Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter

Backpacking Light Magazine Announces Discontinuation of Print Version

Publisher Ryan Jordan recalls moments worth celebrating.

Print Jump to Reader Comments

by Ryan Jordan | 2008-10-24 10:31:00-06

Backpacking Light Magazine Announces Discontinuation of Print Version

It is with mixed emotions that we announce today the discontinuation of what has been one of our flagship products since 2004: the print magazine. Details behind this decision can be found in the press release.

While it's a sad day, it's one worthy of positive reflection as well.

Issue 1's humble roots featured the article “Backpacking Alaska” by Peter Vacco, the first person to have walked the length of the Continental Divide from Mexico to the Chukchi Sea. Kevin Sawchuk wrote of his fastpacking trek across 200 miles of the JMT in four days in Issue 2. Justin Lichter's beautiful photography from the Great Divide Trail graced the pages of Issue 3, and Brian Frankle's contemplative cover of Issue 4 inspired us to discover our own Haydukes in the desert. Issue 5 featured a blazing Bushbuddy on the cover and began to focus on critical issues facing wilderness advocates: road building and commercialization of our National Parks. Issue 6 highlighted both the serious side of wilderness (the roadless Absarokas) and the very serious side of wilderness (lightweight techniques for brewing coffee), while Issue 7 featured Jason Geck swimming the Ipnavik River en route to his 500+ mile traverse of the Alaskan Arctic without resupply. We celebrated the grandest of wilderness residents, the grizzly bear, in Issue 8, packrafting in Issue 9, and BPL's Wilderness Trekking School in Issue 10. Issue 11 (to be mailed in mid-November) will feature the best photography we've ever published, and its final page is a fitting end to our print run: a photo of my 10-year old son, Chase, sitting down exhausted on the side of the trail after hiking late into the evening (photo above).

I sort of feel like Chase did in that photo when it comes to the print magazine: feeling rewarded for hiking a hard journey, but rather exhausted.

But like Chase did a few minutes after that photo was taken, I'll get up, grab a handful of GORP, start walking again, and BPL will continue its journey – this time, however, with a bit more focus. I'm really excited to move forward and redirect energy on things we've neglected in the past because of the print magazine: the website, our online content, and continued gear and apparel design and development. I'm also eager to lessen our energy footprint and minimizing printed waste is a large part of that.

I'm grateful for all of your support during our print magazine publishing run. It's a project I'm proud to have delivered to customers, and I know that I'll treasure my own copies while they occupy a pretty special spot on my bookshelf.

Ryan Jordan


"Backpacking Light Magazine Announces Discontinuation of Print Version," by Ryan Jordan. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2008-10-24 10:31:00-06.


Reader Comments

You must login to post comments.

New Visitors: Create a new account
Remember my login info.

NEWS 10/24/08: BPL to Suspend Print Magazine Production, Will Refocus Energy to Online Content Development
Display Avatars
Sort By:
David Dixon
Could you also define on 10/24/2008 13:57:04 MDT Print View

What exactly is included in the term "quality editorial content"

nanook ofthenorth
(nanookofthenorth) - MLife
... on 10/24/2008 13:58:08 MDT Print View

I for one am thrilled that the print magazine is coming to an end. Since its inception I've noticed a decrease in the quality content that I joined BPL for.
The magazine never really attracted me, as a lightweight paddler and climber - although it did have some wonderful content from time to time. However I felt that prior to the magazine's establishment had been provided by the website I look forward the return of that content to the website.

While the e-copies of magazine were nice they were never anything that really got me excited. I also disliked the reduction of content online and the lack of any online price reduction at the time.
Unfortunately I am only willing to subscribe to one backpacking production a year and with its tech based content and expedition coverage has fit that need.
The print magazine for me always seemed like brand dilution

A return to BPL's core business - its web presence, for me will be a welcome change.

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Magazine no more. on 10/24/2008 14:27:19 MDT Print View

I've just received an e-mail with more info re not receiving print mag. Thanks Karen. :)
The website is the main thing.

Jesse Glover
(hellbillylarry) - F

Locale: southern appalachians
NEWS 10/24/08: BPL to Suspend Print Magazine Production, Will Refocus Energy to Online Content Development" on 10/24/2008 14:32:05 MDT Print View

As long as I recive issue 10 and 11 eventually I will be ok. I do think it sucks but what are you going to do you know. I will be more likely to renew my online subscription now as I was waiting to get my last 2 print issues to do so.

