Or more appropriately Fastpacking, currently in the UK there seems to be very few people doing it (or its a secret club and they don’t talk about it). There are plenty of walkers who wild camp but from looking there seem to be only a handful who run and camp.
Well if walking, camping and trail running had a little get together, then fastpacking would be the result. Its birth seems to start in 1988 with an article in Ultrarunning magazine,the writer talked about the fluidity of power hiking, walking,running and wild camping and the term was coined.
The idea is pretty simple, strip your kit to within an inch of its life and run your route, experiencing a whole different joy and freedom of movement and exploration. I’ve often found that the act of trail running affords some stealth, as often I can catch wildlife off guard.
I started life as a walker but always felt I was never going fast enough, I would powerful when out but still wanted a quicker pace, after my C2C adventure the love of backpacking and long distance trails took over. I progressed into running and then trail running and finally completing a number of ultra running events. As I looked into further adventures I came across the term ‘fastpacking’, early investigation showed this to be very niche’ in the UK and remains a firm American idea with a plethora of sites in the US dedicated to its pursuit. There are a few sites in the UK but nothing that in-depth, which is a shame as it’s a great way to have a short adventure.
Kit, more kit.
Yep, it means more kit, specifically lightweight kit. Theres no escaping this, after trudging for with a bag weighing 14/15kg over 5days I knew the need to go lightweight was essential. So over the last year ive read, perused and asked what kit would be suitable. Now I don’t have deep pockets and specialist kit can cost more than a holiday ( were talking £500+++ for a tent), but specialist kit is fairly high-tech cutting edge and commands a heavier price tag, but what you get in return is kit that will pay dividends in the long run and last longer.
Number one priority on a trip is sleep, without it, the will to go on falters. There is a myriad of systems out there (links below), but the most basic one is the simple bivvy and tarp set up. I’m currently using the Alpkit Hunka bivvy being waterproof, windproof and breathable and more importantly its weight to price comparison is good. At 400g its a little heavier than some ive seen but at only £47 its a bargain. Its pretty rugged but I found that during my last night out I tended to overheat which in turn made me a little cold. there are other options such as the Rab varieties which are lighter but there are very ,mixed reviews, its worth noting that with all these bags, there will be some inevitable condensations on the inside, there’s no way of avoiding it.
Next up is a tarp, not essential but best to have in case weather turns nasty. I was lucky to source a cheapish item from a Facebook group, a Snugpack Stasha tarp. This is a pocket-sized tarp at only 350g and £35 new it’s also a good ready to go choice.
Now we enter a mine field, the topic of sleeping bags. Heres where the price increases sharply. There are very few lightweight choices under £180 here. My current option is the Alpkit Cloud Cover. It’s a 750 fill down quilt weighing in at only 500g. Again it retails around £100 so not cheap but I was lucky to pick mine up for £60 from Facebook. I’m toying with the idea of a lighter sleeping bag, the OMM raid 1.0 weighs in at only 370g and with no comfort rating one assumes it will be a 2 season job. My Alpkit is a warm little joy,its been coupled with a bag liner to give my underneath some comfort and keep my sides warm. Being a small quilt it tends to expose your sides when you move. The liner can add and extra few degrees of warmth.
Mat, ever important but rarely seen, these little support structures provide not only comfort from the world below but can stop valuable heat from being sucked into the ground. there are a number of sleeping mats that people use and everyone uses different one as with any kits it really is a personal choice, the advice I can give is, if you’re a lady go for a thermal mat like the Thermarest type, women tend to sleep colder than men so invest more in this area than any other, the floor will suck the heat from you making a night out in chilly temperatures a little uncomfortable. my choice yet again is an Alpkit one, Numo (can you see a theme developing here) this little bad boy kept me cosy warm during the C2C and its proven its worth a number of time, it weighs in at 400g and im currently looking at lighter options which weigh in at around 150g so a considerable weight saving to be had.
So we come to what to put it all in.
The world of bags is as varied as a gypsies wedding wardrobe, some flashy and all singing dancing ones, some simple lightweight items, cheap ones and expensive ones, so what do you choose. my advice head to your best outdoor shop and try some on. I bought a cheap one for my C2C, although it fitted everything in, it became quite cumbersome and less comfy and proceeded to rub on my lower back for 4 days. the back support deformed through heat and sweet. At one point I had 6 bags of varying styles. ive since sought help and cut down my addiction.
My current favourite is an OMM classic 25, new this will set you back £80 but I managed to pick up for around £40 from eBay. This has to be one of the best fitting packs ive ever had. The design is for fastpacking or more appropriately the OMM events. Even when partially full it fits well, doesnt move and can be added to, I currently have added the map pouch and two bottle holders and this has made a world of difference to the feel of it. I’m currently searching for the slightly larger 32 version as I feel the 25 is just a tad under-sized for my needs at the moment.
Yep one of my fav topics, what do you eat when out on a multiday adventure, again it’s what you like, there is a certain calorie intake that you need to consider, as ive said before on an average 35 miler I can burn upwards of 3000 kcal, the fact is you’ll never eat that much in order to regain what you’ve lost so will inevitably end up in deficit. For the C2C walk, I took with me freeze-dried food, this was light and easy to pack but required 450mls of water to reconstitute, not an issues if you have easy access to water such as streams or camp grounds. The other option is to take good old army ration meals. these are wet pre cooked meals that you simply reheat (boil in the bag) and enjoy, they taste ok but they can weigh a lot if you have more than a few. I’m trying to weigh up my options at the moment regarding the food. some can live off noodles but im afraid i need a little more.
Stove, yes we need to cook on something, I spent alot of time looking at what would be best for my needs. I finaly settled on the Jetboil Zip, this is an all in one bit of kit and has served me well the whole time. It boils water in under 2mins and is simple to use, there are some that favour the MSR type stoves but having looked at them all theres very little difference in the weight, the only benifit of the MSR that I can see is the multifuel aspect, allowing you to fill and use different fuels on the move, great if you wernt able to find a gas bottle somewhere.
Theres a lot to consider when buying this type of kit and many many choices, it can be a bit of a mine feild and sometimes the terminology of the specs can leave you feeling like youve just talked to Steve Hawkins about some new time travel theory, you cant go wrong with asking people who do similar for their advice, but like running shoes it is solely a personal choice. one fit does not fit all im afraid. visit your local dealer and try some stuff out, see how it fits. Ive included some of the links in the text that will allow you to peruse some gear, (just ake sure your partner isnt looking),