Jun 21, 2012
Nor Cal

Should I buy that new piece of ultralight gear, or just go to the bathroom first?

The average human poop event weighs between 7.3 and 9.3 ounces, according to an Iranian study of 100 male and female subjects. I only looked this up because I think no one should buy a $7,000 carbon-fiber bicycle, since the only people who arguably “need” a bicycle that expensive already get them for free and pedal them in races like the Tour de France.

If your full-time job is something other than “professional cyclist,” I think you should save the money you’d like to spend on the newest ultralight bike frame, get something cheaper, and just take a dump before you go on your ride.

Going light makes sense up to a point, and the race to make everything lighter and faster has given us several great advances most of us wouldn’t want to live without, but in many respects, we’ve arrived at a place of severely diminishing returns for increased, sometimes astronomical, prices.

Consider this: If you weigh 180 pounds and you have 15 percent bodyfat, you are carting around 27 pounds of fat. Lose 9 pounds of fat and you’re down to 171 pounds and 10.5 percent bodyfat. You can imagine the possibilities if you start eating only egg whites, boiled chicken breasts, rice and vitamins like a bodybuilder and can cut your bodyfat down to 4 percent. Maybe you could take the entire seat off your bike, too, and just cut a little slice in a tennis ball and put it over the seat post. That’d be light. But, if you aren’t down to 4 percent bodyfat, don’t even bother. Are your fingernails trimmed?

For around $10,000, you can own a Scott Addict LTD triathlon bike. It is the one of the lightest bicycles ever built, and the frame weighs in at only 1.74 pounds! An online retailer says “You actually have to add weight to the frame just to make it race-legal, which means you’ll be hard pressed to find a faster climbing, more efficient or better handling machine. The Addict LTD is Scott’s ultimate achievement of form, function and style with every detail carefully considered and weighed.” It is actually the ultimate achievement for a weekend warrior executive who wants to own, to paraphrase my friend Maynard, “a bicycle-shaped trophy.”

The Surly Pacer, a bike with a 6.5-pound steel frame, is nearly one-ninth the cost at $1175. You can buy four of them and still have enough money left over to buy three 50-inch flat-screen TVs to watch the Tour de France on.

Arc’Teryx makes a rock climbing harness called the S240, which only weighs 8.7 ounces. It’s $100, and here’s what a reviewer on a retail web site said: “This harness is super light, but I was skeptical when I ordered it that it would be comfortable and that I might only use it for redpoint attempts where weight is important.”

Yes, and when not getting psyched up for said redpoint attempts and going as light as possible, the guy can wear his clunky old Black Diamond Momentum AL harness, which weighs in at an obese 14.3 ounces and costs $50. Better take your shirt off and send that thing in a Speedo if weight is that important. Might even have to take that beanie off. Better yet, just free solo the route, and you won’t be hauling that 3 to 4 pounds of rope up with you.

Of course, there are places and times where going light makes a lot of sense, such as thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, where folks have been known to cut off clothing labels and cut edges off maps. Ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain, as the saying goes, and every extra ounce is multiplied over the millions of steps on the 2,650-mile hike. Do ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain over the course of a 70-mile bicycle race? Yes, but no one’s come out with a $5,000 ultralight backpack and $5,000 ultralight sleeping bag. Plus, thru-hiking the PCT is a six-month event. The PCT is where the “Why don’t you just take a dump before you leave?” theory won’t work, because the average PCT thru-hiker will have more than 250 bowel movements on their expedition.

But, most colonic, or colon hydrotherapy, advocates will tell you that the average human has 2 to 10 pounds of uneliminated waste hanging out in their lower intestine. So, before you head out on the PCT, schedule yourself a couple colonics, or that ultralight beer can stove and titanium cookset will be all for naught.

Also, your appendix weighs about 4.5 ounces.


Apr 27, 2012
Queensland, Downunder
i agree. ultralight weight is fine and we all try to be as light as we can, but we also all have budgets and there comes a point where, as you point out, where cost outweighs (pun not intended) the lack of weight.
somewhere grit and determination comes in. go out and just hunt. the lightest and most expensive kit means nothing if your not out of the sleeping bag before light to go hunting, if your not pushing that extra bit harder to see what's over the next ridge, if look at the trail ahead and don't want to push on.

the old guys did it with wool, oilskins and canvas frame packs and a little grit.