I’ve worked for over a decade teaching expedition skills at NOLS. I’ve even worked on a handful of books where I get to spout off like an authority. And, as an “authority” of sorts, I’ve always tried to shave a little weight from my big backpack, an ounce here and there. Alas, even though I’ve got plenty of backcountry experience, my load was always huge. But, now that I’ve read Ryan Jordan’s Lightweight Backpacking & Camping, I’ve entered a radically new paradigm.
Ryan Jordan is the editor of Backpacking Light Magazine at BackpackingLight.com. His book is a collection of articles from BPL’s editorial staff, and each chapter is exhaustively detailed and specific.
There is a 16-page chapter on pack weight (by George Cole) that reads like a physics dissertation from MIT. After reading it, I came away with new appreciation for the mechanics of my fragile back and what’s really happening when there is a pack strapped to it! I’ve spent a lot of years doing outdoor work, and I’ve never read anything this thorough!
The table of contents is a comprehensive listing of every imaginable issue surrounding a ridiculously light pack. The basics are all covered, but beyond that, there is detailed stuff specifically about lightweight winter camping, hiking with kids, hiking as couples and Super-Ultralight camping.
After reading this book, I was able to completely redefine what was possible! My pack-weight plummeted, and I felt like I had entered into a new league among the lightweight experts. This is a big book, over 400 pages, and it’s amazingly thorough. It exhaustively details every tiny nuance, every trick and technique. There is a huge amount of information to absorb, all of it worthy.
I’m now confidently walking into the mountains, doing safe and ambitious trips, with a pack weight that seems unimaginably light! Now, getting out and camping is an entirely new and exciting experience.
There are other books on the subject. Don Ladigin’s Lighten Up! is a great introduction to lightweight camping. But, after graduating from that one – dive into Ryan’s more advanced book. Be prepared, your backpack will never be the same!