My Super UltraLight Gear List

“SUL” Backpacking?
“SUL” stands for Super UltraLight weight backpacking.
“SUL” is defined as a “BPW” (Base Pack Weight) less than 5 lbs.
“BPW” is defined as everything in a backpack that is not consumed.
…So…
“SUL” means everything in your pack that isn’t eaten or used weighs less than 5 lbs.

Up to this point I have been everything from a “Heavy Hauler” down to an UltraLight weight backpacker. However, over the last few months I have been shaving my gear list down closer to the 5 pound (or “SUL”) mark. This is due to the countless hours of “internet research” on a lot of gear, detailed combing over my current gear lists and of course using my different gear set-ups while on the trail. However, I also owe much thanks to John Abela for an enormous amount of discussion and insight, to my buddy Gizmo Joe for actually hiking with me and sharing the same backpacking thoughts and style (and actually being somewhat of an “accountability” partner) as well as to the many folks over on all the different backpacking forums and YouTube channels that I frequent. Thanks to this combined effort, I am now about to embark on my first, true “SUL” backpacking trip…

When it comes to an “SUL” base pack weight, I can remember looking at other people’s gear list and thinking “How in the world?!” But then with enough “dedication” I can finally say that I am one of those people. And at this point, my take on the whole “SUL” mindset is that it is not as bad as I thought it would be…at least not yet… (although, based on my use/knowledge with the gear in my list, I do not feel like this will change.)

Much of my progress to arrive at an “SUL” base pack weight was in simply leaving items out/behind. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t cut out my entire FAK (First-Aid Kit) in order to get my pack weight lower, but I did decide to only carry as many band-aids as I may need rather than the whole box! And I maintained this mind-set when it came to all of the items that go inside my pack. I repackaged some items such as my Dr. B’s, bleach and Germ-X. I counted out the number of each pill that I would take and only packed that many. And I found that I didn’t need to carry the instructions on how to use my repair kit for my air pad… I just read the instructions and familiarized myself with how to use it… Let’s not forget, the mind is the most important piece of gear that you will bring along on any hike…

Another method I used to get my pack weight in the “SUL” range is by using multiuse items. This means using items that serve more than one purpose. The biggest example of this is my GoLite Poncho Tarp, although this is not the only example. Even something as simple as a 1 gallon Ziploc bag has many uses (water”proof” stuff sack, back-up pillow, laundry bag and sink… to name a few different uses), yet all of these uses weigh in as one, very light weight item!

And of course, I also replaced some of my heavier gear with lighter weight gear that served the same purpose (if not more than one purpose). I will admit, there is not much getting around this one. Some items, such as a backpack will need to be lightweight (at least to a point). Many of the conventional, mainstream backpacks can weigh as much as my entire base pack weight (or more). So, finding the right items will involve seeking out these specialty items that fill the lightweight niche. (Or if you are crafty enough, you can make your own.) However, this method usually does involve spending some more money, whereas the first 2 methods did not, so much… Although, my disposable spoon was free from work, and my “cup” was less than $2 for 3 at a local retail store, so even though it may cost some extra money, that doesn’t mean that it has to be expensive…

However, I feel like a huge component of an “SUL” gear list is the fact that when putting everything together, it should be thought of as a system, rather than just a piece of gear, which is pretty much a conglomeration of all the “methods” I mentioned above. Just as a puzzle, everything inside the backpack (and even including the backpack) should have its own place, but also it should all fit together to form the “final picture.” I feel like by making my entire system work together, I have managed a truly great kit…

Anyway, moving on…

I feel like I should add, that as a gear obsessed backpacker, this should come as no surprise that I have (finally) gotten my weight down to this point. However, I will admit that it is more than just  my gear obsession that has given me a reason and want to go so lightweight…

A buddy of mine (Gizmo Joe) and I are about to embark on an epic journey (for us at least). We are planning to hike the 74+ miles of the Appalachian Trail (AT) that runs through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park…in less than 3 days! Our first day will be 23 miles…a big start to a hike for sure…but it only gets bigger from here… Our second day will be a whopping 28.4 miles, and this does not count the extra distance that we have to hike off the AT to get to our shelter for the night (nor any other side trails we may have to take for any other reasons). Then the third day eases off just a bit, back down to another 23 mile day…

The Appalachian Trail is the yellow line cutting though the Great Smoky Mountains NP

So, considering these big mileage days (for us anyway) we were looking to get our pack weight down as light as we possibly could, of course while still maintaining all the items we need to be safe while on the trail, as well as comfortable once we make it to camp! It only makes sense to us that, the lighter we can get our packs, the easier it will be to make it up and over all of those mountains in such a short period of time…

Our plans are simple (they can be because our packs are also simple). We plan to be up and hiking by 5 am each morning. This will allow us some time to be a few miles down the trail before the sun even comes up, however, it will also allow us some time to get some “night” hiking done (which I am looking forward to). However, it also just so happens that this time of the year has the longest days… With the sun coming up early and setting late, this will allow us plenty of daylight hours, which should allow us plenty of time to make it from point “A” to point “B” (or at least relatively close).

Of course too, this time of the year will be the hottest time of the year, which means we can get away with even less gear than we would normally need should the weather be a bit colder. So, this presents the perfect opportunity to go with an “SUL” weight backpack…

So, when working on my gear list, I have split up my “gear” into 4 different categories:

1. Worn Items:

These are all of the items that I of course wear. This consists of my shoes, socks, underwear, pants, shirt and visor. As well, I also count in my watch, survival bracelet and even my knee straps that I wear with hopes of keeping my ITBS in check…

Worn Items

2. Carried Items:

This consists of all the items that I carry, whether it be in my hands or in my pants pockets. This consists of my trekking poles, wallet, towel, map, phone and a few of my “10 Essential” items (knife, light, fire steel, whistle and compass).