George Phoenix

Locale: Joisey
Re: NEWS 10/24/08: BPL to Suspend Print Magazine Production on 10/24/2008 14:40:24 MDT Print View

Hmmm.... I am a new subscriber. I paid the $25 for a year's magazine subscription (4 issues). I considered joining as a premium member at that time (wasn't there a special price for the combination?) but I am new to backpacking and wasn't sure I wanted it at the time.

Since my subscription only started with issue 11, how is a $15 coupon a fair offer? The $15 is not 3/4 of the $$$ I put out.

I was actually thinking of becoming a premium member now that I am getting into it. Now, if I was able to flip that $15 coupon into a premium membership, that would be cool.

Don Wilson
(don) - MLife

Locale: Koyukuk River, Alaska
Re: Re: NEWS 10/24/08: BPL to Suspend Print Magazine Production on 10/24/2008 14:57:48 MDT Print View

George -

You do have the option of requesting a check which will exactly match the 3/4 remaining value of your subscription. In your case, that would be $18.75.


George Phoenix

Locale: Joisey
Re: NEWS 10/24/08: BPL to Suspend Print Magazine Production on 10/24/2008 15:11:42 MDT Print View

Thanks Don. I may do that. I'd prefer to roll it over into a premium membership though. The $18.75 is worth 9 months right? That would be fair. No mailing, no running to the bank to cash it, etc.

Actually, rereading the e-mail, the statement,

"All subscribers have been issued a store coupon in the amount of $14.99 (original subscription cost) to be used on a future order."

is wrong. My original subscription cost was $25.

Mark Larson
(mlarson) - MLife

Locale: Southeast USA
Good decision on 10/24/2008 16:14:39 MDT Print View

There's certainly no shame in paring down. I'm glad that BPL will be able to refocus and divert more resources to the website, gear, and book arms of the company. Looking forward to what's next.

Michael Davis
(mad777) - F

Locale: South Florida
Re: NEWS 10/24/08: BPL to Suspend Print Magazine Production on 10/24/2008 16:48:44 MDT Print View

Personally, I think it's a good decision to stop the print magazine if it was detracting from the web content. It's the web content that I value highly, the print mag was simply icing on the cake.

Hopefully, we will see more articles online from the simple but informative one about the relative strength of tent stakes to the more complex articles like that very comprehensive winter footwear one.

I for one, appreciate the fairness in the coupon/refund policy.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Ok...but and a big but on 10/24/2008 17:57:33 MDT Print View

Sure the coupon is nice and all.

Till you go to use it and find out it only works on merchandise, not the shipping and handling. Blah! The cheapest shipping option is $6.80 when I went to see about using the coupon.

So in essence I get to pay to use a refund.

Yeah, personally? I will just eat the $15.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Michael on 10/24/2008 18:04:38 MDT Print View

I agree with what Michael just said. A little sad perhaps, but the magazine was a disaster from issue 1. Still love the website. I certainly spend enough time here. Glad I did not renew last week :-)

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
NEWS 10/24/08: BPL to Suspend Print Magazine Production, Will Refocus Energy to Online Content Development on 10/24/2008 18:18:54 MDT Print View

As Don mentioned earlier in this thread you are able to apply for cash refund in the form of a check rather than having to use the coupon.

Edited by sharalds on 10/24/2008 18:19:42 MDT.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Ok...but and a big but on 10/24/2008 18:19:38 MDT Print View

I don't get it. Why does it matter if the coupon discounts $15 off an item or $8 off an item and $7 for the shipping? You pay the same amount either way. If you're wanting to buy a $5 item and then have it also cover shipping, why not just wait to use the coupon till you want something that costs over $15?

Edited by simplespirit on 10/24/2008 18:20:11 MDT.

Jolly Green Giant
(regultr) - MLife

Re: NEWS 10/24/08: BPL to Suspend Print Magazine Production, Will Refocus Energy to Online Content Development on 10/24/2008 18:28:51 MDT Print View

Not that I get the right to vote or that my vote would matter in this case, but I'm really disappointed to lose the magazine. I really enjoyed it, and in fact, actually merely scanned the online version because I wanted to save the colors and in-depth stories only truly available in the print version for a place other then when I was hiding behind a keyboard.

