Most beginning backpackers buy what looks like the best equipment using ads in magazines, recommendations of store personnel, and suggestions from friends who occasionally hike. I did the same, and found myself overloaded with goods, out a lot of money, and struggling on the trail. I couldn't help think that there must be a better way. I looked through several books on backpacking before going out and overlooked this one because of the title. I thought the title, Beyond Backpacking, suggested a text for experienced backpackers - not me. After an initial arduous struggle, I read and bought the book. Beyond Backpacking is the answer to easy and economical backpacking - and it is more relevant to beginners.
Ray's book covers the basics of backpacking without any hype and dispels many of its myths. Important items, such as footwear, clothing, backpacks, food, cooking utensils and tents, are covered in unexpected detail and clarity. For example, I thought the best shoes for backpacking were the sturdiest, thickest full-grained leather with gore-tex liners. Ray jokingly mocks the boot advertisements and explains why a lightweight pair of trail sneakers works better. Another good example, with clothing, is the selection of socks. He uses and recommends thin nylon socks because they are durable, inexpensive, somewhat breathable, and easy to hand wash and dry. I think I unknowingly wasted about $15 bucks on each pair of smartwool socks.
Ray's writing is clear and easy to follow. Each subject is covered very thoroughly. Beginners, like myself, may want to skim through some sections to gain some basic knowledge and understanding. More advanced backpackers may want to read sections more thoroughly and compare their knowledge and experience with his. Mr. Jardine provides his C.V.; listing some of his hikes, trail experience, and manufacturing experience. He qualifies as an expert and, in the text, usually points out where others' views differ.
As a person, I am very critical. Under most circumstances I would not give a book a five star rating. This one gets it because it is well written, covers the subject thoroughly, and, if I would have been smart enough to read this book before shopping for gear, I would have saved several times its cost, been more comfortable on the trail, and traveled farther and easier. My only criticism of the book is the misleading title. What is "Beyond backpacking"? Kayaking? Bicycle touring? Astral projection? Virtual camping? I overlooked this book when starting out because of the title. This book is a worthwhile investment for the beginning backpacker and may also appeal to the experienced backpacker unfamiliar with the lighter less expensive approach to enjoying the outdoors.