Ray and Jenny's Guestbook

Send commentsMessage count: 574
Back to Home Page

Kirt, Florida2017-01-08

Good morning,

I've been reading beyond backpacking for years, and it finally clicked after I took my family on an all day hike on jacksonville beach on New Year's Eve with "kids backpacks"- we need to trade those in for your systems if we ever want to do that again and still have fun (without me becoming the pack mule for five little kids).

Just want to confirm before I order - are all of the pics and stories about youth making or carrying their own RW packs, are those all 2200s, or 2400s?

Ideally, I plan to get the quilts for them next, which since we run a little cold at night will probably be the 1P double alpines- does that only fit in the 2400 or larger? I appreciate any advice you can offer, and look forward to getting this order going.

Ray replies:

We have had several 10 and 11 year olds sewing backpack kits by themselves. But it greatly helps if dad or mom has sewn a kit for themselves first, so the kid has someone to ask if/when they run into questions. And watching dad or mom sewing is great inspiration for them.

We also suggest giving them a timeline, like working on the kit for an hour each day, or a few hours each weekend day. Sewing a kit is not instant gratification; it's takes time, but this is quality time invested in learning new skills and making a better able person.

Spring, summer, and fall in Florida would be much too warm at night for a double layer Alpine quilt. Sweating under too much insulation is not enjoyable, and neither is carrying too much insulation when hiking.

Florida Averages

Woodland 2 layers=40°F
Woodland 1 layers=70°F

Quilt Kit Temp Ratings

Order Form

Our quilt kits are tailored for a custom fit. So a quilt for a younger person would be much smaller. Of course you would make it larger so it would still fit after a few years of growth. But a Backpack Vol 2,200 in3 would still work just fine.

Finally, we don't accept returns. So we recommend ordering only one kit to start with. When you have sewn that, you would be much more confident in your success, and feel comfortable ordering as many other kits as you want.

Hope this info helps, and we thank you for your interest in our kits.

Catherine T., UT2016-12-23

Just took my tarp and quilt to Patagonia, spending 4 nights in Torres del Paine National Park in every kind of weather. While some friends had traditional tents/sleeping bags and spent a few nights awake due to being wet and cold, I stayed warm and dry and could not have been more proud of my handwork and your awesome products. The clothesline was particularly awesome to help my wet gear from the day dry by morning. I have struggled to find the same connection to the outdoors that my husband naturally has but these Ray-Way items are the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Scott H., Indiana2016-12-06

Ray and Jenny,

I found your website and then read your book _Trail Life_ a few years ago. They awakened me to the possibilities of making my own gear. I found inspiration in the "Why Sew?" and customer comments sections of your website. Seeing family and friends succeed in various kinds of projects also encouraged me to try making something with my own hands.

Front view of a recently completed backpack kit stuffed with a couple pillows.

The step-by-step instructions are detailed and well-written so even I as a beginner could understand what I needed to do. It is evident you put a lot of time and thought into them.

Scott H.

Clint B.2016-11-17

Just a note of appreciation for all you two do. I've been an avid follower of your hiking techniques since reading Beyond Backpacking in 2004, and while we have never met, your insight and knowledge has played such an important role in my life I felt compelled to write you both a "fan letter". I hope you start teaching classes again, because I'd be there for certain. See you on the trails!

Andy M., MT2016-10-04

Hello Ray,

Just a note to say thank you. I was a student of yours in the Colorado Outward Bound program in the Gore Range in 1974. I retired as a NPS wildland firefighter 2 years ago and have been blessed with adventures far and wide. The photo was taken a few days before I completed the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. Thanks for a great start and an appreciation for minimalist camping techniques and the philosophy of simplicity in life.

Ray replies:

Thanks for getting in touch. I always enjoy hearing from former students, and especially those who are still active in the outdoors. Most people have no idea how difficult the GDR is. So congratulations on completing your ride! Your bike looks like a Surly Karate Monkey but I don't recognize the handle bars. I do recognize the place, and it looks like you took the Fernie Alternate, and I don't blame you after traveling all that way from Antelope Wells.

It's a Salsa Mukluk with Jones H-loop handlebars. The ergonomic design was great for the shoulders and hands. I had very little rain during the GDMBR trip but it poured through that section. You are correct. By then I was ready to finish and two days of asphalt trumped three days of mud. I was lucky to have a very incident free trip. No mechanical issues, accidents, or illness in 41 days.

Andy M.

