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Trail Life

Ray Jardines Lightweght Backpacking

Ray's book #7, 2009

25,000 Miles of Trail-Tested Know-How, 2009

Trail Life

Trail Life - our revised edition of Beyond Backpacking

  • 400 pages
  • color illustrations
  • more than 235 color photos

    Published 2009, available at our website.

    "I have read 'trail life' for the fourth time. it is a book dreams are made of!" -Cecilia M.

    "Just finished reading Trail Life. Wow! Within 30 minutes of starting the book my way of thinking about backpacking was changed. By the end the read, I have a completely shifted view about gear and preparing for and enjoying the outdoors. Thinking for yourself about these things is actually more fun. I have taken my first step toward "commercial independence" by making my own a fleece hat and mittens on my wife's sewing machine. Next comes the Ray-Way tarp. Big Thanks for sharing your knowledge, experience and philosophy. It has made a difference." -Dana

    Welcome to Trail Life

    New ideas, new techniques, hundreds of color photos, and a new size. Trail Life is Beyond Backpacking updated, revised, and revamped. The new title reflects these changes - the new presentation, the new content, the new color illustrations, and the 235-plus color photographs taken during our many thousands of miles of hiking.

    In all, we think Trail Life is a thousand times better. So if you have read Beyond Backpacking, be prepared for plenty of new content. If you have not read Beyond Backpacking (but perhaps heard about the book) be assured that all the detailed information in that book is in Trail Life, and then some.

    "Trail Life could be the most important book about backpacking that you will ever read. There are a few names that have revolutionized the sport of backpacking, Ed Garvey, Colin Fletcher, Harvey Manning and of course the Master of lightweight backpacking Ray Jardine. This is the most comprehensive long distance hiking guide ever written." -Roger W.

    Over 50 chapters

    Trail Life covers the essentials of packweight and equipment, clothing and footwear, nourishment and physical conditioning, and the myriad topics that contribute to these basics. There are chapters on the safety of lightweight hiking and on pack-weight evolution. There are several gear chapters, including Backpack, Tarp and Tent, Quilt and Sleeping Bag.

    There are chapters on wilderness skills such as Stealth Camping, Campfire and Cook-fire, Knots for the Hiker. Jenny has written a chapter for women hikers, from a woman's perspective. There are chapters on foot care, creek fording, snow travel, snakes and bears, to name just a few.

    Trail Life, showing the lower third of the back cover.

    A new approach

    When I wrote Beyond Backpacking nearly a decade ago, my approach was "Here is how we do it, and here is what I recommend." Today with Trail Life, I have taken a different approach. All the detailed information from Beyond Backpacking is still there, but instead of making recommendations, I have presented the information simply as a record of what Jenny and I have learned on the trail.

    If the techniques, methods and gear work for others too, then great! But I hope the readers will have the wisdom to think for themselves and find the techniques and gear that work for them. Trail Life is no longer a how-to book, but more like a legacy of what we have learned on the trail.

    A closer look at backpacking gear

    In Trail Life I explore the myths in today's heavy-duty hiking and camping gear and clothing. From my own experience I explain how a person tends to acquire equipment-related misbeliefs from the advertising industry. Heavy gear saps energy and strength. It makes a person more prone to injury. And it reduces the potential for enjoyment. In the end, all that heavy-duty gear tends to discourage backpackers from venturing into the wilds.

    On the IUA

    I have written about my own experiences with such equipment, and how I transitioned to a lighter weight approach. In great detail I describe the light-weight hiking clothing and gear that Jenny and I now use, and how we hike and camp comfortably and safely with this gear. As I did in Beyond Backpacking, I still emphasize making your own gear, and I have revised the Sewing Your Own Gear chapter accordingly.

    25,000 Miles of Trail-Tested Know-How

    As stated on the front cover of Trail Life, this book reflects my 25,000 miles of trail-tested know-how. A large portion of those miles has been from the many long-distance treks I have enjoyed. If you are thinking of setting off on a longer journey afoot, I think you will find Trail Life a goldmine of information for turning those long-distance hiking dreams into reality. I suggest ways of financing such a journey, how to find partners, how to organize the resupplies, how to stay focused, and how to supercharge the daily mileage if desired.

    With all of my backpacking trips - whether they be multi-month thru-hikes, week-long treks, or short weekend getaways - I focus on maximizing my enjoyment. I want my outings to be enjoyable: ambling quietly through the woods, camping securely and comfortably, enjoying the natural world. This is so important to me that I have written a chapter that demonstrates how hiking enjoyment is actually a learned skill. My purpose for writing this chapter is to encourage the reader to keep the backpacking trips fun, with suggestions for ways to achieve the most enjoyment from any wilderness outing.

    Food chapter

    The Food chapter in Trail Life reflects my research and findings. Nourishing food is vitally important for the hiker, yet most of the standard backpacking-type foods fall short in providing much nutrition at all. In Trail Life I have outlined the so-called "foods" that I steer clear of and why. And I list nutritious foods and meals that I rely on when I venture out on the trail.

    The topic of food usually leads to a discussion of backpacking stoves, and so in another chapter I describe the pros and cons of various stoves. I also devote a chapter to the Cook-Fire method of cooking on an open fire. How much lighter would your backpack be without the stove and fuel? I hope that once the reader has studied the Cook-Fire method with all its important safety and ecological details, he or she may discover, as Jenny and I did, how quick, simple and easy a nearly-zero-impact Cook-Fire can be.


