Pg 17: Alexander G., Age 16
(Colors: B Black F/S dark-blue-green E navy.)
Personal Project in English Class
The Ray-Way Backpack
16 years old; 10th Grade
Lamar High School
3 May 2007
My project is to build my very own ultra-lightweight backpack for camping and hiking. It is a package deal that can be mailed to you if you know the man that sells them. My father went on a hiking trip with Ray Jardine, he is the man that makes and sells backpacking equipment. Ray mails you all the appropriate instructions and materials to create your own equipment. We purchased several kits from him so that we can have a lightweight backpack for each of our family members. I decided to make my own backpack instead of my dad doing it for me. This will also help our physical well being and the environment. By using a lightweight backpack you are reducing the strain on yourself. This means you only bring what you need, which reduces the trash and useless stuff buildup that most people participate in. Ray Jardine has his own philosophies on outdoor activities. He suggests using as little as possible and being a courteous camper. He promotes "stealth camping," which is when you leave an area that you have slept just the way you found it so that you preserve the environment. So not only will I be creating my own backpack by scratch practically I will also be learning about preserving the environment.
My father suggested that we order a backpack kit that he had recently tested and made himself. I had already watched him go through the process of making it, so I agreed to order one and make it myself with his guidance. My father had met Ray Jardine before on a hiking trip and he was given a book that I am using to help me understand why I am making this pack. The book is called Beyond Backpacking by Ray Jardine. The book talks about all sorts of practical methods and suggestions for hikers of any sort. In his book he talks about how hikers want things to be light and the backpack companies add weight, "We hikers are trying to carve ounces from our gear, and the backpack manufacturers are adding them back in pounds." (Jardine 51). He says if you really care about backpacking then you should spend your time making your own pack instead of wasting time reading other peoples opinions in magazines and buying an overpriced heavy pack. On his website he talks about how you should envision yourself doing a good job on any project you undertake. Ray says that if someone envisions a way that they are going to take on a project they will attract those ideas while in the process of making it. Ray Jardine states in an article:
"Any type of thinking is a form of envisioning. And whatever we envision, we tend to manifest in our lives. The creative process uses our mental pictures like blueprints. If those pictures are of battling and butchering, then we are attracting that." (Jardine Why Sew?
This information really helped me when I was doing my project. I was able to concentrate on making a good and complete pack. It made the process of constructing the backpack much easier. He promotes lightweight backpacking and the idea that we all should preserve the environment while we use it. He believes it is a privilege to be able to live on this land so we should respect it for all that it gives us. He has many ways he helps preserve our backpacking areas and other places you might hike. The idea of lightweight backpacking is that you have think about what you are going to take on your trip so that it fits in your small pack. This prevents the use of useless camping things and the consumption of luxury foods. By using a light pack you reduce the strain on not only yourself, but the environment too. In his book he talks about all of the unnecessary luxury items the majority of people bring on their trips to the outdoors. I always hated carrying the usually 4lb packs filled with heavy things. I now prefer carrying the 8oz packs that Ray Jardine has to offer. It is a significant difference when you are on long distance hikes, and this is voice of experience. Our family goes on at least one long hike in the outdoors of Texas during a year. So I have had the opportunity to use a variety of packs and the weight difference is quite noticeable. Ray also promotes the use of light tents, dried food, and carrying a water purifier. My father and I are the strongest in our family, so when we go hiking, we always carry the heavy things, like water and tents. We used to carry tents that you would buy at Wal-Mart, but now we use lightweight tarps that are first of all tiny, and super light compared to the conventional tent. These tents also leave less of a mark on the place you've slept and make use of the environment around it. We order all these things from his website, rayjardine.com/ray-way.
My project started by ordering the backpack kit itself. I then read all the instructions so I was able to get an idea of what to expect during the construction of the pack. To create and mark the pack I needed, markers, rotary cutter, scissors, glue-stick, pins, straight-edge, weights, and a sewing machine. Then I cut out all the templates for the different parts of the pack. Then I used the templates to cut the fabric. There is only a minimum amount of fabric to make the pack, so I had to be very careful when I was cutting. Then I started working on the shoulder straps. First, I cut the fabric using the templates then the foam. Then I sewed those onto the reinforcement panel that attaches to the pack. Next, I cut out the side panels of the pack and sewed those together using the templates and markers. Once the side panels were done I sewed on the mesh that holds stuff on the outside of the pack and sewed on the buckle that connects the top of the pack to the middle of it. After that I sewed on the bottom of the pack. Then I sewed on the shoulder strap adjusters to the pack and the loop on the top of the pack for easy hanging/carrying. Then, I put on the extension collar, so that the pack may have more volume to it. Then, I put in the draw strings that are used to close the pack. Once the pack was completed I checked it to make sure everything is secure and in order. Now I have my very own lightweight backpack for my personal use.
It took determination and hard work to put together this pack. I feel that I have actually done something useful by making it myself. I respect the work my father does to make our backpacking adventures easier and more fun by making all of our equipment. I now understand how much time a person must put into making hikes comfortable. The amount of work and time is worth it when you are able to experience the results and benefits. Now that I have a smaller pack I have to think about all the things I put in my pack, so I only have the necessities. This means that it is easy to find things I need and my hiking trip will be almost care free, because I know what I have and what I am doing. The book has helped me understand that I must respect my environment so that others can enjoy it later. By creating my own backpack I have not only made my vacations more comfortable; I have learned important ideas and values about my surroundings.