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1995: Review by San Francisco Examiner

San Francisco Examiner, Tom Stienstra

We met Tom in 1991 during our second thru-hike of the PCT. It took him a few years to write this article, but it gives a glimpse of the people's reaction to our lightweight hiking, back in those early days.

PCT Hiker's Handbook

Review by Tom Stienstra

San Francisco Examiner, Outdoors section

August 20, 1995

Jardine's creativity makes for more enjoyment on the trail

The first time I saw Ray and jenny Jardine, I thought they were crazy. Turns out they are. But sometimes it takes a little bit of crazy to come up with ideas that nobody else has ever thought of.

This couple have used that craziness to devise a series of hiking and camping techniques that first appear very strange, but which allow them to hike long distances with extremely light backpacks. They recently proved it by hiking the entire Pacific Crest Trail, all 2,700 miles of it from Mexico to Canada, in three months and three weeks, averaging 24.5 miles per day. Not only that, but they actually enjoyed themselves.

I was hiking the PCT on the southern flank of Mt. Eddy in Northern California when I first spotted them. From the looks of their lithe bodies, full packs and smooth leg strokes, they appeared to be on a long expedition. But when I looked closer, I noticed they were wearing running shoes, the kind you'd wear for a tennis match, and not only that, but the shoes' tongues were cut out.

What? Tennis shoes for an expedition? You've got to be kidding, right? Turns out it was only a start to their ingenious madness.

Ray Jardine stopped on the trail, breathing easily, smiling, and greeted me.

"Hi!" he said. "Beautiful up here, eh?"

"Sure is," added his wife, Jenny, "Great views."

After talking a bit, I finally asked what I really wanted to know. "How far you going?" What I was really thinking was, "How far are you going with those tennis shoes?"

He just laughed. "All the way to Canada." We're making great time."

"This book will become the bible for long-distance hiking, and already this summer, I have seen dozens of people implementing what has become known as The Jardine Method."

Yeah, sure, I thought. I gave him my mailing address and he promised to write with word of completion. Well, after reaching he not only wrote me a long letter describing some of his secrets, but over the following winter, proceeded to write "The PCT's Hiker's Handbook." In the process, Jardine has detailed all of his inventions for making backpacking fun and fast, how to keep your feet happy and your pack weight light. This book will become the bible for long-distance hiking, and already this summer, I have seen dozens of people implementing what has become known as The Jardine Method.

The keys to it are foot comfort, pack weight and food, the challenges every camper faces, and Jardine's answers are using running shoes with fresh foot-pad insoles, carrying only 209 pounds of gear (his wife carries 17 pounds), and avoiding freeze-dried packaged dinners but instead creating high-nutrition meals.

"During a day's march of say, 20 miles, the hiker takes roughly 45,000 steps," Jardine said. "A pair of boots often feel like a pair of encasing concrete blocks, and for good reason. This is not the fatigue of hiking, but that of wrestling with massive and uncompliant boots, however comfortable and familiar.

"Simply put, wearing lighter, more flexible footwear facilitates the hiking," he continued. "The effects are so pronounced that I estimate that each additional 1-3/4 ounces removed from a boot will add about a mile to the day's hiking progress. Replace a pair of medium-weight leather boots, 3 pounds, 3 ounces, with a pair of medium-weight running shoes, 1 pound, 8 ounces, and with no extra effort can find yourself hiking 71/2 more miles each and every day."

He advises against wearing light running shoes in snow, however, and adds that the greatest benefits of light footwear can only be realized after embracing a vigorous pre-hike training regimen designed to strengthen your ankles, as well as the rest of your body.

But you can add to this advantage by carrying as little weight as possible, further lightening the stress on your feet. In turn ,your emphasis becomes on moving forward and enjoying your surroundings.

"Overweight backpacks not only sap strength, they tax the feet and ankles," Jardine said. "They effectively steepen the hills and magnify the distances. Continuing ahead with them becomes an ever-increasing effort. You never get used to it. The act of taking it off brings immense relief."

Weight carving starts by carrying only essential equipment, harshly judging the trade-off of weight to function, and as Jardine notes, "obviating a piece of equipment reduces its weight by 100 percent." He then suggests writing down each item and its weight, then paring everything down to a minimum.

Most PCT hikers carry 45 to 55 pounds, with some Sherpa types trying to lug up to 75 pounds, rarely even more. Instead of doing without, Jardine suggest maximizing every article. For instance, Jardine started hiking the PCT with a packweight of 20 pounds, yet it included 47 items; his wife had a pack weight of 17 pounds, yet it included 60 items. Between them, they had all major articles of comfort and safety, including tent, foul-weather gear, fresh clothes, cooking gear and first-aid equipment. They even had bonus items, such as pack umbrellas for hiking in the rain.

The advantages become even greater if you use care to plan meals precisely between reaching food drops, both to assure high nutrition and also to make sure you are carrying no extra weight.

"You just plain have to eat quality food, and lots of it," Jardine said simply. He suggests variety, "power foods" such as corn spaghetti, homemade grain-base porridges, turkey jerky and daylong snacks, that is, eating something at every rest stop.

Conversely, he thinks freeze-dried dinners do not meet the needs of most backpackers, and in fact, hikers who try to get by exclusively on processed foods "are literally feeding off their own bodies, their stored reserves."

"I maintain that inadequate nourishment, combined with overweight backpacks and undertrained bodies are the major reasons that most PCT-through hikers quit their journeys," Jardine said.

The PCT Hiker's Handbook is published by AdventureLore Press, LaPine, Oregon, 97739. Now Trail LIfe, the revised version.

The story has 26 pages. This is page 13.
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