Beyond Backpacking


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This is my very first book review, hope I do this book service.

"Beyond Backpacking" by Ray Jardine is a revised version of his older book "The PCT Hiker's Handbook". In this book, he omits the PCT specific information, and elaborates on his lightweight hiking methods. I had heard of this book on various web sites and by other hikers working towards a lightweight pack goal.

Ray Jardine himself is a very accomplished climber, backpacker, engineer, Kayaker, etc. He has spent years in the outdoors including 5 different thru hikes that covered all the big three trails in the US (PCT, AT, CDT). His lightweight system and his backpacking knowledge are genuine and have developed with his skills because of a scientific approach he applies to designing his own equipment that he has carried over from his experience as an engineer in the aerospace industry.

The main theme of the book is how much more you can enjoy backpacking by reducing and simplifying your gear. Almost every section includes recommendations about lightweight alternatives, making your own gear, and ignoring the advertising hype of gear manufacturers designed to induce buying more. It's a philosophy I happen to agree with, although I haven't gotten to his level of efficiency with my backpacking gear.

I don't recommend a novice hiker go out and buy or make all his gear and learn to backpack with it, nor do I recommend any experienced hiker totally scrap their gear and go totally "The Ray Way". And to make a point, neither does he. The systems and gear he uses require good experience and skills in backpacking in order to be effective with them - such as using running shoes for boots. A backpacker needs strong ankles, a minimum of gear to keep weight down, and excellent field craft to make up for high tech gear.

He recommends trying some of his ideas and incorporating them into your gear and techniques over time. He recommends things like taking a tarp as well as your tent, and if the tarp isn't to your satisfaction or fails you, then you still have the tent you are comfortable with to fall back on.

Amazingly, in his ideas for lightweight backpacking are some lessons about traveling lighter that I have used, but never thought about adding to my backpacking kit until recently. I used tarps very extensively in Germany even in very cold and snowy weather without a problem, but never considered trading a lightweight for a tent until recently. I'm sure other experienced  backpackers will find similar experiences as they read this book.

But not only does his book talk about lightweight hiking, it also covers excellent and sometimes neglected topics such as in depth information on proper nutrition and selection of backpacking foods. Unlike some ultralight and lightweight backpacking web sites or books, Ray Jardine recommends not skimping at all on food, carrying 2# to 2.5# of food per day. Some lightweight guys I have seen recommend only carrying 1.5# per day or less, "starve" on the trail, and pig out in towns. I definitely agree with Mr. Jardine's philosophy.

Other information that is covered very well (in my opinion) is useful information on hiking in snow and self arrest, both of which I have never practiced or used, but it was well explained so that someone without experience could understand it. Other topics that he does as well on are crossing rivers, fire building, knot tying, exercise, photography, animal encounters, re-supply, among many others too numerous to mention.

Conclusion: get this book and read it. Anyone from novice to experienced hiker could learn something from reading "Beyond Backpacking".

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Ray Jardine