The Ultralight Backpacker: Ray Jardine
By Steve Gillman
Ray Jardine started the ultralight backpacking revolution.
Of course backpackers have always looked for ways to lighten
their packs, but it was Jardine that demonstrated how a backpacker
could safely and comfortably go thousands of miles with less
than 10 pounds base pack weight (before food and water). He and
his wife did so regularly.
Ray Jardine's Pacific Crest Trail Hiker's Handbook
changed my trips forever. I thought I was going light with 32
pounds on my back for 5 days in the Sierra Nevadas, but I still
had a frame pack, hiking boots, and a day pack to take up the
After Jardine's book, I spent a week in the San Juans in Colorado
with never more than 16 pounds on my back (everything, even food
and water). I took the whole pack up fourteeners, wore running
shoes for the entire 110 miles, and even managed to stay dry
in a down bag under a tarp during seven days and nights of rain.
More importantly, I enjoyed it more (and never had a blister).
Beyond Backpacking, his most comprehensive work on
ultralight backpacking, Jardine explains how we need to worry
less about cutting edges off maps and concentrate on the big
three: backpack, shelter, sleeping bag. When you get the pack
weight below a certain threshold, you can then get rid of your
hiking boots. He recommends stronger ankles over heavy ankle-supporting
boots. Walk a lot on uneven ground to accomplish this.
Ray Jardine and his wife Jenny practice stealth camping. They
go far off the trail to camp in undisturbed places, where the
ground is softer, and their impact is minimal, due to the rarity
of human use. They have trained themselves to recognize safe
versus dangerous water, so they can drink straight from natural
sources. They make their own backpacking gear too.
I can't use all of his advice. I don't like using umbrellas,
for example, and I don't care much for sewing my own tarps. Nonetheless,
my time in the wilderness is so much better thanks to