In this day and age, outdoor gear manufacturers - eager to sell products - attempt to gain competitive advantage (and our attention) by advertising many of their products as "Lightweight" and/or "Ultralight", and in at least one case, "UltralightLightweight".
This marketing ploy has created sort of an irony in the backcountry community - that is, it is now commonplace to see novice as well as experienced backcountry travelers carrying 50-pound packs full of that "lightweight" gear.
What is "lightweight" or "ultralight" ? How can we know if equipment is lightweight or ultralight ? Is it arbitrary, based on each person or manufacturer's perspective, or is it something we can quantify, based upon what's available in the marketplace ?
It doesn't help when manufacturers use eye-grabbing, mind-teasing terms -- recently, I saw a popular product advertised as "Ultralight lightweight" (and, incidentally, that outfit, at close to 2 1/2 pounds may be neither ultralight nor lightweight, but that's a different issue).
Is there a distinction between "lightweight" and "ultralight" ? I pulled the following out of "Webster".
.. below normal weight
.. of less than a certain fixed weight
.. lightweight to an excessive (or extreme) degree
These definitions, albeit scanty, suggest to us three potential, different categories related to gear weight (1) normal (a.k.a. "too heavy") (2) lightweight and (3) ultralight.
We should be able to classify all gear (either purchased or home-made solutions) into one of these three categories.
For each separate set of selection criteria (e.g., 4-season, stand-alone, 2-person tent) we can look at the total population of gear items that satisfy those criteria, and then, based upon weight alone, we can divide that population into three weight ranges. The stuff that weighs the most is "too-heavy" and the stuff that weighs the least is "ultralight".
That is, basically, the process that I use for determining whether or not gear is "lightweight" or "ultralight".
It is also my first step in overall gear evaluation. Weight alone is an inadequate selection criteria and must be considered along with quality of work, design, durability, cost, and so on.
Actual gear purchases are based on a multitude of trade-off decisions, not the least of which is how the thing fits. Hopefully, though, there's enough great lightweight and ultralight stuff on the market today, that our purchases or creations don't need to be "too heavy".
The above verbiage was intended to help explain why you will see both the terms "ultralight" and "lightweight" at this website. The terms are not synonymous here -- I don't use them interchangeably. That's why when you go to the Gear Reviews page, you'll see a section on "Lightweight Gear Reviews" and also one on "Ultralight Products Review".
It's not a science, though, so you'll probably find stuff in the ultralight section that could be in the lightweight section and vice-versa. My reason for doing this, in the first place, isn't as an academic exercise, but as an attempt to isolate the "lightest", "highest quality", "smallest" gear, as much as possible.
The ultralight stuff, simply put, is the lightest available, the lightweight stuff is a little heavier, and the too-heavy stuff is, well, not at this website.