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Backpacking Light Magazine Announces Discontinuation of Print Version

Publisher Ryan Jordan recalls moments worth celebrating.

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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.


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NEWS 10/24/08: BPL to Suspend Print Magazine Production, Will Refocus Energy to Online Content Development
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Stephen Morse
(scmorse1) - MLife

Locale: Bay area
"NEWS 10/24/08: BPL to Suspend Print Magazine Production, Will Refocus Energy to Online Content Development" on 10/24/2008 22:23:59 MDT Print View

It's all about the content. I will look forward to browsing the website.

Monty Montana
(TarasBulba) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
We Live In Interesting Times on 10/24/2008 22:29:23 MDT Print View

I'm one of those who regrets the passing of the BPL print mag as it was well executed and certainly something to keep on my bookshelf as important reference material. Having it appear online was not a bonus for me...I like books. The writing was on the wall last month I guess when I read that Ascent folded. It was a coffee table quality production that won many commendations for its photography. It was also headquarted in Jackson Hole, probably the most expensive piece of realestate in the country, so their overhead must have been phenomenal compared to, say, being headquartered in Rock Springs. When I was there once applying for a teaching position the local rent exceeded the teaching salary. I left. Rumor has it that Bozeman is becomiing the new Jackson Hole.

I don't consider the printing of a small, quality book (it's more of a book than a mag) that people will save as violating any enviromental ethic, especially when one considers a recent report that estimates the number of U.S. computers that end up in the landfill in a year would fill a hole large enough to contain four Empire State Buildings.

As for the cost of subscription and the irregularity of publication...well, it was still money well spent and I'm glad I have all the issues. Go into a Barnes and Nobles and see what $14.95 will get you. Not much; most books are a whole lot more than that these days.

I just noticed that BPL is printed in China. I once was caught in the pincers of a quandry such as this and switched to in-house publication and everyone was pleased with the results.

Accept, let go, move on. I await the last issue, #11!

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: "NEWS 10/24/08: BPL to Suspend Print Magazine Production, Will Refocus Energy to Online Content Development" on 10/24/2008 22:52:24 MDT Print View

Though I never subscribed to the magazine it still is sad when people I have come to know must make decisions to end things that they've put their hearts and energy into.

I've been mulling over the whole decision and wondered if it would be possible, for those who want it, to set up the online content in such a way that it is nicely printable per customer via a service like Blurb. That way BPL accrues little or no costs and the subscribers can get their printed magazine if they want.

Just an idea.

Charles Reneau
(charley289) - F

Locale: Cascades and Oregon Coast Range
I'll miss the mag on 10/25/2008 00:38:56 MDT Print View

Well. . . I only ever got two of them (9 and 10), but I looked forward to getting them in the mail. I love the look and feel of the mag, and the reading is good, too.

Dear BPL,
Regarding the press release:
I'll never throw mine away!

Mike Snodderley
(Snodds) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: NEWS 10/24/08: BPL to Suspend Print Magazine Production, Will Refocus Energy to Online Content Development on 10/25/2008 03:55:04 MDT Print View

while this is certainly disappointing, I will look forward to the articles that would be in the print version going online. Will you guys publish a backlog of your previous articles to the website? I think that might be a good compromise for subscribers upset that their print subscription was canceled. Plus I know I would love to have easy access to some of those articles.

John Manning
(pctjohnbadger) - F - M

Locale: Stainforth
Oh dear... on 10/25/2008 05:28:57 MDT Print View

I'm sorry to see the mag go. The format, the content, even the 'feel' of the mag were all perfect.

Like Darren and Michael From Dundee, I'm an international subscriber and will miss not getting issue 11 - which I'll have to buy online.

I do appreciate the lengths you've gone to to satisfy subscribers - you've gone over and beyond what would be necessary - but will miss the mag dearly. Takes me several days to read the mag properly, compared to Backpacker, the worthwhile content of which takes me about an hour to read!

Edited by pctjohnbadger on 10/25/2008 05:40:08 MDT.

Ryan Klym
(breaks) - F

Locale: Flat Ohio
Too bad on 10/25/2008 06:02:30 MDT Print View

I have some sadness over the print edition ending. I am not a fan of digital editions (unless they're pdf's I can print), so I really couldn't care less about the zinio thing - used it once and never again.

