M The Grocery Sack Grows Up: A Genealogy of the Modern Ultralight Backpack

by David Chenault

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Article Summary:

By his own account, Ray Jardine made the first RayWay packs in 1992, for a 1993 Appalachian Trail thruhike1. Photos of Ray and Jenny Jardine's 1993 packs look remarkably like a traditional alpine rucksack: the drawcord top, dual side compression straps, and generally streamlined exterior could be anything from a (shrunken) Chouinard Baltoro to a Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ice Pack. These packs even had a hipbelt and dual stays, though these were both quickly jettisoned, never to return. By the next year the Jardine pack had sprouted a rear mesh pocket, and by 1999, when Beyond Backpacking was published as an independent work, the Jardine pack had the permanent rear mesh pocket, dual lower side mesh pockets, and no hipbelt, all of which exist today in the RayWay kit pack. In four short years, Backpacker was reviewing2 half a dozen 3000 in3 packs under 2 lbs, including the ULA P-1, the Golite Gust, and the GVP G4. All three very directly inspired by the work of Ray Jardine.

In many respects, the contemporary ultralight movement has been defined by Jardine and his pack. Figures such as Ron Moak3 and Glen Van Peski4 specifically cite Jardine as having inspired their own work. This is the simplest explanation for the strong similarity most ultralight packs from the last decade have born to one another.

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