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Backpacking Light (, an internet-based community of hikers known for their pro-wilderness values, is forging partnerships with organizations such as the pro-trails Blue Ribbon Coalition ( to join forces in the fight for American Wilderness preservation.

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by Backpacking Light Staff | 2009-04-01 00:00:00-06


Bozeman, Montana (April 1, 2009)

Ryan Jordan, Backpacking Light's founder and publisher, was surfing the Internet one day when he came across "When I read the opening statement on the home page, 'The BlueRibbon Coalition is a national non-profit organization dedicated to preserving responsible recreational access to public lands and waters,' I was bursting with excitement, because that's our mission too!"

Jordan immediately recognized a number of parallels between Backpacking Light and the BRC:

  • Both organizations participate in the process of evaluating public land management agency travel plans;
  • Both organizations love trails;
  • Both organizations believe that America's wild land gems should remain accessible to all humans;

"But the real harmonic potential transcends all that," Jordan said, "and we have some pretty powerful ideas for getting hikers and ORVers to use public lands in harmony."

Backpacking Light's proposals, currently being investigated in a lengthy feasibility study, include:

  • The development of completely noiseless ORVs with zero emissions of any type, zero sound of any type, and zero fuel consumption. Jordan notes that Wikipedia provides great latitude in its definition of a vehicle, which opens up a number of possibilities for creating the alternative ORV of the future. He notes that some of the outdoor industry's most innovative companies are developing alternative ORVs that meet Jordan's criteria, including Inov-8, Alpacka, and Wenonah, to name a few.
  • Creation of the new niche industry of "hiker-taxiing," by which ORV owners receive money from hikers for taking them on rapid tours of their favorite trails. The benefits to this program would include fewer blisters, faster reconnaissance, having to invest less time into personal fitness, and the opportunity to "hug" an ORVer by riding on the back of his (or her) motorbike. "There are serious risks of increasing conflict with this program, but the rewards of intimacy could lead to long-lasting partnerships. Opposites attract, and we can't fight that," says Jordan.
  • Being mentored by the BRC in a new partnership with EA Sports to develop a series of video games to promote hiking. "ORVers have forged incredibly successful relationships with video gaming companies, and we want a piece of that action too," says Jordan, who won the 1982 Donkey Kong tournament at the El Dorado Casino Hotel in Reno, Nevada, and hikes a lot too. "It's time that the hiking community is recognized for their intensity and excitement among our screen-addicted youth, but we can't do it without those who've paved that road ahead of us." Jordan will model the new game series after PlayStation's MX World Tour, but focus less on riding motorcycles and more on doing things motorcycle people could never do, like hike through a forest of blowdowns or haul all your stuff out to an island camp at the middle of an alpine lake using just a Therm-a-Rest and some duct tape. "Hey, we have a lot to offer too. Just give us a chance to rock your XBox, OK?"

Because these are long term projects that provide significant logistical, philosophical, and political challenges, Jordan is eager to promote harmony out of the gate with more realistic short-term endeavors. For example, Jordan advocates distributing earplugs at multi-use trailheads from minimum-impact dispensing machines disguised as permit kiosks. He hopes this project will lead to a complete virtual-reality sensory equipment package that will deaden all senses to surrounding ORV activity, including vision, hearing, smell, and the general awareness of the surrounding environment. Jordan noted that some pretty sophisticated devices are already on the market, with manufacturer Bell and others leading innovation in this area. The goal here is less about creating harmony and more about eliminating the awareness of each other. Jordan says that this may be a "unique first step to a long term solution because right now, we're pretty much total aliens to each other. We don't even drink the same brands of beer."

Jordan hopes that a BPL-BRC partnership is forged on the horizon soon. "The opportunity to maximize the enjoyment of wild lands for all is too good to pass up and now is the time to make it happen."

The tides of change may indeed be rising. A few weeks ago, as snow began to melt from Montana's trails, Jordan encountered an ORVer and BRC member - walking - back to his car on a muddy trail. "What happened, are you OK?" Jordan asked.

"Yeah," the teenage biker said, "my bike broke down a few miles back, and I got a raging blister from walking in these stupid boots." As Jordan and the young man departed, Jordan's guilt overwhelmed him. He turned, and said, "Hey kid." When the biker turned around, Jordan tossed him his New Balance 802's and a Lara Bar. The biker choked back a tear and muttered a simple "Thanks."