James G., Garden Grove, CA2016-10-03

Hi Ray!
The few short bikepacking trips that I've done with Ray-Way gear has worked exceptionally well and imagine it will work quite nicely for long distance racing. And I'm glad to hear you are going raw again. I too have made a commitment to eat for health again. Feels good! I added a photo from our 100 mile Kobuk River trip to the Great Kobuk sand dunes from the villages of Ambler to Kiana. Again, some of the magical places I have traveled to with Ray-Way gear. Thanks and best of luck with your training!

James Gibling

Russell C., AZ2016-10-02

Dear Ray,

I saw your short video about cuben fiber. However, it seems to me a 1.0 oz/y2 might be a good choice for the floor of a net-tent. That would be a bit lighter than a sil-nylon floor without being so slippery. I'd love to hear your thoughts on that.

Thank you,

Ray replies:

Imagine spending that much time and money will on your upcoming PCT hike, only to have the endeavor to come crashing down because some vital piece of gear failed, sending you home. You are going on pure logic; I'm going on actual experience of many long-distance hikes. I know what works, and what doesn't. And I don't take chances with shoddy lightweight gear. Everything we sell is what I use because it is the absolute best for ultra-long distance hiking and camping.

Good luck to you and your daughter,

Steven D., AZ2016-09-30

Hi: A couple of questions. I would like to attempt a thru hike of the AT in 2017.I came across your site and was interested in making my own backpack. I measured my shoulders and the total was 44 inches should I go with a large or the next size up? Also what size of backpack would you suggest. I read that you changed out backpacks depending where you were hiking, what 1 size backpack would be the best for this hike. I imagine that I would be carrying a stove. Maybe one of your quilts and tarps depending on my luck with making the backpack. Any info you can supply would be helpful. Thanks

Ray replies:

Minimal training during the five months prior to the start of the hike = an early start date, lots of gear to handle the cold, and 5.5 to 6.5 months duration.

Lots of training during the five months prior to the start of the hike = a later start date, minimal gear, and 4.0 to 4.5 months duration.

The type of gear (and the size of the backpack) depends on the amount of pre-hike training.

44" shoulders, I'd go with XL.

Your "luck with making the backpack" will depend how well you read and follow our kit instructions.

Ray: I went ahead and ordered the ex large backpack. 2600 cc. In your note you mentioned minimal training and lots of training. As an over 60 hiker I was wondering what you meant by minimal training? Thanks Steve

Ray replies:

Thank you for your order.

minimal training = the person can't be bothered. My 5-month training program is easy. I've used it on every long-distant hike, all nine of them. The program is fully described in my book "Trail Life."

Thanks again, and good sewing and hiking.

Psolde, NYC2016-09-29

Hello !

I recently heard about your guys' product here and am quite interested. I wanted to know if this is more intended for cold temp areas, or if they can be used in tropical as well. I'm going to be working In Hawaii for at least 4 months, and don't want to ruin the quilt with humidity or condensation.

Thank you:)) looking forward to hearing back

Ray replies:

The Ray-Way quilt will work fine in Hawaii. Store it in a breathable bag. Wash it in a front-loading washing machine every so often but avoid putting it in a clothes dryer.

Thank you for your interest in our products.

Daniel L., UK2016-09-28

Hi Ray,

My name is Daniel L. and I work for a UK documentary company. I read your article about your experiences on Back River and I wondered if you would kindly give me some advice.

We're currently researching the Franklin Expedition (an Arctic exploration party which went missing in 1845) and there's evidence to suggest that after being grounded in ice for 18 months the Captain decided to march his men from the Canadian Arctic Archipelago to the mouth of Back River on the mainland. They would have had whaling boats to take with them. The nearest outpost of western civilisation was on Great Slave Lake, where the river ends, so there are theories that the group had intentions of travelling up the river. Sadly none of the men survived beyond the northern coast of the mainland.

We're interested in recreating this journey to exploring whether this would have been possible and whether the men would have reached their destination if they were in good health. So my question is - as somebody who has travelled down Back River would you think it's at all possible to travel upstream, albeit with a lot of porterage? I know it would be immensely difficult, but would it be impossible?

I hope to hear from you.

Many thanks!

Ray replies:

Hi Daniel,

Yes, It would be very possible to travel upstream on the Back River, lining, not padding, and the portages would be short and not that many. But I don't think Franklin's men stood a chance of going that way, because of the vast distances they faced.

>nearest outpost of western civilization was on Great Slave Lake, where the river ends.

This is incorrect. The Back River does not end at Great Slave Lake, in fact the Back does not go anywhere near Great Slave.

The headwaters of the Back River is Sussex Lake, more or less.

From Sussex it is a short portage over the height of land, south, to Aylmer Lake.

Ref see "View our Campsites along our Coppermine route. (click this link and open with Google Earth)"

Also see my map at bottom of that page.

