National Long Trail Forum, Japan

Dec 2016

Be-Pal Article, March 2017

Ray Jardine came to Japan!

Be-Pal magazine March 2017

Be-Pal March Issue P.48-52

Translation by Katsu Sakuma

Page 48

Be Pal Exclusive interview

Master of Vertical & Horizontal, Ray Jardine came to Japan!

Hiked 30,000km, This is the Ray Way!

Less than 300g, his own designed and made backpack.

Added the extra cuff and hem to the rain jacket.

Tennis shoes

Last December, Ray Jardine & his wife Jenny came to Japan for the first time to attend the Japan Long Trail Forum as a guest speaker.

Our chief editor, Mr. Osawa, who knows Ray from when he was a top climber, and two Ultra-light Japanese hikers who admire Ray as a god, had an opportunity to interview Ray. After the hiking we took him to Izakaya(Japanese pub) for the interview.

Ray Jardine Profile:

Born in 1944 in Colorado USA. Pioneer of light-weight hiking who set the standard of trail culture of the world. One of his books, written in 2000, "Beyond Backpacking" opened the door of the long trail hike to everyone and it's considered to be the bible for hikers. Revised edition "Trail Life" and "PCT Hiker's handbook" are also contributing to the popularity of long distance hiking. He was known as a hard core free climber of Yosemite in the 70's. He was the first ascent of the most difficult climbing route "Phoenix" and the inventor of one of the most necessary crack climbing cam device "Friends". In the 80's Ray left the rock climbing and got into kayaking, sky diving, and scuba diving to enjoy all kinds of outdoor activities. In the late 80's, he started light weight hiking, which minimizes the use of equipment. He's known as a legendary outdoorsman who mastered the vertical and horizontal world.


Mr. Ryuji Osawa/Be Pal Magazine Editor in Chief: Born in '65. He followed Ray's climbing activities when he was a climber.

Mr.Ryu Katsumata/Hiker's Depo staff: Born in '72. He is an avid hiker and fell in love with the long trail culture when he lived in the U.S.

Mr.Tomoya Tsuchiya/Hiker's Depo Owner: Born in '71. He’s one of the expert of Ultra light weight hiker of Japan

After we enjoyed a 15km hike with Ray & Jenny along San in Kaigan Geo Park Trail in Tottori, we met them in their hotel lobby for the first interview. First of all, we asked them about their trade mark: "Light weight Hiking".

The Meaning of "Hiking"

Tsuchiya: In 2001, I came across his book for the first time in the U.S. Not only did the scales fall from my eyes to learn how to make light weight gear but also learned that he used the word of "hiking" not "treking" nor "backpacking".

Page 49

Photo top 1: Cam device “Friends” invented by Ray. This enables climbers to extend their limits.

Photo top 2: With 2nd climb, he conquered Separate Reality. Note no helmet and his fashion.

Photo top 3: 1977, he conquered Phoenix, one of the most difficult walls. A Japanese climbing magazine had an article and pictures about it.

Photo text bottom: Sailing, kayaking, Arctic exploring, and bike touring. Ray enjoys all kinds of outdoor sports.

Use of light-weight gear is not important to me. Leaving all the digital equipment and TV behind, going outside and enjoying nature while you're walking is the most important thing to me.

Ray: About 1991, when I wrote the book, "Hiking", hiking it referred to about one hour of walking, "Backpacking" would be longer than that. I realized that my style is not quite backpacking. That's why I titled my book "Beyond Backpacking". I don't know what I called my style back then so I subtitled it "Light weight Hiking". When people hear "Long Trail",it gives people a difficult and tough impression. My style is easy and everybody can enjoy it, that's why I chose the word "Hiking".

Katsumata: "Hiking" also often refers to Day Hiking, like many senior people enjoy. So initially many people thought "Light weight hiking" is a new sport. We used to discuss the definition of "Light weight hiking"

Ray: About what year you were discussing it?

Katsumata: About the year of 2000.

Tsuchiya: In Japan, activities in the mountains has a hierarchy. In the U.S.,alpine climbing, free climbing, and hiking are all equal independent activities. In Japan, people often think alpine climbing is superior.

Osawa: So the word "hiking" was misinterpreted in Japan, wasn't it?

Light-Weight is Not Important

Ray: The most important thing is to go outside. Use of light-weight gear is not important to me. Leaving all the digital equipment and TV behind, going outside and enjoying nature while you're walking is the most important thing to me. As long as people are enjoying nature while they're walking, the gear they're using is not the issue. However, through my experience, using light weight gear enables me to walk longer and with less fatigue. That's way I use light weight gear.

Katsumata: Even though we recommend light weight gear, some customers say they aren't concerned with the weight because they have the strength.

Ray: Yes, I know for the young people weight is not the big issue because they have strength. However, when you walk long distance, the weight becomes an issue and less weight means longer distance.

Page 49

Photo Top: Ray has hiked a few thousand km with this day hike looking clothes,

Map: These are the top three long trails of the U.S. JMT is the most popular trail among Japanese hikers which is a part of PCT.