The Blue Ribbon Coalition is a non-profit ORV advocacy group that supports the establishment of Congressionally designated backcountry where motorized use can co-exist with ... other recreational uses as well as other management activities while still preserving the backcountry character of the landscape.

Backpacking Light is a media company that publishes a weekly online magazine about lightweight hiking, backpacking, and other human powered sports. Backpacking Light recognizes that the intention of the Wilderness Act of 1964 was to preserve existing and identify continuing opportunities for wilderness land protection in the United States, and that environmentally sensitive backcountry areas should be closed to motorized use. In addition, Backpacking Light recognizes that the preservation of the "backcountry character of the landscape" is difficult in the absence of agreement on the definition of "backcountry character."




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Charles Reneau
(charley289) - F

Locale: Cascades and Oregon Coast Range
April Fool's? on 04/01/2009 09:31:18 MDT Print View

This is pretty edgy guys. . . "hiker-taxiing"? Hiking video games???
I hope Blue Ribbon doesn't take this the wrong way. On the other hand. . . I have been laughing my tail off.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
For Immediate Release on 04/01/2009 09:50:56 MDT Print View

LOL @ Bob and his graphic. It was a hard decision to go with the final version I assure you.

Joseph Boyd
(boydman) - MLife
Complete waste of bandwidth and time on 04/01/2009 10:16:11 MDT Print View

Well I could have saved a lot of precious bandwidth this week by deleting the e-mail before even reading. Not one real story in today's edition. Even the pants appear fake. Thanks for wasting my time.

Jonathan Boozer
(anywayoutside) - MLife

Locale: South East
Re: Complete waste of bandwidth and time on 04/01/2009 10:34:36 MDT Print View

sad puppy

atleast he feels sad for you...

Edited by anywayoutside on 04/01/2009 10:35:34 MDT.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE on 04/01/2009 11:23:50 MDT Print View

How's that phrase go? Something about the worlds smallest violin...?

jim bailey
(florigen) - F - M

Locale: South East

Thanks BPL, was howling on this one.

Loved the part with Ryan throwing the biker kid trail runners and a energy bar, still chuckling.

Leia Olsen
(hrhjuniper) - F

Locale: southeast Utah
NIce, guys on 04/01/2009 13:37:29 MDT Print View

You totally had me until the bit about the motor tours of hiking trails. Although apparently I didn't pay too much attention to the perpetual motion machine.

Also, I weep at the prospect of offending the Blue Ribbon Coalition.

Brian Doble
(brian79) - MLife

Locale: New England
Let's get serious and discuss hiking. on 04/01/2009 15:05:54 MDT Print View

I'm planning on doing the PCT with a 3 pound base weight, including my gameboy and a dozen games, one of which is Donkey Kong. Just wondering if BPL will be offering lessons during future Wilderness Trekking courses.

Frank Perkins

Locale: North East
LOL on 04/01/2009 17:09:13 MDT Print View

LOL! I love it. Good job guys

Joshua Billings
(Joshua) - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz,Ca
Funny stuff on 04/01/2009 19:52:09 MDT Print View

Awesome job.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
ORVs on 04/02/2009 00:47:05 MDT Print View

I propose that the ultimate Leave No Trace ORV would be the helicopter. You wouldn't even have to set foot in the wilderness, yet you would retain all those magnificent vistas! Heck, you'd get BETTER vistas! BPL needs to partner with Sikorsky to develop a hybrid-electric personal helicopter!

Speaking of development, Boyd needs to develop a sense of humor... Remind me never to hike with you. ;)

Edited by acrosome on 04/02/2009 01:04:53 MDT.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: ORVs & Donkey Kong on 04/02/2009 09:46:00 MDT Print View

Since it's now April 2, I can communicate about this issue more seriously.

