Customer Reviews: Lightweight Backpacking & Camping
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on July 31, 2007
For those who are skeptical that backpacking relatively comfortably while carrying less weight is possible, this book does a pretty good job of making the case for dropping the extra pounds. However, if you're already convinced that lightweight or ultra lightweight backpacking is the way to go, this book feels a lot like preaching to choir.

I've been a lightweight convert for two years, and I bought this book hoping to learn some advice and techniques to shave my pack weight down even further. While the book has some useful specifics on some topics (I now swear by the bear bagging technique I learned from it, and the first aid section is very good), I found that it mostly lacked the level of detail I was looking for.

The essays all talk about how great going lightweight is and drool over expensive boutique gear. Indeed, there is a distinctly worshipful tone when discussing the latest carbon fiber and silnylon technologies. The book promotes a lot of very high end equipment while remaining seemingly oblivious to far less expensive alternatives that offer minimal performance compromises. But nothing really goes into specifics beyond what you could find on the internet for free. For example, the book extols the virtues of using a tarp tent, and has pictures of several brands, but provides only vague information on how to actually pitch one correctly, or how to pitch one when there aren't any trees while keeping it stable.

It seems obvious to me that carrying 20lbs would be better than carrying 50, I no longer need to be convinced. I was looking for more technical information and this book just didn't have it.

Also, the book is really just a collection of essays, many of which were written for Ryan Jordan's magazine/web site Backpacking Light, and as a result the book lacks a consistent voice and tone. The essays are also not really organized in an intuitive way.

Ryan Jordan also seems obsessed with light weight for light weight's sake, rather than as a means to add enjoyment to your backpacking experience. Sure it possible to get your pack weight down to 5lbs, if you're willing to shell out lots of money for lightweight fabrics and gear that's often not versatile and that you will probably have to replace every season because of its lack of durability. This might give you bragging rights at the trailhead, but I question if its really worth the added expense and inconvenience over say, a 15 pound pack, which is less weight than the average middle schooler carries every day, and can be acquired much less expensively.

This book has some useful ideas and recommendations on gear, so I'd recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning about lightweight backpacking for the first time, which is why I'm giving it three stars. If you've already shed some pounds from your pack, or are trying to enjoy the outdoors on a fixed budget, there are better and more detailed books out there, like The Complete Walker IV or Ray Jardine's Beyond Backpacking.
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on November 27, 2005
Ryan Jordan's Book has no index, and that always bugs me. It is a collection of pieces by no less than eleven different authors. The central idea is that you should lighten up you pack, even though the preface admits that it isn't for everyone. He believes you can maintain, if not increase, comfort and safety with lighter gear. They don't necessarily recommend the most expensive or fashionable gear offered by current manufacturers, and I find that refreshing. The authors offer some very accurate data and information on lightweight gear, food and first aid. It reflects the trend toward lighter weight backpacking that has been going on for some time. Much of the information, but certainly not all of it, already exists in other backpacking bibles and on the Internet. The book is well organized and I especially liked the way some subjects were classified and explained, like "Protection" and "Risk Management". For me it seemed to be an above average book on the subject of backpacking (I have read several), but not superior. Perhaps it is just a matter of style. Nevertheless it is a valuable reference for the light and ultralight backpacker.
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on November 4, 2006
This book is well worth reading. It is not, as the authors assert, the new ultralight hikers bible. It is useful to compare this book to Ray Jardine's classic Beyond Backpacking. I see it as a good update and companion to Jardine's book. This field guide, edited by Ryan Jordan with contributions by himself and several others, certainly has the advantage of a variety of very sound authors. Jardine asserts only one way of doing things. However Jardine's way is much closer to my preferred style of hiking than Jordan, et al. Jordan focusses on finding excellent commercial ultralight gear; Jardine gives instructions for making and improvising gear. On a variety of topics, from water purification to nutrition to pack design, I tend to agree with Jardine over Jordan and his pals. But if the Ray Way doesn't work for you, perhaps this will be your hiking bible.

