Fastpacking: A quick introduction

Fastpacking: A quick introduction

Have you tried fastpacking? It's somewhere between trail running and backcountry hiking, but it's also its own thing altogether.

Let's break it down. 

First, what's with the name? 
Fastpacking is, literally, a blend of fast and backpacking, and is about as equally vague and clear as it sounds. It's basically taking to the trails for a long distance, as quickly as possible.

Right, so it's fast backpacking.
Yes, you backpack fast, though fast is relative. That's kind of like asking if running is moving fast. It depends, and as long as you are going somewhere beyond leisurely walking, speed becomes open to interpretation.

Wait a sec.. so it's trail running?
Sure. Kind of like a long, very long trail run. But you can jog, or walk very fast.

Got it - so it's ultrarunning!
Yes, but wearing a backpack. And again, you can hike. The idea is, that you'd plot out a long-distance on a backcountry route or trail, stripping down your gear to the most essential and lightweight, and then move through that planned distance as quickly as possible - ideally by running the length of it over a matter of days if your goal is to see how fast you can go. Unlike a backpacking trip, you're not carrying a massive backpack and tent, wearing multiple layers and hiking boots. Rather, you're in trail running shoes and gear, and are packing the essentials into the lightest load possible to make it through the distance. 

If you are already a trail runner, ultrarunner or backpacker, why bother with fastpacking?
In her interview with Much Better Adventures, British fastpacker Lily Dyu breaks it down like this:  “This approach allows you to move faster than you would walking (terrain permitting) and thus you have options to go further, visit more places en route or perhaps finish earlier in the day... ‘Why bother fastpacking then?’ you may well ask! The reason is running. Anyone who enjoys the endorphins and thrill of running through wild places will know the urge to break into a faster pace while on a hiking trail. Backpacking is great, but fastpacking is perfect for people who love multi-day journeys and the sensation and buzz of running.”

[Photo via The Stringbean]

Sold. I'm going right now. Byeeeeee.
Whoa, partner! Fastpacking might be all about going fast, but it requires some slow and careful preparation. You need to be ready physically, mentally and have the proper resources and thorough plan. Important things like... deciding on a route, planning the best time of year to go, a pre-nutrition and training plan, and deciding on gear - from clothes to electronics to water filtration to sleep systems.
Fortunately, there are some great resources to help with these things from people who've done it. There's a good overview of fastpacking and planning over at Joe McConaughy's site, The Stringbean. British writer and runner Anna McNuff ran across New Zealand and offers her take on that in this book. And iRunFar also provided a detailed preparation checklist and thorough fastpacking overview.

 

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