Take Less, Do More

Glen Van Peski is a well know thought leader and innovator in the world of ultralight backpacking. Glen (and his wife Francie) are also some of the most generous people I know. I first “met” Glen on-line in the backpackinglight yahoo groups discussion forum more than two decades ago. I was impressed by his humble spirit, out of the box thinking, and experimental / engineer approach. As I have gotten to know Glen better I found my initial impression to be strengthen, and I have come to appreciate how he leads an intentional, thoughtful life of engagement.

Take Less, Do More is a refreshing departure from the typical books about voluntary simplicity, ultralight backpacking, or minimalism. Rather than centering on our relationship with “stuff” the book focuses on how we engage the world around us influences our life.  Many books in this genre would go into great detail about  downsizing possessions, selecting the right gear, etc. Glen talks about these things in the chapter entitled “Know Your Gear”… but a much stronger theme through out the book is embracing generosity which is the best counter-narrative to a life focused on consumption.

Throughout the book Glen shared how a life with margin that provides space to  notice and respond to the world around us, especially other people,  produces a rich and meaningful life. That being less conscious of one’s self, and more aware of others is liberating and enriching, far beyond what one experiences if they were only focused on maximizing their happiness.

Each chapter is built around several personal stories from Glen’s life. From these experiences Glen draws out principles that can be applied, perspectives to shape one’s viewpoint, and/or insightful observations which might help sharpen one’s understanding. Some of the stories I already knew, some I learned while reading the book, all of which I appreciated.

Side note: I think a great practice is to identify key stories that you want to shape your life, take the time to write them down, and regularly share them with others.

You don’t need to be into backpacking to enjoy this book. While several of the stories in this book take place on backpacking trips, the stories are about human connection which is universal. “Know Your Gear” is the only chapter that gets into nitty-gritty details. Non-backpackers could skip this chapter, though reading it might expand your perspective. There are better books about how to be an ultralight backpacker, this is a book about life.

Chapter 1 has a story about a trip Glen led to Buckskin Gulch which included Dan Buettner (best known for his work on Blue Zones), Matthew McConaughey, and several other famous people. A great compliment to Glen’s story is Ali Selim’s humorous trip report from the perspective of one of the participants who was doing his first backpacking trip.

Glen has a website with resources, articles, and the option to subscribe to his newsletter. Gossamer Gear is the the ultralight gear company that Glen started.

If you enjoy Take Less, Do More, there are several books I would recommend:

  • Lighten Up!,  a short, humorous book about how to lighten what you carry when backpacking. Written by one of the original moderators of the backpackinglight yahoo group.
  • Chasing Hope, a memoir by journalist Nicholas Kristof, who still believes in and practices truth telling. Nicholas care for others comes through. Why am I not surprises that he and Glen are friends 🙂
  • Walk in a Relaxed Manner, A memoir about walking the Camino de Santiago, and the lessons learned on that road.
  • Practicing the Way,  A wonderful take on what a life following Jesus could be like.  A life filled with grace and generosity rather than judgement and self-centeredness.

For people who are in Portland, Glen is giving a talk at Crux, June 18, 2024 at 6pm.

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