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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

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The following summer, the pair hiked the Continental Divide Trail, a cobbled-together network of existing trails that runs from Mexico to Canada mostly along the crest of the Rocky Mountains. By then a long-distance veteran, Jardine had begun not just formulating his system for long hikes, but implementing it. Both Ray and Jenny felt that the next logical step was to head East and hike the Appalachian Trail.

When they set off from Georgia on June 7, 1993, Ray and Jenny were putting his go-light system to its first real test. Each of their packs weighed less than 15 pounds, including food, a feat achieved in part by starting late in the season to avoid carrying heavy winter clothing and gear. Hikers along the trail took one look at their homemade packs—little more than daypacks, actually—and couldn't believe the pair was thru-hiking the trail.

"Other hikers thought we were slack-packing or dayhiking," remembers Jardine. "The ones who did believe we were going all the way said, 'You'll never make it.' It was strange. Our lightweight gear left us open to outright scorn."

But Jardine had calculated the daily mileage he and Jenny could cover with their light loads. And the relatively short distance between resupply stations in the densely populated East made it possible for them to travel even lighter. Jardine cut the hipbelts off their packs because their light loads made them unnecessary. They hiked in running shoes, taking most of the weight off their feet, where it really counted. Both had umbrellas, modified by Jardine, which enabled them to hike in light rain or drizzle, and do so in perfect comfort. They did, however, make one bold decision they would soon regret.

"Too bold," laughs Jardine. They decided to hike the entire AT without a stove. They stayed healthy, but they'll never do it that way again. "The weight savings wasn't worth it," he says. "We felt like we could have made the journey even more quickly if we had cooked food to eat for breakfast and dinner, which I now think is better and more appetizing. It was a good lesson."

Speed wasn't the point of their trip, it was merely a by-product of The Ray Way. Jardine hates power hiking and thinks it's poor technique to "get the RPMs up," as he puts it. Instead, the couple's rapid progress was the result of putting in more hours on the trail. Simply put, they could hike longer each day without getting tired because they weren't encumbered with heavy packs. That in turn enabled them to enjoy the experience more.

"We started behind virtually every thru-hiker on the trail that year," says Jardine. "But by the time we reached Katahdin, we had passed all but a handful. The thing is, we never passed anyone on the trail. We move too slowly for that. We passed them while they were resting, or sleeping, or taking layover days because they were all so tired from lugging those huge packs."


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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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