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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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Before each voyage Jardine heads to his workshop to build a new, improved kayak, but only after redrafting it with a computer program he wrote in his previous life as an aerospace engineer. His latest design is shaped by the lessons learned from the preceding summer's trip. It's classic Jardine: imagination and application, honed by experience. Describing the tedious task of designing his kayak, his eyes burn with the same enthusiasm they show when he remembers the process of developing "friends" climbing protection or recalls figuring out how to get by on a long hike with less in his pack or on his feet than others of us can possibly imagine.

When asked what drives this outrageous immersion in adventure, his response is quick and unequivocal: "It's just a plain, bottom-level love of nature. I think that's a primal instinct we all have, maybe I just have more of it. I've lived it, I know how much being in the wilderness can enrich my life."

It's clear, too, that Jardine thrives on challenge, on the process of taking on a completely new set of problems and applying his irresistible logic to solving them. When he left Yosemite, he had done the hardest climb in the world and invented a device that would change the sport forever. He never again could do anything truly new in climbing, only repeat what he already had done. And after hiking the longest trails in America, some of them three times, he had reduced packweight to less than most people thought was possible. He had developed a system of interlocking techniques that virtually guaranteed not just success, but success with pleasure.

Was Jardine's departure from the worlds of climbing and hiking hastened by the controversy that accompanied both exits? Maybe, although Jardine won't admit to it. By the same token, he's not unmindful of the impact crater he's left on the modern outdoor world as he's followed an irresistible internal urge toward new and ever-changing challenges. "The thing I can't understand," he says finally, "is why people get so upset at my ideas.

"My philosophy is to think for myself. My goal is my own enjoyment in the wilderness, and that's based on reality as I find it. No one else can live my life for me, or for you. In the end, you can't worry about what other people think, you've just got to do what you feel is right."

Peter Potterfield is author of In The Zone ($23, The Mountaineers, 800-553-4453), a chronicle of epic climbs. He lives in Seattle, Washington.


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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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