Carried Items

3. Consumables:

This is of course everything that I plan to consume while on the trip. This category is actually broken down into 4 smaller categories:

  1. Food: This represents all of the food that I will carry with me on a given trip. For this trip I am planning a “cold” breakfast, 6 snacks which I plan to consume about every 2 hours throughout the day and a warm dinner, complete with a cup of hot cocoa and a desert. (I will be making a more detailed video/write-up on this in a few days.) 
  2. Water: This represents the approximate amount of water that I plan to carry at a time. For this trip, I have decided to go with two 20 oz Gatorade bottles; one on each shoulder strap. I typically carry a single 32 oz Gatorade bottle, but due to this “SUL” weight, a single 32 oz bottle on one shoulder strap is very noticeable, so I have decided to balance it out with two 20 oz bottles on each side. Other than this, I will be carrying a 2L Sawyer soft bladder which I do not plan to carry filled, but do have the option to do so if need be. 
  3. Fuel: This represents the amount of fuel for my chosen stove system. For this trip I have decided to go with Esbit, or a solid fuel. I feel like this fuel is easy and safe to use, as well as lightweight and hot. I am carrying 4 Esbit tablets on this trip, of which I am allocating 1 tab per dinner. With the cooking system I am carrying on this trip, I can bring 2.5 cups of water to a boil with a single Esbit tablet. (And possibly more.) This will allow me at least 1 cup of water for my cocoa, and 1 – 1.5 cups of water to rehydrate my meals.
  4. Miscellaneous Consumables: This represents any other item in my pack that gets consumed, but that is not included in one of the other sub-categories (food, water & fuel). This is a new one on me, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to add it in, and this also seems to be a bit different on everyone’s gear list, so it was harder to pin this one down. Anyway, I decided to tackle it on this list, and have included my TP, Dipenhydramine tablets, Pepto-Bismol tablets, Ibuprofen tablets, and Protonix tablets in this category. 

4. (Base) Packed Weight:

This of course represents everything in my pack that does not fall into one of the above mentioned categories. This represents the basic gear that will go into my pack for any overnight hike, whether I am out for a single overnight hike, or a 10 day (or more) hike. These items are the same no matter how many days I am out, considering these days are all within the same hiking season.

Base Pack Weight (BPW) Gear

The BPW is also the weight that those of us that are in the lightweight crowd like to throw around. This is the weight that defines us and places us into a particular “weight-class.”

My base pack weight for this trip is currently at the 3.99 pound mark! As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, a “SUL” backpacking weight falls under 5 pounds, which this weight clearly is…  🙂

So, rounding it out, here are the figured weights for each category for this planned hiking trip:

  • Worn Items: 3.44 lbs (55.10 oz)
  • Carried Items: 1.12 lbs (17.95 oz)
  • Consumables:
  •  ~Fuel: 0.13 lbs (2 oz)
  •  ~Water: 2.5 lbs (40 oz)
  •  ~Food: 4.96 lbs (79.3 oz)
  •  ~Misc. Consumables: 0.27 lbs (4.35 oz)
  • Base Packed Weight: 3.99 lbs (63.77 oz)

For some combined figures:

  • BPW: 3.99 lbs (63.77 oz)
  • Total Consumables Weight: 7.58 lbs (121.3 oz)
  • Total Pack Weight: 11.57 lbs (185.07 oz)
  • Skin-Out Weight: 16.13 lbs (258.12 oz)

So, at this point I am at a sub 4 pound base weight, if even only by a hair (but then again, at these weights, even the hairs count). However, I am still a full pound under the 5 pound “SUL” cut-off mark, so I am pretty happy, heck, I am stoked with the set-up that I have put together. I will admit that this set-up will not work for every situation, but for this one in particular, I believe it will work out very well. But then again, only use will tell…and I plan to find out very soon… 🙂

And I have got to say that another nice perk of having such a light base weight that I am looking forward to, is that the total pack weight will be very close to the weight that will be in the pack on the last day of the hike. (Remember, the consumables will have been consumed.) This means that on the last day of my hike, my total pack weight will start out around 7 – 8 pounds (counting food and water for that day) and will finish up around 4 – 6 pounds (depending on water). I gotta say, I am looking forward to this…  🙂

As usual, I have decided to do some video to show my particular gear in this “SUL” gear list. I will admit though that it took me more time than I had planned, so I had to make it into a 2 part video series…

As well, if you are interested in checking out my full gear list for this hike, spread out all nice and neat on a Google Doc spreadsheet, you can do so by clicking on the link below. Also within this same gear list, I have a second sheet labeled “Food Planner” which details all of my food that I plan to pack for this hike. Simply click on the tab in the bottom left hand corner of the spreadsheet to open the Food Planner sheet.

GSMNP Thru Hike SUL  Gear List

So, I am looking forward to marking 2 new milestones on this hike. One, my “SUL” pack weight and two, completing 3 of the biggest hiking days I have hiked so far. I can even go as far as saying a third milestone will be “thru-hiking” the Appalachian Trail that runs through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Regardless, as I said at the beginning of this post, it is going to be an “Epic Hike” for me…

Thanks for reading, and watching the videos.

~Stick~

About Stick

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
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47 Responses to My Super UltraLight Gear List

  1. Matt says:

    You got to love it to do it! I started humping 25 lbs all over the alps last year and by the time I was done was down to 15 lbs. Now after cutting weight Im down to about 10 lbs fully loaded its fun and can be done “cheaper” with a little luck @ REI garage sales and gotta find the deals on ebay and unfortunately in China (Sleeping bag). everything you have should have another purpose even as example the toothbrush tent stake (might start selling them) or the tarp/rain parka etc…

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  2. Mike Carmody says:

    I have not checked all your videos to see if you have done any trips with a hammock set up. But, if so, what is your base weight… and, what is your hammock setup weight individually?