The flexibility of having something so small and well done which could be taken with me was of great value and I always enjoyed having the option to read it again and again no matter where I was. I'm just not sure I'm interested in reading the magazine online as the loss of brilliant colors, tactile feel, and the general nostalgia of something I could hold in my hands was of more value to me. I appreciate the fact that it allows all of us to have a smaller footprint, but I find it a little hypocritical to say that BPL supports getting out, getting back to basics, and embracing life the way it was in the past when things were more simple. Forcing me to spend more time behind my keyboard is against every one of these values and it is a shame. I think BPL underestimates the fact that the magazines weren’t merely tossed into a landfill after going through it once as I know of no one who doesn’t consider them valuable enough to keep on a shelf for constant reference and review. Each is a story of history, triumph, education, and passion. It’s a shame BPL puts their magazine in the same category as other periodicals on the market because it wasn’t. I also have a tough time swallowing that the costs of the magazine were simply too much to bear because as anyone who purchased nearly anything from the UL movement will attest to – this stuff ain’t cheap. Apparently there are more than a few people who are willing to pay top dollar for things that fuel their passions and overpriced bivys, tarps, bags, packs – and magazines were no exception.

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: NEWS 10/24/08: BPL to Suspend Print Magazine Production, Will Refocus Energy to Online Content Development on 10/24/2008 19:00:38 MDT Print View

Ryan & BPL staff,
I have enjoyed the online and print/digital magazine. I have been frustrated with the delays and downloading at times, but really appreciated having a copy to read on business trips. I think some of the members that have expressed negative opinions here should consider that BPL have put themselves out there on a risky venture that we all enjoyed when it clicked. BPL's exposure is much greater than the $15-25 that each of us have invested in it.

So don't get too worked up that it didn't work perfectly, and appreciate that BPL is dealing with it in a reasonable manner. Hey, we're family here so that means we can complain about each other, but let's keep it in perspective.

I'm glad that we still have BPL. It's the only website that I check almost every day, and have learned quite a bit from it.

Thanks and keep up the good work!


Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Ok...but and a big but on 10/24/2008 19:30:19 MDT Print View

Chris, I am a well known tightwad. And to be blunt, I don't need more gear - I have too much as is.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: NEWS 10/24/08: BPL to Suspend Print Magazine Production, Will Refocus Energy to Online Content Development on 10/24/2008 19:40:10 MDT Print View

I actually like this. Nice.

s k
(skots) - F
Re: Re: Re: I've read the policy and still have questions. on 10/24/2008 19:46:59 MDT Print View


>Do you see the confusion here? I hope so.

So after all the words in all the threads in all the years, this one had me in tearful relief!

There was certainly no lack of effort, and it appears that even in history, there may be problems parsing the nomenclature.

The crux of this communication issue is that the words PRINT, DIGITAL, and ONLINE, compose the anagrammed phrase "NILLING TREPIDATION". This translates into a fearful reluctance and a lack of understanding in anyone who sees the words PRINT, DIGITAL, and ONLINE. This is the only possible explanation.

Karl Keating
(KarlKeating) - MLife
Alas, it's a common story on 10/24/2008 19:56:55 MDT Print View

As the publisher of a small-circulation magazine that has been around since 1990, I well appreciate what it takes to produce a handsome, well-written publication aimed at a niche market. Most small magazines fail early because they never achieve a sustainable number of subscribers. Most that survive just barely hang on.

(Small magazines rely chiefly--often exclusively--on subscription income, not ads, because their readership, being so small, is unable to attract advertisers. Mass-market magazines, on the other hand, get nearly all of their income from ads. Some of them, in fact, are mailed at no cost to subscribers because the ad revenue covers everything. This is precisely how I'm getting "Backpacker.")

Ryan doesn't say how many paid subscribers his magazine ended up with, but I suspect it was far fewer than the original business plan had projected. Had there been triple the paid subscriptions, perhaps the magazine would have continued.

For my part, I'm saving all the copies, because they're worth saving. The staff did a good job and needs to make no apologies for the content or quality of the publication.

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Re: NEWS 10/24/08: BPL to Suspend Print Magazine Production, Will Refocus Energy to Online Content Development on 10/24/2008 22:08:06 MDT Print View

I've enjoyed Backpacking Light far more and for much longer than the 6+ years I've contributed to it. While I completely understand the decision to discontinue the magazine, I'm also saddened by the loss. I have the full library and have read every word in these mags. I'll keep the collection indefinitely and it's likely they'll be on a shelf when I'm in a convalescent home. It was an honor to have an article in one magazine and an image in another and I thank Ryan and Co. greatly for that opportunity.

I also feel that our online magazine will benefit from this refocusing. I look forward to more in-depth content on the site, despite the fact that I'll miss the portable journal.

My bottom line, though, is that I love Backpacking Light. If ditching the print magazine is what's required to keep this community and publication sustainable, I stand firmly behind that decision. The last thing any of us (readers and contributors alike) is to see BPL go the way of Alpinist.

Doug Johnson