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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.
The soft-spoken 50-year-old sitting in the pale sunshine outside his Pacific Northwest home seems an unlikely troublemaker. Feeding peanuts to a brazen blue-jay that hops and bobs for attention, Ray Jardine smiles wryly through a close-cropped salt-and-pepper beard. "They just didn't get what I was trying to do," he says finally, with a tone of frustration. "It was as if they were somehow...threatened."
It hardly matters whether Jardine is talking about the heated reaction to his original ideas about long-distance backpacking or to his innovative camming devicescalled "friends"that ushered in a new era of rock climbing. The man has a way of standing the status quo on its ear and enraging a lot of hidebound thinkers in the process. It's not that he means to do it. Jardine is just careful, methodical, thorough, and unbound by conventional thinking. When he applies himself to a problem, the solutions that result fly in the face of accepted practice.
When Jardine first published The Pacific Crest Trail Hiker's Handbook in 1992 and then came out with a substantially revised version in 1995, he challenged some long-held beliefs about the proper way to backpack. The book, a how-to manual for any long-distance hike and not just a guide to the Pacific Crest Trail, outlines a system of novel techniques for hiking as far as 30 miles a day or farther, day after day, with no more effort than most of us expend covering half that distance. "The Ray Way" amounts to an almost total repudiation of what Jardine terms "standard backpacking style." It was as if he were saying to backcountry travelers, "Excuse me, but just about everything you've been doing up 'til now is wrong."
In typical Jardine fashion, The Ray Way was developed through intense personal experience, starting with his first long-distance hike, a PCT trek, in 1989. "That first dayEit was like we were going to the moon." The outcome, he says, was always "in question." Even so, he and his wife Jenny arrived at the Canadian border 4 1/2 months later. It had been a rewarding journey, but a physically rigorous one.
He went on to do the other two legs of the Triple Crown of American trailsthe Appalachian and Continental Divideand along the way watched far too many hikers suffer, often becoming exhausted, discouraged, and eventually quitting. There had to be a way to make long hikes more than grim ordeals.
In 1994 Ray and Jenny hiked the PCT a third time, covering the 2,700 miles in only three months and four daysalmost 45 days quicker than the first time. They didn't walk any faster, they just spent more hours each day on the trail. "That hike was pure joy," says Jardine. "With the focus no longer on whether or not we could finish, we could enjoy how much fun it was to spend months in the wilderness." Never had he felt so in tune with the wild.
And thus was born The Ray Way, a blend of philosophy and innovative techniques culled from the hard lessons learned while hiking more than 12,000 total miles. At the heart of the system lies an unstinting reduction in packweight. In Jardine's eyes, packweight is the total weight of the pack, minus food and water. On his first PCT hike, Jardine's pack weighed about 25 pounds. On his third hike, it was less than 9 pounds.