I am a slave to my laptop all day long and find enjoyment in having a paper magazine that I can take to the coffee shop, sit in a corner and read. Or just sit on my patio and enjoy. When reading sacred text (BPL Mag), I'd rather not scroll, click, scroll, click, cuss.

So despite the roll of the dice on if/when my magazine would show up, I was always ecstatic to get it. It kept me company on many trips - business and pleasure.

As an ask, maybe BPL could put together a "cart" type functionality where we could easily go select the articles we wanted, then print them for on the go. That might be a great happy-medium for those of us that enjoy offline reading.

It sucks that all good things must come to an end. Whoever started that should be shot.

Paul Cronshaw
(beemancron) - F

Locale: Southwest US
What to do now for my backpacking trips? on 10/25/2008 17:37:34 MDT Print View

I just received my copy of Issue #11. I have been taking it on some of my day hikes to read when I relax at a nice viewpoint.

Sorry there won't be a print version #12 to make a dozen great publications. The print versions became part of my weekend UL pack system, small and LW. I am going to miss the feel and touch; online is just not the same. Since content is everything, the Internet can facilitate an easier publication.

However, I don't think I will be downloading the online version to my iPod to read on any backpacking trips. It runs against my philosophy of no electronics in the wilderness.

Charles Blake
(cblake) - F
This is very sad news. on 10/26/2008 11:21:58 MDT Print View

Ryan, all,

This is very sad news. I will miss the printed magazine very much. I liked the printed version not because I could put it in my pack, or curl up by the fire, but because my 50-something year old eyes have already been looking at a computer screen all day by the time it get home. (But I confess, I did pack a few along on Boy Scout outings and just sort of cast them out in the campsite. It was rewarding to see them devoured and discussed by the light of an LED headlamp.)

I have shared your troubles with the print version all along, and I MUST say that I have always found your staff to be very helpful throughout my complaints. No, I mean it. They kept me informed of the difficulties, and once even forwarded a print-ready PDF. So I give a sincere thanks to your crew for all of their struggles with the mag.

It was a refreshing read; the writing usually good and occasionally very good, it well done technically, with less gear mongering than the larger mainstream magazine on this topic. I loved articles like "the middle of nowhere" and the one on bear encounters. Honestly, there was nothing else like it.

I recognize this as a honest bushiness reversal. I wish you luck all in the future.


Craig Burton

Locale: Smoky Mountains
Re: NEWS 10/24/08: BPL to Suspend Print Magazine Production, Will Refocus Energy to Online Content Development on 10/26/2008 12:19:38 MDT Print View

What if, in lieu of offering coupons or refunds, that the option be to give an equal number of back issues? I'm not sure if enough back issues are lying around to suit the demand; but I'm sure many people who will miss the magazine, yet jumped on the boat late, would happily take the inventory off your hands and relinquish that $3.75-15.00. Currently a single back issue is $8.95 for members (much more than I'm willing to pay), but I think it would be fair to hand some of those over at the prorated $3.75/copy to us who missed out on future, and back, copies of the publication.

Just food for thought, since probably most people are like me and have enough gear already, and also aren't very excited about a $3.75-15.00 refund. I suppose your print advertisers wouldn't mind their old advertisements in circulation, and on coffee tables across America, instead of being in some storage closet in Montana.

Edited by MissingUtah on 10/26/2008 12:37:54 MDT.

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
NEWS 10/24/08: BPL to Suspend Print Magazine Production, Will Refocus Energy to Online Content Development on 10/26/2008 13:53:46 MDT Print View

I am going to call on Monday and see if I can apply my "refund" toward my next years membership fee. It qualifies for free shipping.

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Re: NEWS 10/24/08: BPL to Suspend Print Magazine Production, Will Refocus Energy to Online Content Development on 10/26/2008 17:55:28 MDT Print View

Good idea! I didn't get #1, and do plan on keeping the issues on my bookshelf. I assume that there are lots of extra issues collecting dust in a warehouse somewhere, and it would be a share to waste them.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
EWS 10/24/08: BPL to Suspend Print Magazine Production, Will Refocus Energy to Online Content Development on 10/27/2008 08:49:25 MDT Print View

Craig, given the massive quantity of people whom we take responsibility to satisfy we needed to come up with a single solution to credit them for the remainder of their subscriptions.