Photo Bottom left 1: Ray & Jenny are enjoying the beauty of San-in Geo Park Trail.

Photo Bottom left 2: Ray only wears a T-shirt in December on Japan Sea coast.

Photo Bottom left 3: He’s thinking about a climbing route at the lookout.

Photo Bottom left 4: For his age, Ray’s steps are light footed. They hiked more than 20km in 2 days.

Photo Bottom right: Ray often carries his pack on one shoulder. Why?

Tsuchiya: Inspired by Ray's idea and method, I opened a light weight gear store eight years ago. Many suppliers were skeptical and didn't want to deal with me.

Ray: Why? Because the market was still small?

Tsuchiya: No, Many suppliers had no idea about light weight gear and they didn't think therewas a market for that. However, now I have a large enough business to hire store staff for sales. New customers of light weight hiking may not know about Ray Jardine. However, the seeds that you have planted "light weight is easy" are sprouting all over Japan. Since 2000, light-weight gear hikers are increasing, as is the number of Japanese hikers who go to AT, PCT and JMT to experience the long trails in the U.S.

Ray: When I wrote the first book in '91, there was no concept nor method of "light weight hiking". I had to invent everything from scratch. Since the company called Go Lite bought my idea and started to manufacture light weight gear, my idea of light weight hiking gear is getting recognized and spreading like mountain fire. Although, my name wasn't spreading, but I don't mind at all.

My Self-Made Travel Gear is the Best

Tsuchiya: I know you have designed and made many light weight gear. In which gear do you have special interest?

Ray: That is the tarp. It's a very light, simple piece of fabric, but it can change the environment around you dramatically. You can make it as a roof or make it as an emergency blanket, so it's a versatile piece of equipment.

Osawa: That means you haven't slept in a tent for many years, have you?

Ray: No, I haven't. Last time I slept in a tent was 2007 on Mt.Everest.

Tsuchiya: When I have my customers sleep under a tarp for the event, they like the freedom and they were more comfortable than they thought they would be. Many people don't think it could be a comfortable shelter because of the simple look.

Osawa: I always wanted to ask you why you're carrying your light weight pack on only one shoulder.

Ray: It's easier that way. Also less sweating on my back. That's it.

Tsuchiya: I thought it must be a reason something like "the pack design and construction won't loose balance or something". It's the Japanese people's bad habit of thinking it too much!

We have transferred to Izakaya (Japanese pub) for more interviewing over dinner. Ray seems to like roasting squid over the Japanese lava stone grill. His wife, Jenny, is drinking Calpis soft drink and nibbling Okonomiyaki. We're asking Ray about when he was an extreme climber. Mr. Osawa, our editor in chief, who used to be a climber, asked him one question after another- like bullets.

Ray Jardine as a Climber

Page 51

(Large texts on top left)

"I don't like the idea of you're a failure unless you complete the trail."

"There's no rule in the nature world. You can quit whenever you like."

Photo top left: Ray & Jenny hiked many thousands km together.

Osawa: I understand you used to work as an aerospace engineer, so you were an elite engineer. When did you change your career?

Ray: I worked for a company for about three years then quit. Many people thought I was a crazy to suddenly throw away a promising career.

Osawa: I also thought you were a crazy. (Laughing)

Ray: Because of my background as an aerospace engineer, I was able to come up with the idea and invention of the climbing cam device named Friends. This cam device is simple construction but it took many trials and errors to complete it.

Osawa: I experienced falling 25m in Hotaka mountain in winter. All the harkens pulled out as I was falling, but one Friends stayed and it saved my life. I 'm alive today because of you. I'll be cremated when I die, I'll have that Friends bury with my ashes.

Ray: Ha,Ha,Ha (Laughing loud), Thank you!

The Moment Ray Made It to the Top of the World

Osawa: How did you feel when you conquered the most difficult wall "Phoenix"?

Ray: I felt excellent. I felt this was my life.

Osawa: Then why did you quit climbing?

Ray: I was enjoying backpacking too while I was climbing. Back then, backpacking was a fun thing to do, climbing was challenging my limits. After conquering Phoenix, challenging my limits wasn't so important any more.

Osawa: How old were you?

Ray: I was 30 years old. I conquered my limit and there was no other gear I wanted to try.

Osawa: When you quit climbing, weren't many people disappointed to learn it?

Ray: No, I bet many people were happy. (Laughing)

Tsuchiya: Because of less competition?

Osawa: The competition is that tough.

Hardship is an important thing to Have in Your Life.

Ray: I could have kept climbing if I wanted to but I said to myself, "This is it". Due to the sales of Friends, I had income. So I set off on the yacht journey around the world. I spent three years on the ocean with my Jenny. After that I returned to my home for a while, I had the urge to do something hard again. So I started long distance hiking with light weight gear, which I modified to weigh less.

Tsuchiya: You often use the word "adventure" in your book. You must have the urge to do adventurous things rather than than hardship.

Ray: Yes, I've already set the next destination. I'll mountain bike the Great Divide Trail.