Back River see "History"

Franklin's Expedition see "Timeline"

A few more thoughts:

The Arctic environment is not well protected and is extremely fragile and easily damaged. It is imperative that you and your film crew don't harm it. A campfire ring and its charcoal will last for 200 years. Any small bits of firewood are irreplaceable, and any bits of trash will last forever. Even moving a stone will have an impact. As you guys are working your way up the Back, you will be helping erase history in terms of any signs of the Franklin Expedition passing through. So please be mindful and very careful.

>1852–58 (?): Inuit may have seen Crozier and one other survivor much further south in the Baker Lake area.

There's a good chance that these men traveled up the Back a short ways, and then up the Meadowbank to reach Baker Lake. I have traveled up the Meadowbank to Baker. It was not difficult, and there were no portages except for the height of land getting down into the Thelon.

I don't know if there was an outpost of western civilization at Baker, back then. You might research that. If so, that would have been the closest, by far.

Also, you might research what Franklin and company knew about the location of closest outposts.

I have seen a whaling boat from days of yore, lying forlorn on the arctic coast. I didn't disturb it, but it was massively heavy. Moving it would have taken six strong men.

Siku Kayak see photo labeled "Page 176".

Hope this helps,

Terry S., Queens, New York2016-09-18

Hi Jenny and Ray,

Reporting that the camping quilt worked great, car camping in northern New York, night temps between 34 - 65. Used combo of sheet/quilt/thick silk blanket, sleeping on a cot with pads. This 58yo woman, a cold cold sleeper, finally slept well----really well-----camping on the chilly nights. No more wrestling with a mummy bag. All my positioning pillows for achy joints accommodated by the quilt. Just had to roll side-to-side a bit to pull in the edges under me, as otherwise cold air leaks in where the quilt and/or blanket lay over the edges of the cot. Husband delighted, no more cursing and snarling all night from me cause now I can sleep, and maybe I'll make him one too? Thanks again.

Mary, VT2016-09-12

1). Wondering what kind of motorcycle you prefer for long trips.
2). Jenny, LOVE your art work!, (I only see one pictured.) - Fantastic, is that an acrylic painting,? I do not paint, I admire.
3) I forgot, -- ha

3.5) GREAT website! And so nice to see your animal friends.

4). The life you two have led is the life I dreamed of, and didn't get to, much, -- yet, --anyhow,-- I'm creative, and did a few out door adventures, canoe northern Maine., but a lifetime of dealing with, "the black dog", (depression), really put a damper on life's path/journeys. BUT I'm nearing 60. - NOT done for yet, and --
1) looking for sewing machine as I want to make a useful product, - want to make product and hopefully sell, (cause it's needed)
. 2) And want to finally do some of my dream now, live off grid, and camp thru winter, in Canvas tent, etc. We'll see,
Just want to say really, - you guys help by inspireing me!. I have a bit of a "bad back", - But I'm still going to do what I can!


He's to life outdoors, my favorite place.

The other question I forgot, now remembered,
3). Would you know what kind of sewing machine can handle canvas, like 10oz. Canvas. I'd like an older machine, don't have much money.

Thanks for any and all help.


ASAP I will be ordering lots of your items.
My son loves knives, so that will be one of the items.

Kerry R., Michigan2016-09-09

So sorry, Ray, to hear about your motorcycle getting "borrowed" and trashed. Glad to hear, though, that the police were pretty responsive and persistent, and caught the guy. Sad that it had to end with a crash that ruined your bike.

Best Wishes,

Kerry R., .MI2016-09-08

Hi Ray and Jenny!

Ray, I noticed on the AT 2016 Part 2 page that you mentioned doing a bit of trail running in preparation for your 2016 ST section hike.

As a long distance runner (and, of course, hiker using Ray-Way gear and methods), I'm curious to hear about the level of intensity at which you do the runs, both the 4 hour and the 1 1/2 hour. I'm curious, also, to hear about your buildup/progression to what is, to me, quite a large volume of weekly running on tough terrain.

Thanks for all the work you do, and for putting up your inspiring posts on your adventures!

Ray replies:

Yes, 4 hour and the 1-1/2 hour trail runs, two times a week, each. That leaves one rest day a week.

The build-up was 5 months. The pace was slow (but still running, not walking).

All that pails compared to my long-distance hiking where I'm on the trail 14 hours per day.

My secret of success can be found in my books, where I detail my training. It all starts from scratch, and builds up gradually over a period of five months. Most anyone can do it.

Thank you and best wishes.

