If you visit your favorite search engine and type in the phrase – What Is Fastpacking? – you’ll likely come across definitions stating something like: Fastpacking is the intersection of trail running and backpacking.
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 like to think of fastpacking as a multi-day adventure completed in as little time as possible through the application of various weight saving and efficient travel strategies. This means you do not necessarily have to run to fastpack, nor do you have to be an ultralight, carbon-loving, gram-counter to be a fastpacker. Fastpacking is as simple as intending to finish a route in a little time as possible relative to your fitness/ability/experience.
In practice, what does this mean?
If your goal is to shave time here are the four primary strategies we employ to minimize minutes, hours, and possibly days on a 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. Running instead of hiking/walking 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 your total elapsed time and moving time were significantly different? It’s incredible how much time we can waste 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 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.
- Start Earlier/End Later – This one is also pretty simple, but can save you days! Also, it requires neither deep pockets or an overly committed training regimen. Take the casual backpacker who enjoys their morning, makes a nice breakfast, 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 and be moving by 6am, then kept moving until 6 or 7pm eating on the move and not breaking 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 use 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 less fatigue. Less fatigue means you wake up on day 2, 3, 4, etc… feeling fresher and more ready to get after it again.
Hopefully it’s now obvious that going further and faster on an overnight trip (aka fastpacking) is more about being efficient than it is about the gear used or being super fit. These are strategies anyone can use, and hopefully they will help you do and see more on your future trips.
Thank you for stopping by. Stay tuned for additional posts related to fastpacking where we’ll take a deeper dive into specific approaches and strategies regarding gear and training you can employ to go further and see more.