i read through the bulk of the book last night and have come to a few conclusions...
Andrew divides backpackers into three groups, Ultimate Hikers, Ultimate Campers, and Campers-by-default based on several criteria. he then goes on to explain these groups in relation to the criteria and begins to explore equipment, technology, and techniques for the current or budding Ultimate Hiker.
i found some of the information to be interesting, some of it to be redundant, and some of it useless based on my background. if i were picking up this book with the goal to become an Ultimate Hiker with little background i'm sure i would have a different perspective on the informational aspects of some of the material. my wife laughed out loud at comparison chart of synthetics fabrics to wool - i guess some people don't know that wool comes from sheep and nylon and polyester are oil based products made in a lab.
i was hoping that the book would go into more detail on the skill set of the Ultimate Hiker, not simply saying that one possesses these skills. there was some basic knowledge on campsite choice, map and compass use, and use of trekking poles, but nothing new or profound that a backpacker with a few trips hasn't witnessed or figured out.
Andrew covers nearly every topic with an amount of information on the various techniques and technologies, and there are some "here's why i choose this" tidbits, but overall it seems the content presents items as a range of choices. this leads to a very real problem that i think goes to the heart of what has been discussed here previously, a cult of gear. for every trip in the book it seems there was a unique and new set of equipment required, from the base layer to the shelter to the footwear to the trekking poles.
i have only enough money and room for so much and for me that means a very modest core setup. i have selected a core gear setup that fits my main backpacking area, mainly the Mid-Atlantic region from the coast to the Allegheny Front. i'm sure others here have done the same, tailored their gear for what the area they frequent the most, for all seasons.
given Andrew's definitions, i squarely fall somewhere between Ultimate Hiker and Ultimate Camper, and i'm okay with that. hiking 30+ miles a day seems like a chore compared to my 14 to 18 miles per day. sadly, i feel there is an elitism in the subtext of the book for those of us that aren't mileage and gear junkies. i stopped a running total of the gear selection suggestions when it top $1200.00, and that was pretty early on.
i would not recommend this book to any backpacker that has a few seasons under their boots and has realized that one doesn't need to haul all the gear they own on their back for every trip. i'm clearly am not the intended audience, but i knew that when i bought the book, i bought it mostly for my son to read to supplement what his is learning in the Boy Scouts.