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Jordan began his backpacking as a member of a Boy Scout troop in Burien, Washington. Jordan earned his Eagle Scout Award in 1986. In the late 1980s, he became involved at Camp Parsons on its staff, eventually becoming its High Adventure Director. In this role, Jordan instilled an ultralight backpacking paradigm among teenage Scouts, leading them in the Olympic Mountains on five-day treks of 80 miles or more, often off-trail. Jordan became known for causing angst among Scouts' parents entrusting their children to his care, but gained a reputation for developing and leading an exciting program that became the envy of local hiking clubs and mountaineers. Jordan and his Scouts completed many ascents of remote Olympic peaks, difficult off-trail traverses, and long distance treks in the Olympic Mountains, often with Spartan packs weighing less than ten pounds (not including food and water).
Jordan holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Environmental Engineering from Washington State University and a Ph.D. in Biofilm Engineering from Montana State University. In his professional career, which included a stint at Montana State University as a research scientist, he conducted research related to groundwater and surface water microbiology and engineering, which led to a research program in Backcountry Health and Science. The program gained national media attention in the late 1990s and early 2000s for its involvement of undergraduate research fellows in wilderness science. Among the topics Jordan and his students studied included the efficacy of backcountry water treatment technologies (for recreation and military use), antibacterial efficacy of synthetic fiber coatings vs. merino wool fibers used in performance base layer apparel, and the prevalence and distribution of pathogenic bacteria in wilderness surface waters.
Backpacking light movement
In 2001, Jordan founded Backpacking Light Magazine on the premise that science and engineering principles should be used to educate consumers about making smart decisions for buying and using ultralight gear. Backpacking Light Magazine, and Jordan's book Lightweight Backpacking and Camping are recognized as the most authoritative references about ultralight backpacking available, and stand in contrast to other important, but more biased works, including Ray Jardine's critically acclaimed book Beyond Backpacking.
Jordan uses the term ""Super-ultralight backpacking" to describe a style of ultralight backpacking undertaken with a pack weight of less than five pounds (2.3 kg). In addition, Jordan is well known for promoting a style of backpacking by which long distances are walked without outside assistance or resupply. His own efforts have included more than seven 300+ mile treks without resupply, mostly taken in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem of the Northern U.S. Rocky Mountains, including a circumnavigation of the Wind River Range, two north-to-south traverses of the ecosystem.
With Roman Dial and Jason Geck, Jordan attempted a 600+ mile traverse of the Western Arctic in June 2006 without resupply, beginning at the coastal village of Kivalina. Their starting pack weights (including food) were about 55 pounds each. After 185 miles, Jordan injured an ankle and was flown to Kotzebue by a bush pilot. Geck continued to Anaktuvuk Pass, a distance of 550 miles from Kivalina, and Dial reached the Alaskan Oil Pipeline Highway, a distance of 624 miles from Kivalina. This trek was the first successful attempt by any party to complete a foot traverse of America's most expansive roadless wilderness without resupply.
Jordan has been involved in the Scouting movement for 35 years as a youth and leader. As a young Hikemaster at Camp Parsons in the early 1990s, he mentored a group of 15-17 year old Scouts in the Camp Parsons Silver Marmot Program on a circumnavigation of the Olympic Range over a distance of 145 miles in 5 days, that included an ascent of Mt. Constance and first ascents of several obscure satellite peaks en route that hadn't been climbed since the 1920s and 1930s. Jordan took $175 of his own money for one Silver Marmot trek to purchase army-surplus packrafts and made what may have been the first packrafting descent of the Hoh River in 1991 with a group of teenagers following a traverse of the Bailey Range. Jordan was known to say that "this was the most exciting adventure I've ever done, only because the participants, myself included, were full of youth and ignorance, and lacked duct tape for packraft repair, causing us to end at the Pacific Ocean with 8 of us crammed into 5 boats."
Jordan was the Scoutmaster for Troop 676 in Bozeman, Montana, and is currently the High Adventure Chair for the Montana Council of the BSA. Jordan is a nationally-renown proponent and educator for the "Scouting Renaissance", a movement to restore rigorous study and integrity back into the Patrol Method, High Adventure Expeditions, Advancement, Adult Integrity, and Youth Leadership.
- "Alaska backpack trek". Independent Record. May 28, 2006. Retrieved April 7, 2010.
- Villano, Matt (June 7, 2007). "For Hikers in a Hurry to Get Fit Fast". The New York Times. Retrieved April 7, 2010.
- Thomas, Greg (June 24, 2006). "Trekkers Set Out in Search of the Middle of Nowhere". The New York Times. Retrieved April 7, 2010.
- "Halfway Through an Extreme Alaska Trek". NPR. June 27, 2006. Retrieved April 7, 2010.