    Love the simplicity, yet professional quality of your vids. Keep up the good work.

    Mike Carmody

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    • Stick says:

      Mike,

      Yes, I have done several hammock trips, some have been ok while others, not so much. I have decided that I am not a fan of hammock camping though, and if I were, the only hammock I would consider is the BoneFire Gear Hammocks… A bit pricey on the front end, but it’s high quality materials, top notch construction, and Jeremy is a great guy. (And not really pricey when one considers all that his hammocks consist of…) And after going with one of his hammocks, I know I wouldn’t want any other, so it would actually cheaper in the long run. At this point, I am fine throwing a lightweight hammock in my pack on warmer trips to throw up real fast for breaks or chilling at camp, but unless it’s the Bonefire, no-nonsense set-up, not for sleeping in.

      Anyway, one of my last posts here on my blog discusses my most recent hammock trip… It hits on some of the questions you were asking.

      Hope this helps!

      ~Stick~

      Like

    • Mike Carmody says:

      Yep, helps a ton. Thanks for the reply. BTW, I’ve created a new Facebook group for ultralight backpacking. It would be cool if you would join up… if you have a Facebook page. Thanks in advance.

      Mike (Dynomike)

      https://m.facebook.com/groups/1542622719384868?ref=bookmarks

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  3. Mark Smith says:

    Hi – GREAT post! Interested in the compass/therm on your lanyard – what make and how is the quality? Cheers

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    • Stick says:

      It is ok… the thermometer was kind of hard to read, and I never actually used the compass… I don’t even know where that is anymore… I use the thermometer on my watch, and carry a button compass in my pack (which I have never used either…)

      ~Stick~

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    • Mark Smith says:

      Ah…! I have never used a compass in all the times I have been in the wild – lots – I just use a map… I just feel I SHOULD have 1… )

      Like

  4. Allan says:

    G’day mate.
    Thanks for taking the trouble to document your quest. I’ve used your gear lists as the basis for my recent gear purchases (ZPacks, LiteTrail, EnLightened, Suluk, Gossamer Gear, Granite Gear, GoLite, Sawyer). I’ve gone from not bothering to bushwalk at all to loving it, now that I don’t have to heft a hulking pack with 23kg (51 pounds) onto my back.

    The only thing I can’t understand is the food you take with you. Most of the brands are unfamiliar here (Oz), but none of the items on your food list actually seem to be food. I guess you are only looking to provide calories to keep you going, but if I tried to walk on such a high sugar/ high fat diet I would be curled up on the side of the trail with a gut ache and the screaming trots. I’ve got into food drying and vacuum packing and, using recipes from The Backpacking Chef and Cinny Green (Backpackers’ Ultra Food), I can get the calories; proper, interesting, nutritious meals and not add too much weight to my pack.

    Maybe the menus like the one for give for the GSMNP Thru Hike are just for special events, but I hope you have better meals if you are doing a longer trek.

    Anyway, keep up the good work and hope to see you on the trail sometime soon.

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  5. Jerry W says:

    ITBS: Have you ever done illio tibial band stretches before you hike? They really have helped me.

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    • Stick says:

      Jerry,

      I have done some stretches on occasion while hiking. I have also used my roller before hikes and that seems to help too…. my thing with ITB is that it is so hard to predict… at least in my experience…

      ~Stick~

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  6. John Mark says:

    What do you think of this gear list? Zpacks zero. Zpacks hexamid pocket. Nunatak arc edge. Aqua mira. Ridgerest pad.

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    • Stick says:

      John,

      I am thinking that you will need more gear than that… 🙂

      I will say that if you go with the Pocket tarp, take plenty of time with it at home to get a feel for it. Not sure how much experience you have with cuben, but there aren’t too many hikers out there that will use 0.34 cuben. It is a fragile material and it does help to have previous experience with cuben to begin with. I am comfortable using 0.51 cuben, and think that I would be ok using 0.34, but I haven’t attempted it yet…

      Anyway, good luck with the rest of the gear list… 🙂

      ~Stick~

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  7. Craig Gulley says:

    I have done this particular section hike twice, once south to north and then again a year later north to south. you will enjoy it, but there are some hard ups and downs. I hate Silers Bald climb

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Craig,

      We attempted the hike last month. The first day went great, but Joe was pretty sick by the time we got up a little after 4 am on our second morning. He had some diarrhea the day before and was throwing up on day 2. I wasn’t sure he was going to make it the 10 miles to Clingman’s but he pulled through enough to get there. We bailed there.

      The next morning I went back and hiked from Clingmans to Newfound Gap.

      Anyway, we would like to try it again. We feel like it is doable, as long as we don’t get sick…

      ~Stick~

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  8. Jeff Wile says:

    Stick,
    I am returning to backpacking after a 35 year absence and your blog has been a tremendous help ! when i began this year i just went out and bought what i remember having before, i.e. the largest pack i could find, a nice tent…..and it ended up being over 30 pounds and it was wayyy too much for me, i stalled out and bonked on the first trail.
    so i started looking around the internet and have found a lot of resources to help me get “educated”, one of which is your site.
    i really appreciate all the time and effort you put into your blog. you are truthful and open about successes and not-successes:> and it’s like i’m listening to a “real” person when i read your blog. i really do need the information(brand names of equipment, sizes, pictures…).that you give out, the salesmen at the retail stores sure ain’t going to give out this kind of advice.
    I apologize for the ones that take you “to task”, shaking their collective fingers at you….for what they don’t agree with,….even if they are “experts” in their eyes. i’ve found these kinds of people on every discussion site on the internet and have just learned to ignore them(and they’ll go away and bug someone else:>)
    so thanks again for your help. i keep learning and changing what i can and my backpacking experience has gotten to be a lark, with the lighter equipment, rather than a heavy-laden hardship.
    i glide down the trails with a light pack….. and look at the ones with the huge, heavy packs and count myself fortunate to have begun to learn a “better way”.
    In my state, Wisconsin, we presently have two people thru-hiking the Ice Age Trail, one is Nimblewill Nomad, with a feather for a pack and the other is carrying 40+ pounds, and it’s obvious as to which one is enjoying himself.
    Willie

