Jul 5, 20161932 views

Rename "Ultralight" to "Backpacking"

Ultralight is a philosophy. The philosophy is about eliminating all unnecessary items and/or weight. The UL community on Massdrop has way too many items that are blatantly outside the UL philosophy. About half of the recent drops listed under "Ultralight" are, in my opinion, far from anything a ULer would bring on a trip.
Yes, you could have a couple non-UL items and still be under 15lbs BPW, I understand that. That's why UL is a philosophy. In my opinion it's a scummy marketing/PR decision to call the community "Ultralight" when there are so many items that are blatantly not intended for a UL audience. Lanterns, metal water bottles, knives, etc do not belong in Ultralight discussions, just to name a few.
I think Massdrop would better serve a wider audience if it renamed the current one to simply "Backpacking", OR created a separate one to keep the UL items together and the non-UL items somewhere I don't have to look at them. If there can be "Tech" and "Mech Keys", there can be "Backpacking" and "Ultralight".
For the record, Massdrop's own "Ultralight 101" states 10 lbs as the qualifying BPW for Ultralight. Just think about that for a second when you look at some of the items they list.
Mitchell Hopkins, manintheglass, and 118 others

I am in agreement - I am oftentimes confused by all the random items thrown into some of the polls that have absolutely no correlation. That being said, the gear we take (or don't) very much depends on the now far, how long, how cold, is there water, etc. part of the trip. I can obviously be more luxurious (and I am) if I am camping out of my trunk at a park somewhere versus seriously hiking/backpacking. Price points would be nice as well. If someone wants to spend an extra $300 to save 5 ounces, then more power to them....that's not me, or most of us, I don't believe.
I agree, I would even go as far as calling it camping. I don't see many backpackers carrying chair and umbrella.
I thought this was obvious from day one. Ultra light is a form of backpacking and therefore fits nicely under the backpacking heading whereas backpacking constantly slips outside of the ultralight boundaries. Change the name what's the delay?
I agree
Let's call it "UltralightISH"!
I agree in principle with all the comments, I think "backpacking" is more generic and will attract more peopple, and clearly make more sense, considering there is ultralight and "normal" equipment that not necessarily is lightweight.
Saying that, Other option that is even more sense to me at least is to reclassify the gear that is really ultralight and put the other in "outdoor", after all ultralight is a filosofy and subcategory of outdoor activities related to backpacking with barebone and lightweight gear.
That was my 2 cents ;-)
i totally agree. to me, ultralight is a flying contraption.
Ya some fabric with a fan on the back. I don't ever see any of those in the Ultralight category.
As a mid 50's backpacker you'd think I'd be all over the UL philosophy. I'm just kinda meh about it. What I do like and why I joined the community is because I'm always open to new technology and how I can incorporate it into what I enjoy. I may never have a BPW of 10 -15 lbs. I may never want to. But if I can get insight, tips, tricks, and maybe even some exposure to cool gear that others have used and would allow me to pack the way I want to and shave some weight then I'm in. I would have joined the community if it was named "Backpacking" because it's what I enjoy and I'd want to be a part of it. I joined this community believing I'd learn more and get exposed to different gear and maybe see some of the gear I use. A name change ? nah, not for it.
Consider renaming this group "UL/SUL Backpacking."
Six years ago I stumbled into BackpacingLight while researching an AT thru hike. I embraced the concepts, but pushed back a little on some folks ideas like using ground clothes made from that flimsy plastic used to cover windows in winter - Tho I would do that for a weekend trip, I'd pack something more robust for a long-distance hike. So I generally consider requirements other than pure weight when making gear selections, but I am a gram-weenie.
The outdoors world IS made up of car campers, weekend campers, day-hikers, family backpackers, campers packing in to a fish camp, and long-distance hikers who only need the absolute minimum to eat, sleep, and to stay warm and hydrated. To paraphrase some wise guy, "Are you hiking to camp? Or hiking to hike?" I fall in the latter camp most of the time, and come here to look for deals on stuff that fits a requirements list driven primarily by weight reduction, tempered by build quality, and sometimes a wide range of weather potentialities.
I applaud your effort to create an Outdoors section, with UL as a subset. Crossmarketing between something that is appropriate for both the "UL/SUL Backpacking," and the wider "Outdoors" communities would draw wider participation to a drop, while not loading up this community with metal water bottles, heavy woodcraft knives, and waxed canvas messenger bags ... And perhaps that opens the doors to other subsets? Bikepacking, kayaking, fishing ...
See you on the trail, L Dog
Hey All - just wanted to let you know that we've been following this forum thread, the associated poll, and other source, and have heard you loud and clear. We are opening up an Outdoors Community, to exist alongside the UL Community. You can read my full post here:
And here is the discussion in Massdrop Hub around the launch of the Outdoors Community: https://www.massdrop.com/talk/1096/new-community-announcement
"There is a progression upwards as one goes lighter and lighter."
