My post the other week has proven quite popular, more than anything a cautionary tale for me.  In 10.5 years of doing this I never go more than a few months without being surprised by what proves of interest to folks, and have long since ceased being surprised when a personal favorite earns low numbers.  In the case of something like What Ultralight is Not, there could always be more to say.  Things are settling down nicely here in Helena, at last, so what follows are more and more specific thoughts on useful definitions of ultralight backcountry travel.


Ultralight is the Valeskos sharing a gen 1 Hexamid through fall blizzards on the CDT.  Ultralight is not the Triplex below treeline during the summer.

Ultralight is 3 and a half weeks of food in a frameless pack during the Arctic 1000.  Ultralight is not a DSLR for photos on the same trip.

Ultralight is sharing a boat for weeks across the Brooks Range, through historically low water.  It would still have been ultralight to use a different boat with more comfortable paddling positions.

Ultralight is 50+ pounds of kid and gear as pictured below, which did not include any waterproof outerwear.    Ultralight was not the paranoia-induced 70 diapers we brought.


Ultralight is using a proper framed pack for this or this; ultralight is not using the same pack for this.

Ultralight was just enough extra food and no shelter during the Wilderness Classic in 2011.  Ultralight was not omitting rain pants during the same trip.

Ultralight was plastic boots that kept my feet warm sitting still in 35 degree weather when soaked, even though they shredded my feet.  Ultralight was not bringing waxable skies and two sets of skins, rather than the fishscales the conditions dictated.

Ultralight is the combination of experience and boldness applied to create style, which is a feeling of partial mastery under personally challenging conditions.  Ultralight is listening to the right kind of fear, in the right moment.  Ultralight is dedicated to the task at hand and the end goal, defined in a way that divorces it from any intrapersonal illusions.  Whatever that goal, and trip, might be.