If you visit your favorite search engine and type in the phrase – What Is Fastpacking –you’ll inevitably come across definitions that say something along the lines of: Fastpacking is the intersection of trail running and backpacking.
However, here at the VTRunCo we feel that definition doesn’t tell the whole story. In our minds, fastpacking is not, and cannot be defined by the gear or gait used. We define fastpacking as a multi-day adventure that is completed in as little time as possible through the application of various weight saving and efficient travel strategies. This means that you do not have to run to fastpack, and nor do you have to be an ultralight gram-counter to fastpack. To fastpack you have to intend to finish a specific route in a little time as possible relative to your fitness/ability/experience.
In practice what does this mean?
Well, there are four primary strategies you can employ to minimize your time on a specific route.
- Go Faster – This is probably the most obvious strategy and it’s easy to see why running is often so closely associated with fastpacking. Employing a running gait is a very effective way to increase your pace assuming you possess adequate fitness.
- Don’t Stop Moving – Have you ever GPS’d a hike or run with a group of friends and at the end noticed that your elapsed time and moving time were significantly different? It’s incredible how much time we can waist regrouping, chatting at a view point, stopping for food, pausing to adjust layers, stopping to find our lip balm/sun screen/camera/etc… Careful selection of layers, utilizing a pack that allows easy on-the-move access to food and water, and a conscious effort to always be making steady forward progress can lead to significant gains over the course of a day. Multiply those gains over multiple days you can see some serious benefits.
- Start Earlier/End Later – This one is also pretty simple, but can lead to some incredible gains, and it requires neither deep pockets or an overly committed training regimen. Take the casual backpacker that enjoys their morning, makes a nice breakfast, and hits the trail by 9 or 10am, stops for 1 hour for lunch, then breaks for camp around 4 or 5pm. At most this person is making forward progress for 7 hours, and that’s assuming they aren’t wasting any additional time with micro-breaks during the day. Here in Vermont during the summer the sun rises around 5am and sets around 8pm. If you were to get up earlier and be moving by 6am, keep moving until 6 or 7pm, and not break for lunch… That’s 6 additional hours of forward progress! That’s two days worth of travel in one!
- Carry Less – Smaller, lighter, and fewer items allows you to carry a smaller and lighter pack. A smaller and lighter pack allows you to wear lighter, less supportive footwear. Trail running shoes are easier to run in than boots. Less weight on your back and feet means you won’t fatigue as quickly and can more easily maintain forward motion for longer. Less weight on your back means your body will take less of a beating and you’ll wake up on day 2, 3, 4, etc… feeling fresher and more ready to get after it again. In a future post we will tackle more specific approaches related to reducing gear/pack weight. This is one area where careful gear selection will only take you so far. At a certain point you have to be willing to invest some $$$ if you want the lightest and most compact kit.
Thank you for stopping by and we hope this helps you better understand what fastpacking is. Stay tuned for additional posts related to fastpacking where we take a deeper dive into specific approaches and strategies you can employ to do and see more.
Also, if fastpacking sounds like something you might be interested in, you should check out the Iceland Fastpacking Trip coming up at the end of July, 2019. This trip is a great introduction to fastpacking in an incredible location. The gear requirements for this trip are minimal, and you won’t have to have the fitness of an elite ultrarunner to enjoy our itinerary. Learn More Here.
Till the next post…