Assuming UL and SUL is a progression is a false notion and precisely why people resist the UL attitude. The positive message is lost in the implication that UL is somehow better. It really is merely different. Lighter doesn't actually mean better. It can honestly be off putting to hear UL is a progression, when in fact, it is an opinion. Many of the polls suggest people want other things outside of the UL spectrum, including mine.
Two thoughts. One, when I go backpacking I have two little kiddos with me. I might need a wider mattress pad or sleeping bag, bigger pack, etc, because I'm sharing my gear with folks that can't carry it in themselves. My gear needs to be UL of course, but it might not be the same gear as someone doing a long solo hike. So, I like to see MD's UL community be inclusive to all kinds of people wanting to get into the wilderness and doing it as light as possible. Second, I subscribe to the UL philosophy not only in backpacking but to life in general. This means I like high-quality, durable, lightweight gear for all activities. I wear Icebreaker backpacking, but I also wear it every day. I don't bring my Klean Kanteen backpacking but I do bring it to the playground every day!
Good point, however, the all encompassing title of "backpacking" could introduce even less desirable products while the "ultralight" title really does see UL gear like the zpacks duplex and enlightened equipment sleeping bags. I'm afraid that expanding the category could introduce things like heavy synthetic bags or just normal tents and backpacks.
I have to be honest here. I'm not a UL guy. I am a 42 year old father of two scouts with a metal knee and a shoulder held together with screws and stitches. My older boy transitioned to Boy Scouts from cubbies this year and went to camp with a new troop. When we showed up to drop him off the leaders asked him whee his footlocker was. He was the one of only two in the troop that had everything in his pack. I have made it to a point in life that I can afford to drop some cash on lighter and more packable gear. More than anything else, what I love about MD is that I know that lower weight won't mean lower quality. I'm gonna have to haul my broken body through two Philmont treks in the next few years, and am starting to accumulate the lightweight gear that will allow me to do so with as little pain as possible. I like that the lightweight focus doesn't exclude guys like me who will never be truly UL.
@G-Deuce - Thank you very much for sharing your story.
How about renaming to "Outdoors"?
I completely agree
I agree!!
Hey Everyone - Thank you for participating in this discussion and the associated poll in regards to this topic. Special thanks to @AG3NT for posting a thoughtful critique to start.
This will be a long post, so please bear with me as there are some important issues that I can shed light upon. In the end, it is vital that we all generally agree what this community means.
For the last 13 years, I have dedicated myself to getting people outside - guiding, working in outdoor education, writing for BPL, and taking friends and family on hikes. I believe getting people outdoors is absolutely critical to people's health and happiness, and going light is an important factor to increasing that enjoyment. I also think that getting more people into the wilderness is the best way to protect nature - after all, it's hard to care about a park if you've never been there. I agreed to work for Massdrop because I could continue helping people to lighten their load and get outdoors.
So let's discuss the community title: Ultralight. When I started working at Massdrop in early 2015, I contacted Will Reitveld to tell him the good news. His response was along the lines of: "That's great. I suppose you'll be selling a lot of lightweight items." I scoffed at the idea. I wanted to be a purist and sell only UL items, not those that were merely lightweight. Well, it turns out that Will was spot-on with his prediction. His point was that the best way to grow the Ultralight Community is to introduce the conventional backpackers to our philosophy with lightweight products, starting them on the path to UL.
Think of a pyramid with the masses of car campers, hikers, and backpackers forming the base. There is a progression upwards as one goes lighter and lighter, with only a few SUL people at the pinnacle of the pyramid. People don't usually go from a 6 pound Gregory Palisades to a 12 ounce GG Murmur. There is a natural progression most of us go through, and one of my roles is to help get those people started on the path to enlightenment. That path often begins with a 3 pound backpack or tent.
Consider the Audiophile Community, where most people join for a $20 set of earbuds that are much better than what came with their iPhone. Would you consider those people Audiophiles? Not yet, but they're at least starting on that path of appreciating better sound quality, and looking for earbuds that have the best price-to-performance ratio. For many people, this is the first time they're actually paying for headphones, and they're much better off starting here than at their local big box store or any generic online store.
AG3NT makes a good point that Ultralight is a philosophy, and I 100% agree with that. However, I would avoid narrowly defining ultralight by prescribing a specific weight limit. If you're hunting and need a 4.5 pound Seek Outside pack, are you still UL? What about if you're packrafting or mountaineering? How about bushcraft - my dinky 1.3 ounce knife would not hold up to the demands of bushcraft use, but a 4 ounce Morakniv would be one of the lightest options available. As a community, we really need to think about all the possible ways to go light, and then find the lightest products for those activities. It's not just backpacking, and not just one narrow definition.
