|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Backpacker Magazine – February 1998
He rocked the world of climbing, challenged the accepted wisdom in sea kayaking, and now Ray Jardine turned his renegade way of thinking to backpacking.
To get such a light load Jardine makes his own gear (he calls it the gateway to the "inner sanctum"), which few of us would bother to do. Even so, his results are hard to argue with. His homemade pack weighs 13 ounces and cost him $10.40 and replaces an off-the-shelf model that weighed 6 pounds and retailed for about $275. He heads down the trail with a pack that's 13 percent of the weight and 4 percent of the cost of a mass-produced version, yet his works just as well. His self-made sleeping baga quilt, actuallysleeps two, weighs 1.8 pounds, and cost $15 to make.
All together, he figures his self-made gear saves him almost 17 pounds in pack weight and about $1,500 in actual retail costs. "The equipment is only the means to an end," he says. "I've seen all kinds of gear travel the full length of these trails. The important thing is to go." By way of example he points to his role model, Emma "Grandma" Gatewood, who hiked the Appalachian Trail for fun three times, once when she was 70 years old. She wore Keds, used a shower curtain for a shelter, and carried all her gear in a stuff sack-like bag she made and slung over her shoulder. "Most people are pantywaists," she once told Jardine.
The real and honest fact is, Grandma Gatewood could have hiked the Gore-Tex off most of us. She was into the experience and could have cared less about how she looked, an ideology that's shared by The Ray Way. Jardine says we should shift the focus from "back here" (the gear or the weight of it) to out thereto the environment, the wilderness, which is the reason for going in the first place. We're too attached to our cool gear, and Jardine just wants you to know you might be a better wilderness traveler if you left some of it home.
Is The Ray Way for everyone? Probably not, because elements of The Ray Way can be risky without the skills to use them. For instance, you can't leave your sturdy boots home and hike in sneakers until you've strengthened your ankles and reduced your packweight. Similarly, you can't forsake the tent in favor of a lightweight tarp unless you've learned how to pick the proper campsite. Jardine is quite aware that his tarp won't protect him from nasty weather, so he looks for low, sheltered placeshe calls them stealth sitesuntil better weather comes along. Practice and style go hand in hand with Jardine's lightweight approach, as does a different frame of mind.
"When you're traveling light," he explains, "not only are you more in tune with the weather, but you're able to take evasive action quickly, to find a more sheltered area. We had one snowstorm at 13,000 feet on the Continental Divide Trail. With our light gear, we couldn't tolerate that, so we had to go back down and bivy until the weather improved. But down low, our simple, well-ventilated tarp shelter kept us drier than a lot of tents would have. The system will work, if you work with it."