Hiking - Knowledge

FastPacking 101: A Beginner's Guide to Travel Light and Fast

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If experiencing the wilderness of the mountains is your thing, and you love the thrill of camping, fastpacking is something you should try. For those of you who don’t know what fastpacking is, think about hiking, running and camping together. That is fastpacking for you. The main idea behind this activity is to spend as many days in the lap of nature as possible by living out of your backpack. For this, you make a list of the most important items that you need for survival in the wild, put them in your backpack, and go. Only the most essential items that you will need should make it to the list of backpacking essential gear. The typical weight that you should aim at should be between 6 and 17 pounds, lighter the better. Let's get into the details of fastpacking.

Why is Fastpacking a Good Idea

Given the hectic and super busy lifestyle we have, it is nice to take a break from time to time. Fastpacking is something that you can plan without investing a lot of time or money. It is all about covering the maximum distance in the shortest time. You can combine the thrill of mountain running with the adventure of sleeping under the stars. As a fast packer, you will be able to plan your trip exactly as you want.

Fastpacking- Backpacking and Mountain Running (source)

Types of Fastpacking

Broadly, fastpacking can be classified into three types: 

  1. Supported
  2. Self supported
  3. Unsupported

Supported fastpacking involves a dedicated support team to attend to the needs of the fast packer from time to time. This kind of trips is the fastest and most convenient. 

The next kind of fastpacking trips is self-supported. These trips do not involve a support team, but the fast packer caters to the needs that arise during the trip by using utility stores and restrooms on way.

Unsupported trips involve no help from the outside world when the fast packer is on the move. These are the most hardcore and purest form of fastpacking.

Making a Plan Before You Finally Set Out

Once you have tested the gear with one practice run, you should sit down and chalk out your complete trip from start to finish. Here are few things that you should definitely plan on:

  • The Route

The first thing that you should chalk out is the route on which you will spend your days and nights while fastpacking. Read about the region, study the wildlife in that area and consider the geographical aspects. The altitude and weather of the routes are also very important to take into account.

It is also worth checking out if the route has certain zones that require special permission to enter or travel through. Similarly, you should know if the permissions are available on the spot or require pre-booking. Make sure that you have a detailed map of the region, with key landmarks, and mark your entry and exit points clearly.

fastpack with map
Carry a detailed route map (source)
  • Your Fastpacking Style

While the basic pattern is the same for all fastpackers, there are differences in their daily rhythm. Planning on your wake-up time, breakfast time and running pace at different times of the day will give you an idea of the timing. This way, you will also be able to estimate the total time you will require for the whole trip. You can then plan your breaks accordingly.

  • Emergency Planning

Let’s hope that this plan never needs to be executed. But it is advisable to make a proper plan for an unforeseen emergency.

  • The first step is to write your itinerary on a piece of paper and hand it over to a close friend or family member. Make sure that you follow the itinerary.
  • Next, mark possible emergency exits on the map of your route. This will be very useful in case any untoward incident happens and you have to cut short your fastpacking trip.

These details are important for any backpacker trip, but if you are going with a group of people, it is even more important to discuss these aspects with all members.

Lightweight and Ultralight Backpacking

These terms are often used interchangeably but have a subtle difference. Lightweight backpacking refers to the weight of the backpack being lesser than 20 pounds. Ultra lightweight backpacking refers to the weight of the backpack being lesser than 10 pounds. In either case, the aim of the fast packer is to try and include only the most essential backpacking gear in the backpack. This is because the focus in this activity has to be on speed and distance covered.

Know all about Ultralight Backpacking: Your Answer to a Smart Trek

Fastpacking: Important Factors Before You Start

Before you set out to pack your backpack and leave for a fastpacking trip, it is important that you keep in mind the following:

  • It is important to ensure your safety at all times. Don’t attempt a trail that is unknown or too difficult.
  • It is vital that you plan your entire trip and inform someone about your plan.
  • You should train your body for the stress and strain during the different terrains.
  • Don’t litter the trail. Ideally, fastpackers should not leave any mark of their presence.
  • Inquire about the laws of the region where you plan to go. It is always good to know the rules and regulations so that you steer clear of any legal trouble.

What to Pack

The most important question for a fast packer is what to take along. As mentioned already, the aim of a fast packer is to travel as light as possible. In this regard, 25 pounds should be the maximum weight that you should target. If your backpack is heavier, you will not be able to cover long distances. Let us look at the most common items that we find inside a fastpacking backpack.

1. The Backpack

Obviously, the weight of the backpack itself is the first consideration. You must look for packs available in the lightest fabric and smallest size. A typical backpack for fastpacking should not be bigger than 3500 cubic inches, and cannot hold more than 35 pounds of weight.

fastpack backpack
Opt for light fabric backpack (source)

2. Clothes and Shoes

Your aim should be to wear the same clothes throughout the trip, therefore, your backpack should have only a few underwears and socks. Don’t forget to consider the weather when packing. Keeping a basic rain shell for protection against the rain is advisable. Poly gloves and poly wool socks are also recommended.

Livingit Tip-
Since you will wear your shoes all the time, you won’t put them in your bag. So, wear very good quality, rainproof shoes that are suitable for the terrain.

3. Sleeping Gear

When you go fastpacking, you have to think minimal. Consider the lightest and most basic outdoor tents. Basically, you should look for a thin layer to protect you against wind and rain. Similarly, your sleeping bag should be as light as possible. Many fast packers simply use a foam mat for sleeping. Carrying a mat instead of a sleeping bag is ideal for ultralight backpacking.

ultralight tent
Sleep light 

4. Food and Drinks

How much food and drinks should you carry will depend on how much time do you plan to spend outdoors. Energy bars, dehydrated cereal packs, couscous salad etc. are popular food options. Other options include peanut butter sandwiches, freeze-dried mountain food, fruits, nuts etc. try to pack these items in easily accessible pockets or flaps of the bag. This way, you won’t need to stop for snacking.

Usually, a couple of bottles of water are sufficient for 2 days, but it is a good idea to carry iodine tablets or portable water filter disks to minimise weight. With water filters, you will be able to drink water from natural sources of water. This will drastically reduce the weight that you carry. Studying the map of your intended trail is a good way to know about water sources in the region.

aqua mira drops
Aqua Mira drops for filtered water

5. Miscellaneous Items

These are the most vital fastpacking gear that you will need. Examples include a knife, a map, compass, matchbox or lighter, toilet paper, soap, hand sanitizer, tooth cleaner, first aid kit, sunscreen, torch/headlamp and extra battery, mosquito repellent, whistle, duct tape, camera and rope.

An important thing to remember is that you should try using single item in multiple ways. For example, if you have a spare piece of cloth, you should use it as a towel, as a headband, as a part of your medical kit etc. Remember to find multiple uses for each item you carry. This will save you from excess baggage.

The Importance of One Practice Run

Once you have assembled your backpack and convinced yourself to start the trip, it is prudent to take a test run with all your gear. This will tell you if your shoes are comfortable, or if your backpack has a sharp corner that chaffs your back when you run. Try to run at moderate speed at the altitude that you are planning to go to. This will tell you whether you are truly prepared for it or not.

We have compiled the basic requirements of a fastpacking trip. However, it is important to remember that different people have different preferences and running styles. Some prefer to venture out alone, while others always like to have some company. The essence of this activity is ultra-lightweight backpacking, so your focus should be to pack light.Those of you who have been on a fastpacking trip before, please share your experience with us. Those of you who haven’t yet ventured out on one, we encourage you to take the plunge!

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