I think most people here would agree that that majority of our drops are light or ultralight. However, there are sometimes products that may be debatable, and here's a few reasons that may happen.
1) A product can appeal to multiple communities. Consider an insulated water bottle (UL and Every Day Carry), Darn Tough socks (UL and Men's Style), or portable solar panel (UL and Tech). These items are crosslisted to appear in both communities, though it is never stated from which community this product originated. So I pose this question - would you rather have only items that are truly purely UL in use, or would you not mind hearing about some other cool outdoorsy products that would likely appeal to you, like that insulated water bottle that might be too heavy for backpacking, but has a place on your office desk every day?
2) Various budgets. A member, remji, posted two weeks ago asking for advice on budget options for upgrading the Big 4, and three members recommended the $600 Zpacks Duplex. Do you know how off-putting that may be to people looking to go light? I appreciate everybody who posted, and though most people would want a Duplex, not many can afford it. I want our community to be more inclusive of different income levels, and therefore I want to offer the lightest equipment for every budget. I was really surprised when we had a $40 tarp recently that received comments about it being too heavy. Yes, you can get a tarp that is lighter, but it would cost $75-300 For those of us on a budget, a 2-person shelter for under 2 pounds and $20 per person is pretty freaking awesome.
3) Testing community interest. Sometimes we try out a totally new product to see the response, to see if it's possible to grow the community or start a completely new community.
4) Questionable decisions, but with a silver lining. Sometimes we make a bad call and drop a product that just doesn't belong (like the Klymit 0° Luxury Sleeping Bag). However, when we drop something heavy and it doesn't sell well, it actually helps me leverage our community's strengths to get better deals on the lighter, more appropriate products. So, even if you don't think much of the product in the drop, please don't think that's all there is to the story. Often there is a lot going on behind the scenes that is all leading towards more and better drops.
Now, it is possible that we rename this community, or create a second community with a more generic name and focus (Outdoors, Backpacking, or something like that). I'll talk with some key staff here at Massdrop and see what the options are, and respond back in the next week or two. Before we make any change, though, we'd need to get more community input, as the current poll represents roughly one-tenth of one percent of our community membership.
However, I will share you with you that my initial thoughts are not positive. Why? Because right now I launch drops for less than 5% of products that are available to me. If we renamed ourselves, or opened up a Outdoors Community, and we sell the other 95%, then where is our focus? What makes us special and how are we any different than REI, Backcountry.com, Huckberry or even Amazon? If you get upset by seeing a 6 pound pack listed in an UL poll, what do you think it would look like after the change?
I'd rather keep improving the community we have. Think about the new companies that have started working with us in the last several months - Zpacks, Goosefeet Gear, Rab, Goosefeet Gear, Seek Outside, Montane, Adventure Medical Kits, Ultimate Direction and Enlightened Equipment (after a long hiatus).
In summary, it might be more accurate to rename this community something along the lines of "Ultralight, Lightweight, and Some Cool Outdoorsy Products", but I prefer to stick with "Ultralight". What about you?
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Thanks @jimbolaya
I think there is a lot of potential for crossover and that is good. The concerns on the MD side I suppose are Staffing, and return business. MD is still very much building a brand around the fervent loyalty of niche enthusiasts. I would never had imagined that a mechanical keyboards group could support it's own weight. I suppose it is also necessary to grow the brand smartly, which is why we are behind a login wall. I look at drops like the Zombicide Black Plague drop that was so popular that the vendor was overwhelmed, and try to imagine if the general public was involved. I love that especially in the UL category MD is helping other small companies in the US and new to the US companies, and we are getting good deals because of it. I wouldn't mind two categories and would likely shop from both, but I am not sure that MD has the manning to support it.
For some reason ag3nt split this topic into a poll and a discussion. Here is the poll for reference. (Where I stated my opinion) https://www.massdrop.com/vote/Rename-community-to-Backpacking-due-to-half-the-items-being-non-UL/talk
FWIW: I think the idea of two different categories (communities) would be a bad idea as there is not enough market share here at MD for that, at this point. As for renaming the "ultralight" community to "backpacking", meh, I suppose that such a name change would be of benefit to make it (the community/category) sound like a broader scope of interest, but in the end, I would suspect that would be the extent of such a change. As for the (heavier) weight of some products that MD has, I think that is a good thing. The broader scope of products that MD is able to offer means the broader/larger userbase that MD is able to draw into their network of users, and that has the potential to result in more drops for really nice gear, more people buying gear and thus allowing us all to reach the better (lower price) tiers, and the chance that more companies that otherwise would not work with MD possibly being willing to do so. (not really sure any of this is helpful in any way, just wanted to share my thoughts)
@abela - your insight is impressively (but unsurprisingly) spot-on.
I agree, UL should be renamed to backpacking. Gear that is designated UL, should perhaps be marked as so