Book Review: Trail Life: Ray Jardine’s Lightweight Backpacking

Trail Life: Ray Jardine's Lightweight Backpacking Trail Life: Ray Jardine’s Lightweight Backpacking by Ray Jardine

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
“It’s classic Jardine”.
This 2009 publication is the updated version of Ray’s classic 1990 “Beyond Backpacking”. It details his present system of long distance thru-hiking, which is based on “25,000 Miles of Trail-Tested Know-How”.
It is not yet on Amazon.com, and may never be. Ray is distributing the book himself. My copy came 2 days after I ordered it through Ray’s web site. There are no references to any specific products by outdoor manufacturers, as is the case in the usual gear/ backpacking review book. Ray’s own products are promoted.

The book is heavily Pacific Crest Trail based, which is understandable, give the Jardine’s ( includes wife Jenny’s perspectives) history of covering that trail three complete times.  Ray’s new home made pack is under a pound, and his base weight is 8.44 pounds.  Extensive information about sewing your own gear is contained in the chapter on making your own stuff.
The most interesting part of the book for me was the two page author’s profile, which is a staggering list of Herculean achievements in multiple sports: skydiving (2,591 jumps in 2.5 years), a 2 month and 28 day AT thru hike, extensive wilderness canoeing and kayaking excursions, long distance bicycle tours, and a 740 mile ski to the South Pole.
The writing is to the point, and readable. I liked the chapter on physical conditioning.
The book is crammed with original thinking, “who the hell cares what anyone thinks about my angle on this” observations, and thought provoking glimpses on accepted trail practices. This is the man who brought lightweight backpacking to the masses, when we were all carrying 50 and 60 pound packs. For example, ” Some dentists think that toothpaste actually complicates various gum problems”, and then, “At home, Jenny and I brush our teeth, not using toothpaste, but with our home-made soap..”
I think Ray is on to something, and the book has challenged my own increasingly set ways about backpacking. I now plan to sew my own tarp ( 11.89 oz.) and experiment with it this season. I may very well get my own base weight down to 13 pounds this year.
Where the heck can I find some corn spaghetti?

View all my reviews.

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About tjamrog

I'm sixty-seven and live in the Maine woods. I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2007, the Pacific Crest Trail in 2010, Vermont's Long Trail in 2011, and the Continental Divide Trail in 2013 . I am outdoors every day. I offer guided backpacking trips and classes in Maine, through "Uncle Tom's Guided Adventures".
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