This book does contain comprehensive and useful information on first aid, a wide range of shelter and sleep systems and apparel, and general hiking styles that are not covered by Jardine. It also gives good information on commercially made, but hard to find, ultralight gear. For this info it is well worth the price.

Jordan can be highly technical. Here is a typical quote:
"..this excercise emphasises the downward force of gravity that exerts itself at the center of gravity of both pack and the body. The horizontal distance between these two distances is called the moment arm. In turn, the force exerted on the body's musculature to remain stable by that moment arm, which I refer to as pack torque (T), is defined as the rotational force exerted by the pack on the body."

You can simply gloss over the many passages like this if you don't want to follow Jordan's math. Jordan uses analysis like this to evaluate gear - very impressive. My only problem with it is that the conclusions he arrives at often don't agree with what works for me in the field.
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on January 27, 2007
After purchasing several books on backpacking, I was starting to come to the conclusion that most books simply were written by an author with the idea of pushing their own ideas of backpacking. Everything had this slant, but I decided to give Lightweight Backpacking and Camping a shot. I'm so glad I did.

First, with all the various authors, you get different perspectives on ultralight backpacking. No one approach is necessarily the right way, and different views and tones in thier writings help to cement that idea.

Second, this isn't necessarily a "gear guide" type book with listings of what gear to buy. While there are suggestions, they comprise a small amount of the text, which instead focuses on the meat of ultralight backpacking.

While it is true that a previous reviewer, Andrew Skurka works for Ryan Jordan, what he says is no less accurate. It is, quite simply, the best book out there for ultralight backpacking. Further, it works well for the beginner backpacker or the advanced hiker like Andrew.

Now, despite the five star rating, it's not without some flaws. First, one company seems to get top billing in most all of the gear suggestions, though admittedly they tend to be the lightest gear out there. Second, as another review said, there is no index, which makes looking up information a bit more difficult. Still, to me these are insufficient to rate this text as less than a five. Style issues in the layout and a brand preference I don't necessarily share are minor things not worth considering in my opinion.
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on January 22, 2012
I like a lot of the subject matter, and with how it was put together. However, not having a TOC makes for difficult reading on a digital device. I can't flip around like a paper copy allows so it's more important than usual. As it is I probably won't finish the book since it takes me too long to skip the parts I already have adequate knowledge and get to the parts that might be of benefit.
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on July 26, 2012
Jordan's book was great for me. Some may find the book technical; however, there are many books that just don't explain enough--this book is not one of them... I loved it. Some of the materials are out of date--i.e. references to products and line which no longer exist. However, there are pearls of wisdom everywhere in this book from an author on the subject who's reputation carries great weight in his community. Anyway, download a sample on your Kindle and see if the book is good for you.
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on August 20, 2014
There are better books. Lots better such as Johansson's Smarter Backpacking. And Chris Townsend The Backpackers Handbook and Skurka's The Ultimate Hikers Gear Guide. That said, this book is a collection of essays or magazine articles by a lot of experienced hikers. After reading the first three books, this one will provide you with some nice polished touches and stimulate you to think about backpacking technique. It's not a good first book.
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on February 17, 2014
More information than you ever dreamed of on lightweight hiking and backpacking. The author is not endorsing brands. but does mention a few. Mostly he offers suggestions on tactics of lightening your pack. Giving both pros and cons of eac suggestion. Very well written
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on May 23, 2014
I was already an ultralight backpacker/hiker, but after reading this book, I've found another 5 pounds(!) of weight that I can save in my pack. The authors really cut to the chase and tell you exactly what the lightest and most effective solutions are in each category, and do a great job of educating the reader about all the different nuanced topics relevant to spending quality time in the backcountry while carrying as little weight and bulk as possible. Not sure if they have an updated edition yet or not (my copy is from 2006-7, so some items are a bit outdated) but nonetheless you will learn a lot from this well written and informative book.
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on November 13, 2015
The GREATEST BACKPACKING BOOK OF ALL TIME!!! Ryan explores more than just gear (since tech changes) he really dives into the philosophy... and that is what the essence of ultralight/lightweight backpacking really is... a mindset.
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