One of the primary focuses of the HikeLighter.Com website is to provide details, education, and gear articles that are primary based on SUL and XUL hiking.
The world of SUL hikers is growing by leaps and bounds every year. Few venture into the world of XUL hiking but for those who do there is very little on the internet at this time talking about XUL hiking. This is, in many ways, a good thing due to the high risks involved in being a XUL hiker if you are not already a well experienced hiker.
I will be honest when I say that there are already too many different ways out there on “weight classifications” when it comes to how to term each of the different weight categories for hikers.
The lack of XUL hikers throughout the world make it even that much harder – especially when the vast majority of hikers are often 10+ pounds heavier and always trying to make it seem like their BPW’s should be considered the next level/category down, to make themselves feel a bit better. Not knocking them, I probably did it myself along the way, and probably still do to this day.
I am by no means the first person to try to come forth with the goal of setting standards for weight classifications. I do not expect the world of hikers to accept and convert to how I define my base pack weights.
So the only real purpose for this page is to explain how I define them.
Again, you do not have to agree with them. You can think they are stupid. It does not really matter either way.
As somebody who writes a fair amount of articles throughout the year, it becomes necessary for me to define my own terminology when there are no ‘set standards’ by which the entire world-wide hiking community accepts.
Again I will fully admit that my own classifications are not “standard classifications” – and that is because it seems nobody out there has been able to really standardize hiking classifications. There are those who claim they have, and you have sites like wikipedia that people keep changing back and forth, but the fact is pretty simple: thus far there has been no true world-wide standardization of hiking weight classifications – so here is how I define them.
I really do not care to argue about these numbers, they are what they are, ‘how I define them’.
Here is the most important part of what I will be trying to get across: I define weight categories the way I do based upon how much skill a person should have, and how much a person has hopefully learned in order to reach each of the levels. Yes, a person can go out and buy their way into a SUL or XUL setup, but time will quickly show to other hikers that they ‘bought their way into said weight level’ and have not done it the right way – by learning and gaining experience as you go lighter and lighter.
How I Define Base Pack Weights:
All weights are “base pack weights” (BPW) – that is: what your backpack weights before perishables and consumables.
HH – Heavy Haulers = Anybody with a BPW of over 18 pounds (8.2 kg).
LW – Light Weight = Anybody with a BPW of between 13 pounds (5.9 kg) and 18 pounds (8.2 kg).
UL – Ultra Light = Anybody with a BPW of 12 pounds (5.4 kg) and under.
SUL – Super Ultra Light = Anybody with a BPW of under 5 pounds (2.3 kg).
XUL – eXtreme Ultra Light = Anybody with a BPW of under 3 pounds (1.4 kg).
SXUL – Super/(Stupid??) Extreme Ultra Light = Anybody with a BPW of under 2 pounds (0.907 kg). This, the most extreme of the extreme, is more about the ultimate test of your hiking and survival skills. While I do not endorse or encourage hiking for the sake of survivalism, you can learn a great deal about yourself and your skills by going on a sub-24, or maybe even a three day hike, with a sub 2 pound setup. It would be, I tend to think, rather difficult to go beyond three days of hiking with a sub 2 pound backpack, unless you are highly skilled in seeking and acquiring natural food and water sources, in all but the best of weather conditions.
It Is About Experience, Not Weight:
To me, classifications are more about experience and wisdom gained from being on the trail and spending a lot of nights outside; not about how big your pocket book might be and what you can buy your way into.
For the record, as of the time I am writing this, I have three different setups. A winter setup that is in the very popular 6-7 pound range, a shoulder season setup that is in the 4 pound range, and a summer time setup that is sub three pounds, and tends to be my favorite setup.
I have hiked with, and spoken with, a lot of high mileage hikers, mostly triple crowners, think folks with 10,000+ miles of hiking, and the vast majority of them, myself included, really do tend to feel that the sweet spot these days is the 6 pound range. With, of course, additional gear for cold winter conditions. Check out this video of Lint (a triple triple crown hiker) showing his gear list, while on the CDT.
Over the last few year I have averaged a little over 80% of the year outside hiking and backpacking and learning. I spent three years going from a HH to a SUL hiker, than I spent two hiking seasons/years as a SUL hiker before I took the plunge and became a XUL hiker. It has been an expensive venture that has taught me a lot about what gear a person absolutely needs to have with them. Beyond that one aspect, there is nothing special about having an XUL setup. Believe me when I say that my SUL setup is way more comfortable – both while hiking and while sleeping.
So, if you are somebody who is in the UL world looking to make it into the SUL world – I invite you to subscribe to my blog and hopefully through the discussion of SUL and XUL gear you will be able to pick up some pointers to help you learn the necessary steps to make your hike just a bit lighter!