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Jeff,

      Welcome back after 35 years! And I am sure that some of the gear has changed within that time! 🙂

      Thanks for the kind words and I am glad that my blog could be of some help to you to get you back out on the trail again. And I like your “real” person analysis. This is what I am shooting for. I hate it when I really want to see something before purchasing, but all that I can find is stock photos from the retails sites. I like to see others use and handle items, even if it is right out of the box as it gives me more of a feel for that item and I can take more away from this sort of experience. As well, I agree about getting specifics such as particular name, brand and sizes because let’s face it, they are ALL different.

      As far as some of the others are concerned, no worries. I learned a while back that there will simply be some that do not agree with everything I post for the world to see, and that is just part of it.

      Anyway, good luck with building up your kit, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask away!

      Thanks again,

      ~Stick~

      Like

  9. Dale says:

    Hi Stick
    I’ve followed your blog for a while now, and like the previous commenter found our gear choices crossing over from time to time. Congratulations on reaching SUL, and hitting the milestone in a considered and logical fashion.

    I’m not at SUL stage, but your blog is a fantastic resource for getting there. So thanks for documenting your journey so well for the rest of us.

    I must say that I’m disappointed to read some of the UL ‘gurus’ comments. Some of the points were valid, but could have done without the condescending tone.

    Keep up the great work and I look forward to reading your next adventures.

    Cheers

    Dale
    Sydney, Australia.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Dale,

      Thanks so much for the kind words, as well as for following my blog. I really appreciate the support.

      As far as SUL, that was my first trip, and I know that there will be others, but as far as I am concerned, each trip is it’s own trip, and I will probably pack differently each time. I am planning a trip next weekend to do NOC to Fontana and I will not be going SUL on it. This trip is just different, this is a take it slow and relax kind of trip, so I am packing to represent that. At this point, I figure that most (if not all) of my SUL trips will be reserved for when I want to cover miles and will be either solo, or with a very small group.

      However, I would like to add that everything in my pack performed as expected and despite having to pull of early, I still look at the trip as a success. I put a lot of thought and planning into the hike and the gear that I carried, and that paid off. The reason we got off the trail had nothing to do with our gear, but rather just one of those things that happens sometimes. So, that list will definitely be one of my go-to list for any other SUL trips that I may decide to go on.

      Anyway…

      Thanks again for following and for commenting!

      Happy trails.

      ~Stick~

      Like

  10. Chris says:

    Reading the opinions of other UL folks on your blog is interesting. It seems to me that you brought what you needed for a short hike in a well-populated area, and planned accordingly. I’m not exactly sure why that gets some folks up in arms. Anyway, thanks for your gear list. I’m always trying to cut down mine, and I’d never heard of the ZeroPack or the Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter (which sounds perfect for the Sierras, where you usually don’t have to filter anyway). Unfortunately that lightweight 50 degree quilt won’t work for me in the high country, but the rest of the gear seems well-suited to the 3-5 day adventures I most often do. To be honest, you carry a lot more safety gear than me, and my pack tends to be much heavier (an obligatory bear canister will have that effect).

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Chris,

      As for the Zero pack, it and the Blast packs are awesome packs. I have one of each (different sizes for different types of trips) and they have been great packs so far. And the Squeeze is awesome. I love it. I will admit, if the water sources are all puddles, it does take a bit more effort to fill the bladders, but this has not been a problem for me. I keep a 1 gallon Ziploc bag (that is useful for lots of things) and use it to scoop the water up and then pour it into the Sawyer bag. If the water if flowing though, it is a cinch to fill up.

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by and commenting!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  11. Dianne Cardenas says:

    Thru hiking is from Springer to Katahdin, or visa versa. Section hiking is what you will be doing.

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    • Stick says:

      Dianne,

      I understand what a thru hike is and know the difference between that and a section hike. Thanks. My use of the word “thru” here though implies all of the AT through the Smokies, where as some may have considered “sectioning” to only be parts of it. I think that in the context I used it in it implied this.

      Hope this clears it up for you. Thanks.

      ~Stick~

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  12. Martin Rye says:

    I have to agree with Mr Skurka. I am planning an Appalachian Trail section at the moment. I will be travelling light, but taking kit I need. Bug season means a bug inner and I plan that it will rain at times. So a spare top at camp to keep warm while I dry kit is needed. Walking 70 miles in three days is just needs a bit a bit of fitness and determination. Having super light kit does nothing for fitness, nor determination. It helps in terms of energy output to achieve your daily millage. Yes it helps in being able to do long days, but it also needs the other mentioned points. The emphasis is for me: Planning, fitness training, pre walk training walks, and then kit to achieve the needs of the trip and enjoy it. Have a great time and enjoy the trail.

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    • Stick says:

      Martin,

      I am not necessarily disagreeing with Andrew’s advice, however, I did my homework and based my needs concerning safety and comfort based on the expected upcoming conditions, and my experience with my gear and in the park. After doing so, the items in my gear list is what I felt would fit my needs and comfort for this given trip.

      What I do disagree with Andrew coming and saying though is that basically my kit is “stupid.” Maybe I am taking this wrong and he will explain a little more.

      Saying this, I am not sure what you mean by “I will be travelling light, but taking kit I need.” It sounds like you are implying that I am not doing so. So, I will try to respond to some key items you pointed out.

