/09
Posts: 387
Loc: Denver, Colordo
Originally Posted By Jimshaw

What does this say? It says that even people carrying all UL gear are still carrying too many items they don't really need.
Jim


No, it just means that you are carrying too [heavy] many items that you don't really need.

I carry all UL gear and have a base weight of under 9lbs, but I digress. You obviously know all and I concede to your bias.

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#133042 - 04/30/10 10:53 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: ChrisFol]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3973
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Chris
when you say you have a base weight of 9 pounds, it doesn't mean anything without the other information about where you take that pack and what you use it for. Obviously you are very passionate about your collection of light gear.

My basic statement about the jacket I bought is that it is under stuffed, that is, it could be a much warmer jacket had they put an extra 2 ounces of down in it, but they did not, probably to make it lighter and therefore "more competitive". So why does making a jacket less warm make it more competitive? Because of people like you.

I don't see where looking at my brand new jacket and thinking that it looks like a jacket that was washed 100 times in Tide, and destroyed the down (an objective observation) is such a threat to you. It would seem that your own objectivity is highly biased.
Jim
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#133047 - 04/30/10 11:20 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: Jimshaw]
taM Offline
member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 112
Loc: Nashville, TN
Jim,

If you're so honked off about this jacket, why not just send it back, rather than patronizing us all by mentioning it, or something related to this jacket experience, in every thread in which you post?

Seems as if you're really angry that the jacket you bought is not your old jacket, despite the fact that it was never advertised to be an equivalent or even comparable piece of gear. If you're not happy with it, send it back and get a refund, and stop complaining, I can't be the only person tired of hearing you rant about it...
_________________________
Light, Cheap, Durable...
pick two

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#133072 - 05/01/10 01:39 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: taM]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Originally Posted By taM
If you're so honked off about this jacket, why not just send it back, rather than patronizing us all by mentioning it, or something related to this jacket experience, in every thread in which you post?

...stop complaining, I can't be the only person tired of hearing you rant about it...


Hmmm...

Take a look around, this is a "Discussion forum" about backpacking. If you'd rather not read messages about and discuss a particular topic, then don't. Just don't click on it or scroll on by it.

But please understand, I look forward to posts by Jim and I've learned a lot from them over the few years I've been here

And to be honest it seems a bit presumptuous for a newbie here to discourage discussion, especially when it's been on topic, and especially by a longtime member as highly regarded here as Jim Shaw.

Again, the whole point of a "Discussion Forum" is to discuss stuff. I'll also point out that there are "Moderators" working this forum who will step in when they feel it's necessary to moderate a topic or discussion, and guidelines for posting as well. I respectfully request you let the moderators do their job.

And I'll point out that you can "Ignore" posts by any user by clicking on their username and clicking on the "Ignore this user" link on their profile page. Lots of "Newbies" and even "Ol`timers" here start with me wink

Bill
_________________________
--

"You want to go where?"



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#133077 - 05/01/10 02:45 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: billstephenson]
taM Offline
member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 112
Loc: Nashville, TN
Originally Posted By billstephenson
Originally Posted By taM
If you're so honked off about this jacket, why not just send it back, rather than patronizing us all by mentioning it, or something related to this jacket experience, in every thread in which you post?

...stop complaining, I can't be the only person tired of hearing you rant about it...


Hmmm...

Take a look around, this is a "Discussion forum" about backpacking. If you'd rather not read messages about and discuss a particular topic, then don't. Just don't click on it or scroll on by it.

But please understand, I look forward to posts by Jim and I've learned a lot from them over the few years I've been here

And to be honest it seems a bit presumptuous for a newbie here to discourage discussion, especially when it's been on topic, and especially by a longtime member as highly regarded here as Jim Shaw.

Again, the whole point of a "Discussion Forum" is to discuss stuff. I'll also point out that there are "Moderators" working this forum who will step in when they feel it's necessary to moderate a topic or discussion, and guidelines for posting as well. I respectfully request you let the moderators do their job.

And I'll point out that you can "Ignore" posts by any user by clicking on their username and clicking on the "Ignore this user" link on their profile page. Lots of "Newbies" and even "Ol`timers" here start with me wink

Bill


It's exactly for some of the reasons you've mentioned that I said something. In the short time I've been around this board, I've come to expect generally insightful thoughts from Jim, based upon his wide base of experience over the years. In the time since his jacket purchase however, most of his posts are soured by this particular experience, rather than his typical insightful advice. Figured it wouldn't hurt to suggest learning from the experience and moving on.
_________________________
Light, Cheap, Durable...
pick two

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#133088 - 05/01/10 08:38 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: taM]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3973
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Peace brothers. smile We come here for fun, entertainment and general discussion. smile TAM I did decide to return the jacket, but the place was closed on Saturday. shocked I have since learned that the jacket I want cost $370 and weighs 25 ounces, the same as the 30 year old jacket I wish to replace, so instead I'm going to get a new zipper in the old jacket. goodjob

For the sake of discussion I like to challenge concepts, but not at the cost of offending peoples basic belief system. Personally I think "consumerism" on all levels drives products and the reason my new "alpine light" jacket was anemic is because that's what the market wants. Enough said.
Jim
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#133091 - 05/01/10 09:09 PM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: Jimshaw]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6760
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Good for you, Jim! I'm glad you did decide to return it--no point in keeping it when it's not what you were looking for! I have a lot of respect for you even where we disagree, and I think that some of the newer people here may have misunderstood your particular brand of humor. lol

I don't consider the Montbell jacket useless (for me, not for you). It depends on what you want it for! It is definitely a layering piece and definitely not a stand-alone jacket. I have the synthetic version (UL Thermawrap) and really like it, but it does need help from other layers when it gets cold! I like it that way and prefer several thinner layers to one thicker one, but that's me! It's obviously not what you wanted and I'm sure your money can be used for better things!



Edited by OregonMouse (05/01/10 09:13 PM)
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#133229 - 05/05/10 03:11 AM Re: The usefulness of UL gear. [Re: aimless]
Bushman Offline
member

Registered: 07/01/09
Posts: 122
Loc: California
Originally Posted By aimless
I think the flaw in Jim's analysis is that it presumes that pieces of UL gear should be interchangeable with pieces of heavier, but more durable gear. In other words, he compares the two, discovers that lighter gear does not perform equally to heavier gear when placed in situations where heavier gear makes more sense, and concludes that this makes lighter gear inferior.

This all seems to have been triggered by Jim's new down parka purchase. He was expecting that the new parka would perform exactly like his old one, except be 10 oz. lighter. It didn't. It couldn't. The 850-fill down and the gossamer fabric were not enough to account for the 10 oz. difference in weight. He had to give up some features and some warmth, and he wanted those features and that warmth. His conclusion was that the new parka was overhyped and a poor value.

Undoubtedly, Jim, for you that new parka is a poor value. It doesn't fill your need. You should return it. Don't stew about it. Rectify the situation. Buy a parka that is warm enough and has the right features for you. But for someone else whose situation and needs are different, that parka might be perfection itself.

As others have said, and you too have often said, it's all about matching the gear to the mission. This gear is just a mismatch you hoped would turn out better than it did.


this is great thanks for essentially ending this thread at this post-no need to read the rest of this lame thread....

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