Synopsis of Ray's Books
"All truth passes through three stages:
First it is ridiculed,
Second it is violently opposed,
And third, it is accepted as self-evident."
- Arthur Schopenhauer, German Philosopher 1788-1860
Trail Life, the Evolving BookBefore 1991, almost every backpacker on an overnight trip carried more than forty pounds. Even loads of fifty and sixty pounds were common. So prior to the early 1990's, the lightweight hiking movement, as we know it today, did not exist. Granted, a few hikers practiced the minimalist approach; but the methods these hardy souls used did not catch on, mainly as they did not work well for other people. There were no popular books on the subject of lightweight hiking, nor any books or articles that described a workable lightweight hiking system. So for our first PCT hike I had to come up with my own ideas on how to make lightweight gear, and how to make this gear work for us. These ideas proved so successful during our first two thru-hikes in 1987 and 1991 that I decided to write the PCT Hiker's Handbook. Although the book was slanted toward thru-hiking that trail, it also chronicled the initial phases of my gear and associated techniques for long-distance, lightweight hiking. From December 1991 to April 1992 we sold several dozen beta-copies of the Handbook to PCT hikers in planning. In April of 1992 we published the first commercial edition. With the advent of the Handbook, the concepts of a workable and safe lightweight approach to hiking slowly spread throughout the backpacking community.
An idea whose time had comeWith subsequent printings in the first half of the 1990's, more hikers learned about the benefits and techniques of using lightweight gear; some by reading the Handbook, but even more hikers learned by seeing other people use them - in many or most cases without learning of the source of these ideas.
Only the beginningFor Jenny and me, the Handbook and its ideas were only the beginning. We went on to thru-hike the Continental Divide Trail in 1992, and the Appalachian Trail in 1993, at which time I coined the term "Triple Crown" in reference to all three of these long distance trails. The following year we returned for our third PCT thru-hike in 1994. During these three additional hikes I continued to refine our pack-weights and to develop even more effective techniques. By the end of 1995 my gear and methods had taken a quantum leap. So in order to chronicle these refinements, in the spring of 1996 I rewrote the Handbook and called it the Pacific Crest Trail Hiker's Handbook, Second Edition.
Beyond the ordinaryAs the book grew and matured, the feedback indicated that our type of gear and our hiking and camping methods were working for a much wider audience: backpackers with varying levels of experience and skill, and who hiked in many different regions on trails both long and short. So in 1999 I peeled back the book's original skin and took the subject to new level. I kept the information pertaining to my gear and clothing, the associated techniques, and our hiking and camping methods in general. But I removed the PCT specific material and made the book into an all-trails version. The book went into its eighth printing with fresh content and a new title: Beyond Backpacking. Not only was its subject matter "beyond" the standard backpacking method, but also I wished to convey an equally important idea of personal philosophy. That is, I felt that there should be more to backpacking than just tromping along a trail. I wished to take the reader beyond all that, into a world of greater awareness of the natural world and it's deeper meaning.
Test of timeBy now the backpacking community had accepted the benefits of lightweight gear as self-evident, at least for the most part. Yet the book needed another metamorphosis. Over the years my lightweight systems have evolved even further because I have never stopped refining them. Also, a new generation of backpackers are eager to set out with lighter packs. And to do so, a solid understanding of a good, safe, lightweight system is important. So in the Fall of 2008, Trail Life emerged as a reflection of the evolution of my thought and techniques. A lightweight approach to backpacking is here to stay; yet the gear I developed, the techniques for using that gear safely, and the quiet philosophy behind it all may be new to many hikers. It is the enthusiasm of today's hikers and campers that continues to keep this book fresh and young. From the humble beta version of The PCT Hiker's Handbook to the current rendition of Trail Life, and on into the future, the book's history confirms that backpacking can be enjoyable and relatively safe with a lighter-weight approach.
"From the humble beta version of the PCT Hiker's Handbook to the current rendition of Trail Life, and on into the future, the book's history confirms that backpacking can be enjoyable and relatively safe with a lighter-weight approach."
1987 Global Voyage