      “Bug Season” I take it that you are saying that I should have some sort of bug protection. If so, I have found that simply treating my clothes with Permethrin has been all that I needed. I do understand that Permethrin has not been proven to be effective towards anything other than ticks, but this was the only bug I was worried about on this trip. Again, based on my past experiences in this area at this time of the year I never felt I needed anything more than this. The flying insects are plentiful, but they were never a problem, and I never recalled walking away with any mosquito bites. As well, others have reported to me just before I left that there are indeed lots of bugs, but nothing that warranted a head net.

      Now that the hike is done, I can say that my Permethrin treated clothes was all that I needed. Memory, as well as reports served me correct in that there were lots of bugs, but none that were an issue. I will admit, walking down the trail was amazing at the number of flying insects, but it was not a problem. Occasionally one would fly into my face, but nothing serious, and not too often. A head net would have done wonders to block the spiderwebs, but the extra heat it would create was not worth it, IMO.

      So, my recommendation for the Smokies right now, leave the head net at home. As well as any bug spray.

      Rain. I did account for rain. I had my GoLite Poncho Tarp.

      Now that the hike is done…it was way more than I needed! No rain was forecasted, and it never even threatened. Would you believe it, the weather guy actually got it right…

      Fitness. This is the hardest one for me to argue. I agree, that many miles in that time frame is a lot, in that terrain. Up to this point, my biggest day was 20.2 miles on the AT in north GA. It took me 9 hours to cover it. Based on the hiking I have done in the past in this area, and by the way I felt after that 20 mile hike, I felt that I could do this. To help me, I started the Couch to 5K program a couple of weeks before. I do have knee problems, sometimes. So I had also started doing some knee exercises, taking glucosamine and wearing bands.

      Now that the hike is done, I cannot answer this question. Joe got quite sick and we had to call the hike off on day 2. However, the first day I pushed the 23 miles out fairly easy. The second day I only got to do 10 because we bailed at our optional bailing spot, and by the time Joe was able to get there, it was too late for me to push out another 18 miles. So, the next day I came back and did another small section and ended up with about 42 miles total.

      If you were to ask me though, I know I could have done the planned hike. But, I cannot prove this to anyone…so what can I say. I just know I felt it…

      As far as a spare top, the temps in the “surrounding” areas were forecast at over 100 F and the weekend was called to set record highs. Considering this, and the experience from my past times in this area which did not have temps even close to this, I did not feel like I would need anything more than my short sleeve shirt. However, if I did, I planned to use my quilt as a shawl to provide more insulation.

      Now that we are done, the short sleeve top was way too much…When I tried to sleep, I came out of everything but my undies and then had to lay on top of the quilt…it was almost miserable hot at night…

      Anyway, I do appreciate your comment, and just as I told Andrew, I hope that you take this comment as simply discussion.

      But I have got to say, that I felt a bit sucker punched when the Andrew Skurka came on my blog and basically called my kit stupid. I am not completely brand new to all of this, although I admit, I have nothing on Andrew, or even you Martin. But, I did all that was required and I was prepared. Heck, now that the trip is done, I can say that I was prepared enough to even help out my fellow hiker to get him out when he was having a hard time walking on his own. I carried some of his kit in my pack and gave him meds and “Emergen-C” and did what I could. And we made it. Granted we did not cover all the miles as planned, but I don’t feel like that is the real point here. We went out with our “SUL” kits, hiked a huge amount of miles on day 1, and then had the items we needed to get a sick hiker out from 10 miles in.

      We are happy with our kits.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      ~Stick~

      Like

    • andrewskurka says:

      I want to clarify my “stupid” remarks since I think the description is being applied to the wrong things.

      Stick’s kit for his SUL trip: not stupid. Based on the trip report and it sounds like he had everything he needed, and that the trip’s outcome had nothing to do with what they were carrying on their backs. And based on his comments to my initial post, it sounds like he had the most important considerations in mind — comfort and safety — when he was putting together the kit.

      What I do find stupid is the LW/UL/SUL weight-based classifications. As I pointed out, if Stick did this trip in November, he might not be able to get base pack weight below 5 pounds while still meeting comfort and safety thresholds — So is he suddenly only an “ultralight” backpacker? No, that’s foolish.

      Also stupid is the blind pursuit of weight-savings at the expense of anything else — comfort, safety, durability, ease of use, efficiency, reliability, versatility, etc. I call this “stupid light,” and I’ve definitely been guilty of it before. Stick – If you don’t mind I’m going to offer a link to a post that defines this in more detail: http://andrewskurka.com/2012/stupid-light-not-always-right-or-better/. Remember that weight is a means, not an end, and it’s not the only means either to having a successful backpacking trip.

      Andrew

      Like

    • Martin Rye says:

      I never thought you said his kit is stupid. I got your point. The need of the trip and objective determine the kit needed, not the made up weight limit of the SUL/UL tag.

      I wrote about reducing pack weight up a while back and pointed out you carry it all. So many kit list seem to omit the kit worn, and trekking poles in your hands so to claim some SUL limit. What is gained is nothing.

      Stick thought it through and I hope it worked for him. Andy your point has raised the real point that kit needs to achieve the objective of your trip and not a determined weight limit made up by someone else. It’s a good debate and does not diminish this very good blog.

      Like

    • Stick says:

      Martin,

      This:

      The need of the trip and objective determine the kit needed, not the made up weight limit of the SUL/UL tag.

      Really sums it up, and well said. I totally agree, and don’t think that anyone has (or can) really disagreed.