1. I have owned, and ridden, dirt bikes in a previous life, and thought it was really fun. I still have dreams of tearing down the trail on a dirt bike, but now, I think I have an appreciation for the bigger picture. Responsible dirt bikers don't bother me too much, and I do appreciate their willingness to work with and listen to hikers. They are out there, but it's not the norm of the dirt biking community, who seems to have a reputation for feeling offending by hiker's desire for silent experiences. To that end, I think the BRC has made significant contributions on behalf of the ORV community and has improved their reputation. I do prefer to hike in areas without dirt bikes, and I generally advocate for the reduction of opportunities for ORVs on non-wilderness backcountry singletrack. But we have cool areas near Bozeman where I like to hike, and people like to bike. The fact that there are bikers there doesn't keep me from hiking there. I just take different trails.

And on less serious notes:

2. The photo is of a BPL staff member on a dirt bike, and he's proud of it, and he still rides. It's not me, and I'm not telling who it is. And no, we're not going to fire him. Of course, he ain't gettin' any bonus pay either (sic).

3. I really did win the El Dorado Donkey Kong tournament in Reno.


Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
That dirt biker is me! on 04/04/2009 00:35:44 MDT Print View

Yep- that's me, your esteemed Associate Editor on the Husqvarna motorcyle and the other kid is my brother Greg who has also helped with several of my reviews for bpl.

I grew up on a bike- my dad actually had me on an Indian 50 with training wheels at the age of 2...and my bro was only 1 1/2!

My first backpacking actually began in high school when friends and I would go motorcycle backpacking in Eastern Wa. But you have to walk to the really cool places, which got me started with backpacking. The love of simplicity and quiet came next. Yes- I still own a dirt bike but I'm not really sure it runs- it's been years since it was started.

But I do enjoy other activities that use trails. I mountain bike and snowmobile on a regular basis, as well as xc ski and snowshoe. I love all of them but I believe that each has its place and I respect the boundaries that exist. I always love hearing about new wilderness desigation and hope to never see internal combustion in these areas. On the other hand, I've seen many dirt or mountain bike areas close due to development and I regret this loss of recreation.

People will think what they will about other trail users and all have the right to their opinion. Just remember that the next time you see another user on the trail that they might also be one of "us"- at least someday!

Now Ryan- how can I get my hands on a pair of those Hammer pants?

I've travelled round the world, from London to the Bay....


Rob Harrison
(robhar54) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
If Only It Were So on 04/04/2009 12:32:49 MDT Print View

Well, a response to an April Fool's post might be as good a time as any to make my first post...;-)

I just joined this online community. I have been VERY impressed with the quality of the writing, the depth of the technical articles, the wealth of practical advice, the civility of the discussion, and the general spirit of sharing and collaboration. For example, I think it's very cool to see Gossamer Gear making a Henry Shires tarptent see accessories for the TrailDesigns Caldera Cone on AntiGravity Gear's website, and so on. Grant at Gossamer Gear and Rand at Trail Designs have been incredibly patient and helpful, answering my newbie questions. As with other pursuits, working together advances the cause, and is just plain nicer. Certainly lowers blood pressure.

My own work (as a green architect since 1992 - - depends on and benefits from exactly this integrated, collaborative approach.

Knowing before I clicked that the BRC/BPL partnership was an April Fool's joke, I cringed. You see, I ride a dual sport motorcycle, and occasionally find myself ostracized for my eco-freak views in some fora there. I was hoping I wasn't going to find myself equally marginalized here. I was glad to read that both Ryan and Doug have ridden bikes, and to see there are other riders on this board (Hey Jared). I heartily agree with Doug's post.

I started riding motorcycles ten years ago, after an over-use injury prevented me from riding my bicycle, which had been my only form of transportation. In the continuum of transportation choices that starts with walking and ends with jet airplanes, the modern 4-stroke motorcycle is a lot closer to the walking end, in terms of carbon footprint, noise and emissions. I've finally got the ankle sorted, and (through reading Ray Jardine's Beyond Backpacking) realized that by reducing my pack weight, I might actually be able to get back into the backpacking I used to do before the injury. And well, reducing "pack weight" is also beneficial when riding a motorcycle off-pavement. :-)

Rob in Seattle

Edited by robhar54 on 04/04/2009 12:37:39 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: However on 04/04/2009 20:22:50 MDT Print View

Hi Roleigh

Yeah, we do have an April Fools Day in Oz.
And yeah, it took me a short while to cotton on to the gag!

Mind you, the idea of an SF floater with 'zero sound of any type, and zero fuel consumption' does sometimes appeal even to me ... :-)