Catherine & Dan, Vancouver, BC2016-09-05

Dear Ray and Jenny,

We sewed like fiends for a month--2 backpacks, a sleeping quilt, tarp, and net tent along with stowbags--and then took the gear on a 5-day alpine trek. Everything worked so well that it was hard not to evangelize Ray-Way to our friends, who may have found our enthusiasm a little tiresome (they were carrying considerably more weight than we were). Thanks for the excellent video guidance and the paper instructions as well as for writing Trail Life and The Tarp Book. We cite you constantly! (Dan's sister has been inspired to write to you about the Blood Cleaner and she was pleased to be in discussion with you about that just recently). We can hardly wait to go on our next trip . . . thanks for re-igniting our passion for trail life.

Do you by any chance have a kit for shell pants these days? Or suggestions for where to look for a pattern if not?

Ray replies:

You guys sure made our day with this post. Thanks for the wonderful feedback!

Shell Pants Kit: Available this winter: We have designed a new fabric for our Shell Pants Kit. I wore a pair of pants made of this fabric, on my recent AT hike - and I can't say enough good things about them. The pants are extremely lightweight, and dry extremely fast. They are 99.99% mosquitoes and blackflies proof. And are 99.99% tick-proof, and in fact the ticks have great difficulties even clinging to them. Initially we will offer only one color - a light blue. And again, the material is proprietary, and will be available only from us.

Brian W., Japan2016-09-05

Ray, do you have an exact date for the hiking seminar as it would be fun to attend?

Ray replies:

I have not visited Japan and am looking forward to it. I should know more by the end of the month.

Tentative Event Date: December 3-4, '16

Event Place: San'in Kaigan Geopark, Tottori, Japan

Dec3: Hiking with participants and interviews from several media including Be-Pal magazine.

Dec 4: Participation in a panel discussion about hiking and hiking trails.

Simon G., New Zeland2016-09-04

I've been reading you website for a while now and with summer approaching down here in little old New Zealand I am about to place an order for tarp and net tent. [...] What do you guys think? Ray-Way packs carry 22 pds easily? Love your work and ideals around life and living by the way, keep it up!

Ray replies:

The Ray-Way Backpack will carry 75 pounds. We can't reply to your question directly because your email address is not working.

Terry S., Queens, NY2016-08-31

Just finished a 2-alpine layer quilt. Very soft and comfy. Will be used in car camping with cots, and it works great with positioning pillows for my achy joints. Made in a small NYC apartment on a very small sewing machine---a 1943 portable Singer Featherweight. To adjust bobbin tension, consult machine manual----- online if necesary, as was the case with this machine. Not all bobbin cases are alike.
Great work Ray and Jenny.

Terry S.

Brent D., MO2016-08-25

Hello Ray & Jenny, All of your adventures are inspirational. I've enjoyed reading & putting into practice your " Trail Life " book.
A& B cycle is familiar to you here in Springfield & I've purchased several bikes there.
I've noticed you seem to prefer backpacking the Appalachian Trail the last several years, mixed with other adventures. Why have you gravitated to the A.T. ?
Thanks again for your web page about your adventures.

Ray replies:

A&B Cycle is a great place. Saved our bacon once, on the Hello America ride.

I prefer the Appalachian Trail because for me, personally, it offers a much better hiking experience, taken as a whole. The trail-towns are closer together so there are more places to buy food - so I don't have to carry a stove. There are many good hostels along the way. One can call a shuttle from almost any road crossing if you need to get into town, and the hitch-hiking is generally good and often excellent because the locals are much more trail-aware. And the higher-ups, the people responsible for managing the trial, are a great deal more hiker friendly.

But the main attraction for me is the trial itself. The AT is more varied and for me more interesting. On the PCT, every step is the same. You just repeat that step millions of times. The AT has a huge amount of variety, and often the hiking is more difficult, and sometimes down-right challenging. There are more mountains to climb, and there is also much more access to good water.

The down-side is the AT is getting more popular every year. You rarely see anyone while hiking, but the shelters are often crowded at night. This is not a problem for me because I don't use the shelters. I pitch my tarp in the woods, far from any shelter, generally, and haven't had a single problem.

The PCT is a must-do, but on a repeat basis, for me the AT offers much more.

Leonard E., CA2016-08-22

Dear Jenny,

On Sunday, at our campsite next to a large meadow just in from the Carter Summit trail head of Trinity Alps Wilderness, a couple of women walk down the trail on a day trip to South Fork Lakes when I heard one speak of the "beaks" on our tarp, so I commenced to tell them that I had sewn the tarp, net tent, packs and quilts from Ray Jardine kits. That's when one of them said that she is your sister. I said "No way!" and we did a high 5. My jaw was dropped in awe and amazement of that synchronicity/coincidence for the whole day!