Osawa: Conquering climbing, yachting, and long distance hiking, how did you keep up your motivation?

Ray: Good question. (Laugh) I don't want to miss anything. I feel like I miss everything and waste my time while I'm home.

Osawa: It hurts my ear. But yes, indeed. Staying inside is not good.

Tsuchiya: Yes, I feel the same way. I often feel that I want to close the store to go hiking.

Jenny: Yes, home should be a relaxing place but Ray is restless.

Katsumata: How do you spend your time at home, repairing your gear or something?

Ray: Yes, with Jenny's help.

Jenny: Yes, I'm almost like his manager.

Tsuchiya: I heard you were always hiking together. Do you walk by yourself sometime?

Jenny: We often hike by ourselves, lately. Yes, we used hike together but as we're getting older, we're not always hiking together since our interests are different now.

Tsuchiya: Do you feel differently when you hike alone and hike together?

Ray: I'll focus on nature when I hike alone. When we hike together, we can minimize the gear and help each other. Jenny is a really tough person. When we hiked 3500km of AT (Appalachian Trail), it usually takes 6 months but we ony took 89 days. We hiked about 50km each day. She runs every day and she's a marathon runner now.

What's Happening in the U.S.

Osawa: Why do you think long distance hiking is popular in the U.S. now?

Ray: I think more and more people want to challenge themselves . They're using social media to share their experience and to contact their friends. This movement is spreading like a wave.

Page 52

Photo top right: Taking pictures of the fishing village of Tajiri port while he’s hiking. He still have curiosity.

Photo middle: His favorite gear, Ray-Way Tarp.

Photo bottom: Snap shot with interviewers. Please come to Japan again.

Tsuchiya: Inspired by the recent movies like "A Walk in the Woods" & "Wild” the number of people who challenge themselves to long trails like AT & PCT is increasing. However, I've also heard that the number of hikers who complete the trails is not increasing.

Ray: Completing the trail or not is not an issue. Going outside is the important thing. Using all the power and the strength is not always the purpose of long trail hiking.

Ray: I don't like the idea of "you're a failure unless you complete the trail".

Katsumata: I think hikers who quit in the middle of the trail is someone who has found their purpose. The hikers who completed the trails maybe didn't find anything.

Tsuchiya: Japanese hikers who go to AT and PCT as their first visit in the U.S. is increasing now. Many of them seem to feel obligated to complete the trail. I'd like to convey your message to them.

Ray: Hike AT as their first long trail? To me, AT is one of the toughest long trail because of it needs to be a full time job every day. You can see the next mountain so you have to get yourself ready for it mentally and physically. Therefore AT is not recommended for the beginners.

Osawa: Have you encountered dangerous wild animals?

Ray: I often encounter bears but I've never felt threatened. I even feel comfortable when I see them. The bear knows the human well so you don't need to be scared so much.

Future of the long trails

Osawa: Today, we all have hiked San-in Kaigan Geo Park Trail. How did you like it?

Ray: It's considered to be a world-class trail. If it was in the U.S., lots of hikers would be on the trail. We haven't come cross any other hikers but tracks of many deers and boars.

Osawa: In Japan, hikers tend to go to a few famous trails like Mt.Fuji and Yakushima Island. As a result, over use and impact on the environment have become an issue. Long trail hiking has just started in Japan, is there any advice from you?

Ray: Preserving and maintaining the environment is necessary when you maintain the trails. Having volunteers involved in this maintaining work is essential. In AT, hundreds to thousands of volunteers are maintaining its trail. These volunteers are enjoying it as their lifework. I think Japan needs to have these volunteers work more. As hikers are increasing, they'll feel the need of participation as volunteers themselves in order to keep enjoying hiking.

Tsuchiya: There's a trail called Shinetsu Trail between Nagano & Niigata. This trail is maintained by volunteers. We hikers are also participating in the maintenance work. The local government who organizes these trails often try to convince hikers to stay lodges in town rather than creating camping areas. There seems to be a big gap between trail makers and the hikers. As a result, trails are not attractive to the hikers and not used at all.

Ray: There were many good locations for camp sites along the trail today.

Osawa: If there are many types of accommodations like tent camp sites, trailer camp sites and lodges, it'll be more attractive to the hikers.

Life is a Challenge

Osawa: About 300 years ago in Japan, in the Edo period, long trail hiking was popular in the country. One example is "Oise Mairi (pilgrimage route)" . They even used the special small container called "Inrou" to put small items in for the travel. And used a large square fabric called "Furoshiki" as a backpack sometimes. It's truly light weight travel gear. Japanese people used to love to hike in nature.

Ray: I really enjoyed it and am happy to assist in building the trail culture development of Japan.

Osawa: Please come back to Japan soon.

Ray: Unfortunately, I don't speak Japanese.

Katsumata: You have said that life needs hardship. So why don't you challenge learning Japanese?

Ray: I'm in the middle of challenging using chopsticks for roasting squid over the grill. I'll use chopsticks from now on since they're much more light weight than fork and knife! (laughing)

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