      As far as the different components such as “worn” weight, “carried” weight, “consumable” weight and “pack” weight (to name a few), I think that they are useful, and while it is the absolute truth, no matter what, I still carry it all. The way I see it though, the items in my “base” weight are items I will carry on all of my trips (think, “big 4” and some other smaller items such as clothing, FAK, etc…) The items I wear, or even carry may not be on every trip though. I agree, it is kind of a shady area, but hey, those of use that really dig into it, and enjoy this aspect of “backpacking” have a way of justifying it, and even defending it. So, while it may not matter to some, it is something that many of us enjoy to do, but no, it is not defenitive…

      I think that this area really falls into the “HYOH/YMMV” type of thing…

      Anywhoo…Martin, I really appreciate that you took the time to add your thoughts to this post. Ultimately, I hope that lots of people read through all of these comments and that it will help them out somehow, one way or another. After all, this is part of the reason that I started my blog to begin with. So, I definitely appreciate having everyone’s comments here. It has been fun and hope that everyone else finds the same thing through it all!

      Thanks,

      ~Stick~

      Like

    • Stick says:

      Andrew,

      Thanks for stopping back by and clarifying. I know that we all have our own reasons behind what we actually put into our packs before a trip, but I do agree with you that safety and then comfort are the 2 most important considerations. I agree that weight (or the name of a certain weight class) should always fall behind safety and comfort though. And despite all the comments, I think that for the most part, these considerations are at top of the list for most backpackers, although, I agree, it may not be that way for all…whether they mean to or not. Safety is a pretty obvious thing I think, but comfort seems to have a very wide margin, and it really comes down to each person. (For me though, I like to be comfortable, especially when I am trying to sleep. For me, a good nights sleep really determines how well I can perform the next day. This only amplifies if it is a multiple day trip…so you won[t find me on the trail with out a comfortable sleeping set-up.)

      When I made this list, I pretty much sorted out what I felt I needed to be safe, and as evidenced by my beloved NeoAir, what I needed to be comfortable. Then I planned the rest of my kit around these items, with the expected conditions for the time I would be on the trail, and based on my past experiences in mind. I will admit though, I did have a 5 lb marker in mind, and meeting this with an efficient kit was a fun challenge for me. In the end, the trip went well as far as what I had was concerned, although I will admit, being that the trip lasted less than 2 days, this is a bit of a bold statement. However, I feel like everything I had was fine, and given the same conditions, I would not hesitate to use this exact same list for another trip.

      Andrew, I have caught wind of your post that you linked to, but admittedly have not had time to read it. I will try to get to it sometime soon though (I have been meaning too).

      As far as this post, and the comments, I have enjoyed it so far. To be blatantly honest, I feel like some toes were stepped on (mine included) but I love the fact that the whole matter is still in good spirits. So, again, thanks Andrew, and everyone else for that matter, for the time you took to comment on this post. I hope that it will continue…

      ~Stick~

      Like

  13. Nathan says:

    Stick,

    I haven’t hiked any in the Smokies. What will the tread be like compared to other parts of the AT, specifically compared to the AT in Georgia? More or less rocky? Have you found that the IT bands have helped, compared to using the neoprene type brace that fully encompasses above and below the knee?

    Nathan

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Nathan,

      The areas throughout the Smokies that I have hiked so far are very similar to GA. Although, I should have a better idea in a few days… 🙂

      Those bands…I really don’t know…my ITB can still act up with them. Sometimes it might be my left knee, others maybe my right. Both have been acting up at a time, and when I am lucky neither do… all I can say for sure is that when they are acting up, I can tell a difference when wearing the band and when I am not. But, as far as preventative, not so sure that these will do it…

      But, as you can see, I will still use them…and motrin… 🙂

      ~Stick~

      Like

  14. Stick, I was going to reply a day earlier, but it took me that long to get through your response to Andrew 🙂

    Other than the arbitrary weight classifications, I believe you two are saying the same thing – getting to super light without thought and careful consideration of your trip environment is stupid. From reading your posts for a while, you are definitely considering and thinking about what you take and more importantly what you are leaving behind.

    As a numbers person, I certainly understand the allure of getting to a specific target number. It gives us a goal to aim for. And if we can meet that goal while being properly prepared, it’s a win all around.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Andy,

      Thanks for the kind words. And as you have noted, I feel like I have done my homework concerning the gear I am going to be carrying. As well, I have factored in all the other aspects of this hike and I feel like this specific kit will provide me with all the safety and comfort that I both want and need to complete this hike.

      Now, as long as my knee hang in there… 🙂

      And I agree, I think that the numbers are alluring…

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  15. WildandWiser says:

    Stick,
    I have a collection of really neat gear and toys that I have taken backpacking, but its gotten to the point that I can’t carry that much weight. Give me a pack mule and Holiday Inn would have a hard time competing with me regarding how much fun I have after I set up camp and how well I sleep. However, while hiking at my age, my joints remind me everytime that the pain I get from carrying all that excess weight is real and can’t continue. So I have purged the excess from my pack and have bought UL gear replacements. I now only carry what is necessary. The exception being a lightweight mp3 am/fm that allows my mind to wander off. Anyway, I seem to be running parallel with some of the same gear you use, so your hike is of particular interest to me and how well you do.
    I visit your blog often and enjoy your gear reviews. Looking forward to your trip report. Hike well and be safe.

    WildandWiser

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Thanks WildandWiser! And that is cool that our kits are similar! What in particular are you wondering about?

      I carry my phone which I have music downloaded on it, however, I do wish that it were capable of being a fm tuner as well…that would be pretty cool!