    "This is the most comprehensive long distance hiking guide ever written." -Roger W.


    Footwear, Stealth-Camping and more

    In another of Trail Life's chapters I explain my footwear preferences. I have learned that running shoes are far more suitable for hiking any trail, long or short, and I describe how and why they work for me.

    Another chapter describes my Stealth Camping technique and I show how this method reduces my impact on the land while at the same time helping to avoid unwanted bear visits.

    Trail Life has chapters on dealing easily with "obstacles" encountered in the wilderness such as rain, cold, snow, mosquitoes and blackflies, snakes, ticks, poison ivy and oak, and a host of others.

    In the Personal Security chapter I focus on the hiker's safety, with advice, precautions and safeguards when our backpacking trips bring us close to civilization. There are tips on preventing theft and avoiding personally threatening situations.

    I have written many chapters that pertain to the hiker's well-being: Foot Care, First Aid Supplies, Physical Conditioning, Hiking Pace, Stretching. The Stress Injuries chapter covers this type of hiking-related injury, how to avoid them and what to do in the event of one - again, based on my experiences. Another chapter is devoted to personal hygiene in the wilds, showing how good hygiene can improve a hiker's comfort level dramatically with such things as bathing with soap "dundo style," and easy ways of washing the hiking clothes.

    An Historical Insight

    Finishing the PCT '94

    Trail Life contains a short chapter near the back of the book called "The Book's History." I included this chronicle so that the reader could see how the present book has evolved from its humble, 1991 beginnings. Although this is the first time in print for Trail Life, it is actually the 12th printing of the original "PCT Hiker's Handbook." We think the historical record is quite interesting and we hope the reader will find it so also.

    Also in the back I have a 2-page spread of my favorite quotes. Here is one of them:

    "If you think education is expensive - try ignorance." -Derek Bok

    A unique book

    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. Trail Life is for all hikers at all levels of experience, from beginners to the most advanced.

    Like Beyond Backpacking (and the original book, The Pacific Crest Trail Hiker's Handbook), Trail Life is unique. The information it contains is original, and not available anywhere else. So whether you plan to head into the wilds for an afternoon or an entire summer, this book will help you prepare for and enjoy your outings.

    Trail Life. Helping you discover new ideas, new techniques.

    "I just purchased Trail Life so I wanted to give my feedback on the book and your service from a novice hiker's viewpoint. First off the book is of EXCELLENT quality for a book from a small publishing house. There are numerous full color photographs and a few color illustrations. It appears to a novice hiker that you cover MANY, MANY aspects of thru-hiking. You discuss areas that someone without the years and miles of experience that you have would never even imagine come into play for their future adventures in the wild.

    The quality of the book and the photographs almost make it a fancy "coffee table" book, yet it contains very useful information.

    So now your service. I ordered over the internet on 06/11. I received an e-mail on 06/12 stating that my book had been shipped. My book arrived 06/14, no doubt because of your quick processing time.

    Excellent service and excellent book Ray and Jenny. Thank you and Happy Adventures!" -Del S.

    Trail Life is the start . . .
    Spending more time in nature is the goal.


    "Trail Life could be the most important book about backpacking that you will ever read. There are a few names that have revolutionized the sport of backpacking, Ed Garvey, Colin Fletcher, Harvey Manning and of course the Master of lightweight backpacking Ray Jardine. Ray's book 'Beyond Backpacking' revolutionized long distance backpacking by showing hikers how to cut the weight out and exploding myths about heavy equipment. Much of the lightweight backpacking equipment and styles today were inspired by Ray and his groundbreaking book. Now Ray and his hiking partner and wife Jenny have revised and updated that classic book with Trail Life. Trail Life is chock full of lightweight hiking ideas that will further revolutionize the sport. Written in a kinder, gentler style, Trail Life will be the new standard reference book for the sport of backpacking. If you plan to hike the AT, PCT, CDT or ADT not buying this book would be just silly. And if you have ever thought your pack weighed too much on a week long hike well then this book can help you too.
    * Written by the acknowledged master of long distance hiking
    * Hundreds of color photographs
    * Indexed for convenience
    * Nutrition tips
    * Sections Include: Pack weight, Equipment, Essential Wilderness Skills, Hiker's Well Being, Overcoming Obstacles, Trail Biology, Long Distance Hiking & Further Info
    * Each section is broken down into many chapters that cover all aspects of long distance lightweight hiking
    * How to make you own gear
    This is the most comprehensive long distance hiking guide ever written. The author and his wife have hiked well over 25,000 miles and all the well known trails as well as a myriad of other trails. Their experiences will prove to be an invaluable guide for those who love to hike and those who seek the solitude of the woods."
    -Roger W.

    "Most people will want to own a copy, because there is so much useful stuff in the book that one needs it at hand, as a constant reference, reminder and inspiration." -Robert K.

    "Love everything about your new book Trail Life. Pics, verbage, layout. What GREAT FUN!!" -Steve S.

    "I just finished trail life, it was very informative,and a joy to read. Filled with common sense,and bare bones packing for a thru-hike great read. -Les P.

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