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Backpacker Magazine – February 1998

Ultralight: The Ray Jardine Way

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.

by: Peter Potterfield

PAGE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

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 bag—a quilt, actually—sleeps 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 there—to 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 places—he calls them stealth sites—until 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."


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READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star
Keith
Nov 22, 2013

brilliant guy, but the first book has all these weird hippy tangents; lectures about handwashing in restaurants, that are just a waste of space

Senior Hiker
Jan 08, 2009

Jardine's, Peter and BPM... Thank you for a great article! Very inspirational! I started hiking late in life. At age 60 I set off on the PCT trail head at Highway 4, going north to South Lake Tahoe (approximately 60 miles), with a 72# pack. Five years later and many subsequent hikes my pack is under 40#'s for equivalent hikes, and the hikes are far more enjoyable. Each year I enjoy many multi-day hikes and one long distance hike or climb. This summer the John Muir Trail is calling me!

A special note to senior readers that haven't started hiking yet... what are you waiting for? Get out there and enjoy the beauty of this country. It's not too late to start! I was disabled and sixty pounds over weight for eighteen years. My doctor's gave me a second chance, and I grabbed it by the horns and haven't looked back... ArnoldMtnMan

Senior Hiker
Jan 08, 2009

Jardine's, Peter and BPM... Thank you for a great article! Very inspirational! I started hiking late in life. At age 60 I set off on the PCT trail head at Highway 4, going north to South Lake Tahoe (approximately 60 miles), with a 72# pack. Five years later and many subsequent hikes my pack is under 40#'s for equivalent hikes, and the hikes are far more enjoyable. Each year I enjoy many multi-day hikes and one long distance hike or climb. This summer the John Muir Trail is calling me!

A special note to senior readers that haven't started hiking yet... what are you waiting for? Get out there and enjoy the beauty of this country. It's not too late to start! I was disabled and sixty pounds over weight for eighteen years. My doctor's gave me a second chance, and I grabbed it by the horns and haven't looked back...
Switchback Cowboy

BannerBlueBill
Nov 22, 2008

How do you print a page from your website?

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