      I have some knee pain too, which is a huge reason that I really wanted to crack down on my gear weight. I will admit, alot of this pain may be due to me simply not being in a little better shape, but I am working on that too. 🙂

      Anyway, good luck with your progress and your gear! And thanks for stopping by and commenting and glad to hear you enjoy my blog! Thanks…

      ~Stick~

      Like

  16. andrewskurka says:

    You clearly have spent a lot of time and energy in piecing this kit together so I do not mean to piss on your parade with this comment. But frankly I find these arbitrary LW/UL/SUL thresholds to be completely backwards. You should pack what you need to achieve your trip objectives while staying safe and comfortable in the conditions you will experience. If you start the process with a weight goal in mind, there is no assurance you have enough margin to be successful, safe, and comfortable. On this trip, you probably do – as you said, the conditions in the Smokies at this time of year are relatively benign, and you are only out for 3 days. But what happens when you want to repeat this trip in November and/or if you want to keep hiking north to Katahdin at the end of your trip? Doubtful that you will still be technically SUL even if you apply the same philosophy to those kits. Bottom line: If your trip objective is hiking-centric, pack as little as you can but don’t be stupid light.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Andrew,

      Wow…the Andrew Skurka…on my blog… nice… 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and I appreciate the comment!

      Anyway, I completely agree that weight should not be the only factor when putting together a kit for a trip. I am a firm believer in both safety and comfort while on the trail, and I have given just as much thought to each of these aspects (the same as I have with weight) when I put this gear list together.

      I also agree that this particular kit would not be ideal for a hike in November, or even for an extended thru hike. However, this kit is not meant for either of those. I put this together for this one particular trip, and based my decisions on my experience, my needs (concerning safety and comfort), the current/expected environmental conditions as well as the area I will be in. As well, I also factored in the fact that this is a less than 3 day hike, I will be with a hiking partner, my wife and children will be staying in one of the surrounding towns while we do our hike, and that this is a very busy spot, so the chances of other hikers being around also is high.

      I would not attempt every other hike with this particular kit. In fact, I have a few other gear list which are more specific to area and time of year.

      However, I did want to attempt a “SUL” hike, and this trip presented the perfect opportunity for me to do so. Will I do it again? Probably, given the same set of circumstances. But I feel like most of my trips will fall in the “UL” weight range, but considering my typical hiking area (Southeast) I don’t think that I will need to pack anything much heavier than this.

      And yeah, I wish that I was headed to Katahdin… 🙂

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by and commenting. I really appreciate it.

      ~Stick~

      Like

    • andrewskurka says:

      Do you see my point, that you could go “SUL” in your approach in November or on a longer trip and technically you would not be “SUL” as defined arbitrarily by a base weight less than 5 lbs? The weight classifications are stupid.

      I did not say it earlier, but carrying less weight does not always improve your hiking experience either. I laugh when I see “UL” hikers brushing their teeth with a finger toothbrushes or stopping all the time to get junk out of their shoes because they refuse to wear gaiters, etc. Traveling light is important, but weight savings should cause huge and adverse sacrifices in efficiency, durability, reliability, health, etc.

      Like

    • Stick says:

      Andrew,

      I think I see what you are saying… Basically that if I just carry what I need and make the best use of it, no matter the weight, it would still be considered “SUL” for that particular environment and hike? maybe I am wrong…

      As far as weight classifications, I don’t find them to be stupid, but I can see how they can be misleading. I can see how a particular weight class could persuade someone to leave out things that maybe they shouldn’t, just so they can fall into a particular weight class. Although, I would hope that the hiker would take into consideration all things that should be considered before heading out, and then making those decisions as to what they need to take and what can be left behind, regardless of weight.

      In my case, I have done my homework, I have experience in this particular place and I know what to expect, and what the limitations are of the gear that I am going to carry on this trip. I have bail out plans and I feel like I am going to be as safe and ready on this trip with this “SUL” weight gear as I would be should I be carrying a pack with a much heavier base weight.

      As well, I agree, there are some things that I don’t find is worth giving up just for the sake of going lighter. While my toothbrush is cut down to about half, it has a long head on it with plenty of bristles so that my fingers stay out of my mouth when using. As well, I do have some shortie gaiters but have always found them to be more of a nuisance than help for simply keeping debry out of my low cut shoes. Maybe it is because I prefer to hike in long pants. I don’t know, but I also have plans to stop every couple of hours, pull my shoes off, take a moment to have a nice snack and to relax. This will also allow me to clear any debris out of my shoes should I need to…

      I know that these are just some examples you pulled out of the hat to apply your point, and as I said, I do agree. I think that some hikers may take it too far, although if they are comfortable with it, and safe, then I am fine with it. On the other hand, I can only imagine that there are lots of people going out with insufficient packs just for the sake of being “UL” or whatever and have put no effort into researching where they are going, or what they are carrying. Just look at all the people starting off an AT thru hike each year…the stories I have heard of them coming into Neels Gap, with packs that are both too heavy as well as packs that are a little light… I think that it is these inexperienced hikers that give all of these numbers a bad look…

      I get tired of reading about how someone had to give up this or that to be “UL” and posts about people having to help those “ULer’s” that they meet along the way along. I do not feel like I have left anything that I am missing out of any of my pack’s, let alone anything that has left me in a bad position. And on the other hand, I have come across a few people with so much junk on their backs that they were completely miserable, and they were asking for more food…

      Despite being guilty of it myself, I do think that posting these numbers can be a silly thing. I actually despised these titles for quite a while and did not want to be associated with them. If people asked if I was this or that I said no. I am light, comfortable and safe. And I guess that may be the way it is called rather than throwing out numbers. TBH, I don’t know how I fell into the numbers, but I admit, I have. I feel like most of it though just came along with the territory of wanting to try out different methods/practices and new gear. Tons of research and creating spreadsheets and pouring over them must have gotten it stuck in my brain.

