Fastpacking: A Brand New Way to Backpack
Compared to its other “family” members, which include trail running, ultralight backpacking and thru-hiking, fastpacking occupies a smaller niche which is rapidly growing. In this article today, we’re going to explore more on fastpacking and how you can get started, as well as provide some tips for those of you who want to try it out.
So, what exactly is fastpacking? Fastpacking is basically trail running and ultralight backpacking rolled into one epic adventure. Fastpackers mostly move fast through the trail, running, jogging or power hiking across long distances, all the while carrying just enough essentials for a multiday journey. One of the main draws is that fastpackers would get to cover more ground and see so much more. In a sense, you’d get to reach further places than if you were just hiking, and stay out longer than if you were just trail running. It’s the best of both worlds.
Many fastpackers have claimed that fastpacking is all about pushing your comfort zone, challenging yourself mentally and physically and truly immersing yourself in nature. Basically, with nothing but the gear on your back, you run, camp, sleep, wake up and run all over again. It’s an incredibly freeing experience.
Have we piqued your interest? Well, here are some tips you can follow to get yourself started on the fastpacking journey.
1. Build up your fitness
It probably doesn’t need to be said that you should ideally have decent fitness levels before attempting to go on a fastpacking trip. Running long miles over rough terrain is physically and mentally challenging. Build up your fitness and endurance by hiking and trail running. You can also opt for longer hiking days, or trail running sessions so that you’re constantly on your feet. If you’re already a usual trail runner or ultralight backpacker, the training you’re doing can also benefit you for the long run, so don’t skimp out on it.
2. Pack smart
Packing smart is one of the most important things about fastpacking that you should remember. Ideally, your fastpacking kit should be somewhere under 10kg, with food and water somewhere around 2kg. This may prove difficult if you’re planning for multiple nights, so you should choose high calorie foods and refill water wherever possible.
Your backpack is also important, with an ultralight backpack along the 25-35 litre range a crucial factor. The pack should also ride up against your back (due to the running) and have little bounce or you’re in for a rough time. Bouncing backpacks can cause chafing or lead to more fatigue in your shoulder areas. Of course, a waterproof pack is the best choice in case of wet weather. Ultralight tents like the Illumina X 1.35 Ultralight Tent are a great choice in this case, as you are able to lighten your load and have a decent shelter as well.
3. Dress properly
The biggest mistake new fastpackers make is simply bringing too many clothes. Here are some of the more typical clothing items you should bring with you.
- Short-sleeve top
- Long-sleeve top
- Light insulating layer
- Running shorts and tights/underwear
- Lightweight waterproof-breathable rain gear
- Wicking socks (+ spare pair)
- Sturdy trail-running shoes
Choose insulated clothing that is extremely easy to pack, but also retains warmth when wet.
You may also opt for a puffy jacket and pants that you can wear inside your sleeping bag, in place of a heavier sleeping bag.
4. Start small
You don’t have to start off on a multi-day fastpacking trip on your first time out. Instead, run your favorite routes with the same weight and backpack you are planning on using. This gives you a better idea and feel of how well your equipment works, and allows you to fix any problems you may encounter.
You should also be more realistic about your pace. Even if it’s not your first time trail running or backpacking, fastpacking is a whole different ballgame. You have to adjust your mindset to accept that you may not be going at a faster pace than what you imagine. Consider partnering up with someone who has already gone fastpacking before. Not only is it more sociable, you’ll also get to benefit from the experience and safety of having someone who knows what they are doing. Plus, you can also pick up tips and tricks on how to better improve your next fastpacking trip.
5. Eat well
Fastpacking is an incredibly energy draining activity. Remember to bring along some compact and nutrient-calorie dense foods. Keep food for the day accessible and stow other food in Ziploc bags for better storage.
For breakfast, good options include instant coffee, instant oatmeal or potatoes, bars and jerky. Lunch is usually an all-day snacking affair, just like long trail runs, and may include energy bars, trail mix or nuts, peanut butter sandwiches, cheese and dried fruit. Freeze-dried meals are also a good choice to bring for better nutrition and taste after a long day’s fastpacking. Food like ramen noodles or mac and cheese are great and easy to prepare when you set up camp. However, remember that you may need to have some sort of camping cooking set up, so you’ll have to take the weight of your gear into consideration as well.
6. Go with an experienced fastpacker
If you’re new to fastpacking, consider going with someone who has been fastpacking before. It’s not only more social and enjoyable to share an experience with someone, but there’s safety in numbers. You also can pick up tips and benefit from that person’s experience.
Additional tips for fastpacking:
1. Research routes
It’s good to know the route you are planning to take so that you can plan your daily distance around how many hours you can cover in a day. It also helps to know where to set up camp, get water and familiarize yourself with the terrain so that your fastpacking trip can be smoother.
2. Plan ahead for permits
As with any backpacking trip, it’s good to know whether you’ll need any permits before you start out. You can check with your local parks for a list of required permits before you set out.
3. Weather conditions
Because fastpacking relies on minimal gear and often takes the longer route, it’s essential to know the weather forecast and plan for a worst-case scenario. It’s good to know what kind of weather you can pack for before starting.
Fastpacking may be fairly new and niche, but it’s one of the more exciting additions to spice up your outdoor hikes. Nothing beats that liberating feeling of being able to traverse across the great outdoors and surviving on what’s on your back. It really does go back to the more primal instincts that keep us feeling alive.
What did you think about our article? We’d love to hear from you. Have you fastpacked before? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comment section below! Itching to go on a camping trip? Check out our guide to start ultralight backpacking or check out our list of essential camping gear for 2020 to help you better plan out your next camping trip or check out our store for more camping gear!