Roman Ackl
(roman) - MLife
Vouchers and Podcasts on 10/27/2008 09:46:23 MDT Print View

Hi Ryan

even so I liked the print magazine very much I fully understand if you decide to focus on your core competencies in order to be prepared whatever comes up in terms of an economic downturn.

Being an international subscriber to the magazine I (and it seems that I was not the only one) experienced major delays in getting the magazine delivered to my address or issues needed to be re-send to me.

One thing I would like to ask you so is to either:

a. extend the timeline we can use our vouchers to middle or end of next year and not to December 2008. I'm most likely not alone in my ordering habits that I do place an order once or twice at most a year in order to keep postage and customs under control. I would rather wait until spring next year when also some new gear has been released to place another order. Or

b. allow your customers the option to use the vouchers to pay a reduced rate for the online subscription as a premier member.

I'm looking forward seeing edition #11 in Zinio.

One additional thing I would like to mention is in the area of podcasts. Having no insights into BPL internals those seemed to me much of a "Carol Crooker" project and since her departure things haven't been taken on or moved forward. I see not frequent releases, I see content quality dropping (e.g. the latest one with Erin and Craig) and I see no real concept behind them in terms of what you want to cover/achieve with them.
This is of course my subjective view but I would suggest that you/your team decide upon what you can do with those resources which have been freed up by the discontinuation of the print magazine and if it wouldn't be worthwhile re-designed this activity or to decide moving away from the area of podcasts in general.

All the best

Jason Brinkman
(jbrinkmanboi) - MLife

Locale: Idaho
Re: NEWS 10/24/08: BPL to Suspend Print Magazine on 10/27/2008 23:08:36 MDT Print View

My $0.02:

I have been getting the print magazine for the last year. I too have always considered it to be a small book - one of the exact size and shape of popular guide books like the Falcon Guides, which makes it very attractive in my library. I will miss it.

None the less, I applaud Ryan on a sound business decision, for having the courage to explain his decision, and for offering a reasonable policy to make subscribers whole. I would hate to lose everything else here just trying to keep a paper publication afloat.

So how about making some of those back issues available for a package price? I would be happy to use my coupon to expand my library - provided I can bundle the shipping to keep with your mission of minimizing the BPL footprint.

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 10/28/2008 09:14:27 MDT Print View

Jason - You can bundle all the single issues into one order by purchasing one of each. The price of shipping for one issue is about $7 and the cost of shipping for all the back issues together is only about $10 (when estimated using my zip code).

Erik Graf
(VanGo) - F

Locale: Southeast
Ugh! on 10/28/2008 09:32:50 MDT Print View

VERY disappointed. But, it's your show. Glad I at least got it for a while. I gave up my subscriptions to Backpacker and NG Adventure b/c this "magazine" was the only thing exclusively suited for what I wanted to read about without all the extra junk. I hate that it has come to this....

Brian Doble
(brian79) - MLife

Locale: New England
This site can get better?? on 10/29/2008 07:31:11 MDT Print View

I've always considered my online subscription the best gift I've ever received; what a discovery, finding such a professional, in-depth resource for such a small niche. (It really is a small niche: I just spent 6 months on the crowded AT and only met 2 people who commented that they recognized the BPL logo on my hat.) I'm grateful that the site itself remains, and surprised at all the negative & whiny comments I see. Hooray for BPL Online!

Charles Leonard
(cleonard) - MLife

Locale: London
Disappointed on 10/29/2008 08:02:35 MDT Print View

Although I can understand the reasoning, I'm disappointed with the news and as an international subscriber even more disappointed not to receive issue 11 in print form (I'm not a huge fan of Zinio). I'm not sure I fully understand not sending issue 11 as it would surely have completed some subscriptions (leaving BPL free of the commitment to honour the voucher for those subscribers), but I guess you have your reasons.

I think Roman's suggestions of a longer period of validity of the voucher and being able to use it for premium membership make sense and hope you'll consider them.

(epilektric) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
No problems here on 10/29/2008 09:12:57 MDT Print View

When I signed up I contemplated getting the print magazine and decided to just get the online version to save paper. As part of my minimalist philosophy I believe I can reduce many of my physical possessions to digital bits and bytes. That being said, I really didn't care much for flipping through the online magazine. Go figure.

The gist of my time is spent right here on the website. The lack of a print/online magazine will certainly afford BPL the resources it needs to make the website even better. I am looking forward to what will come.