      At this point, I admit the numbers are fun, but I do not find that they are controlling. Being new to this type of lightweight backpacking, I still have the thoughts in my mind of not being so light, and I can still relate to those. I realize that for anyone to go out with weights that are this low should have done lots of research and know what to expect and what to do in case something should not work out as planned. Knowing this, I try to write all of my posts with emphasis on “this is what works for me.” Just because I write something I do not expect anyone to go out and do the exact same thing, although, I can only imagine that some may. So, when I make these posts and try to give the whole “this works for me” attitude, I also try to explain how and why I came to this point. I try to include enough info so that the reader will realize that maybe they should also think about how this would work out for them…or even will it work for them…

      I have read your book and completely respect what you have offered to the world of backpacking, as well as your opinion. And heck, I cannot compare, I have only been involved in this sport for about 3 years and am lucky to get out to actually hike when I can. Saying this, I am not trying to argue points with you. I hardly have any ground to do so on. And while I got a lot of great info from your book and other info I have received from you from various sources, I still have to realize that all of your ways may not work for me. At the same time, I realize that all of my ways will not work for you either. I fully respect the whole HYOH/YMMV thing, although there are a lot of others out there that do not…

      As far as carrying less weight improving hiking experience, I think that will depend on the user and their needs as well as their experience with their gear and the place in which they are. I myself feel like with this particular gear list will indeed improve my hiking experience.

      Anyway, I hope that you don’t take this long, drawn out reply as anything more than simple discussion. As I said, I fully respect you and your experience. I enjoyed your book and am happy to have it, as well as recommend it. As well, I am still pretty ecstatic that you commented on my blog! I look forward to any other comments you may have…

      Thanks,

      ~Stick~

      Like

    • Jay Gatton says:

      LW/UL/SUL are arbitrary placeholders of pack weights so people don’t have to refer to the weight of their pack by announcing how many Lbs, ounces, grams, kilograms, ect, because we all have different forms of measurement so using LW/UL/SUL is much easier to use in reference to pack weights. If you start a trip with a weight goal in mind it forces you to work hard previous to the trip in order to either achieve that goal successfully. Successfully I mean, safe, and comfort level being very high. For example, if I was to study for an exam with my goal being a 60% I most likely will be getting a D at 60%, but if I try for 100% then I will likely get an A….(see how this system is arbitrary and yet very useful for understanding). Also, most people don’t change their mind mid way through a trip deciding to extend it as questioned about hiking farther to Katahdin, and then extending it with the knowledge that “maybe” they wont have appropriate gear… Also if sticks goal is SUL for this trip which is the 5 lb mark, and he ended up at 3.99 lbs do you think his goal was simply to be SUL? I mean if it was why not make it 5 lbs on the dot, which would be 20% heavier than what he ended up going at. Also a side note from a philosopher and mathematician: Nobody cares what “you” think, what people do care about is logical reasoning, which Stick seems to be full of logical reasoning and thus being the go-to guy when I need more information. Oh and a side note: What did John Muir put in his pack? A loaf of bread and some tough. 😀

      Like

    • Stick says:

      Thanks Jay, I enjoyed your analysis, and appreciate the kind words.

      ~Stick~

      Like

  17. Mark Roberts says:

    Nice work, Stick! I’ve been trying to get my pack weight down lower and lower, but I’m not yet at SUL levels. To be honest I don’t think I can quite get that low in the areas I’m hiking, at least in bug season up here in Lapland. Maybe in the autumn.

    Those Suluk windscreens look like just what I’m after to replace my annoying MYOG foil version.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Mark,

      Thanks man! I know what you are saying too…I feel like my area of the woods at this time of the year presents the best time for someone to go with anything lighter than a “UL” pack. Although I am sure that there are some that go out with them in worse conditions than what I am expecting, and I give it to them! As soon as the temps start to drop I will be back over the 5 lb mark again…

      I have a trip planned for 2 weeks after I return from this trip, and I have been playing with a gear list for it, and I am not going to be SUL for it. I am probably going to use my hammock set-up, along with a heavier cook kit and some other things, so it will put me back in the “UL” range. But, it is a shorter, more relaxed trip, and to be honest, even a “UL” pack weight is pretty dang nice, so I am not complaining! 🙂

      I do like my Suluk 46 windscreen, and would recommend them. I know that 2 others have had him make their windscreens to a “custom” size too, which is nice…

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  18. Jim Henegar says:

    Good job. About the only thing I would add to the list is a light weight jacket. Something like the nano puff or similar for added sleeping warmth maybe. I would probably leave the legs on my pants too 🙂 Noticed your using the toothpaste dots, so I reckon they worked out. I keep meaning to ask about them, but keep forgetting.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Jim,

      Thanks for stopping by. As far as adding in the jacket, I debated it, but I decided against it. If I get cool while at camp I will just use my quilt as a shawl. For sleeping, I feel like this quilt will keep me fine down to 50 F, however, I do realize that the nights may get a degree or 2 colder than this…if this is the case, then I may just get a little cool. Being that it is only 2 nights though I think it will be fine. However, the last few nights on LeConte has been in the mid – high 50’s and it looks like it will be the same when we are up there…

      And yes, the toothpaste dots finally worked! The first time I tried I used wax paper and I think that the wax on the paper got hot enough to melt and bond to the toothpaste. So, this last time I used parchment paper and it worked great! I used the cheapest paste that I could find and it took about 2 hours in the dehydrator but I kept it in there longer just to make sure…Anyway, Gizmo Joe showed me that he stored them in a tiny Ziploc bag and put a little baking powder in the bag to keep them from sticking to each other. Works great!

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by again and commenting!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  19. Hey Stick,

    Super awesome!!

    I have been using some of those backpack bag inserts from litetrail.com for about 250 miles and they have been proving to be durable enough. As you know, I am not a big fan of bag inserts but figured I should probably start using them. Lighter weight than my CF dry bags.

    11.57 TPW is mighty impressive for a three day, long mileage, hike. I hope it treats you well and you guys have a super fun time out there!!

    Like

    • Stick says:

      John,

      Wow, I didn’t realize that he had the pack liners available, but it sounds like they will be great! Can’t wait until they come in…

      Thanks for the well wishes!

      ~Stick~

      Like

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