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Fastpacking Definition?
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Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Fastpacking Definition on 08/08/2010 15:26:14 MDT Print View

Hi Aaron

> if I am able to sleep warm enough, eat right and have gear that doesn't take forever
> to use, it will get me in and out faster and keep me going better the next day.
Sounds like 'backpacking light' to me.


Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Re: Re: Fastpacking Definition on 08/20/2010 13:52:39 MDT Print View

The sport of 'fastpacking' or 'swiftpacking' had been around for a few years when in 1979 some friends in California asked me to develop something that would work for runners better than available backpacks.

At that time, fastpacking was a multi-day race on foot trails usually in mountainous terrain in which the contestants were required to carry everything they would need for the duration except water. Water, if available, could be obtained along the trail or at cashes.

The pack I designed was a drawstring-closed (foolproof) lumbar or fanny pack with a wide bandoleer that had ties to hold a blanket or quilt wrapped in a poncho or small tarp and a water bottle and kept the pack from bouncing much. The hip belt and bandoleer were lined with lambs wool to reduce abrasion. The pack compartment would hold a compact Esbit cooker/cup, food, down vest, and other small necessities. Worked pretty well.

Andrew :-)
(terra) - F

Locale: Sydney, Australia.
Oldie revisited. on 07/02/2012 07:19:22 MDT Print View

Haven't been here for a long while.. Life Changes.

Knowing I was into 'backpacking light', a friend asked "what exactly is fastpacking"?
did a quick search on this forum to see if my definition was close.

My reply was that "for me" it's minimalist backpacking, ie you carry little (up to 12 lbs) which allows you to move faster and cover more miles with more ease than if you were carrying a big heavy pack. It's Like multi-day trail running but doesn't have to include "running", just moving at a real swift clip. You can also pitch and break camp quickly (ie fast packing) as your set-up is very basic - hence more daytime on the trail and again more ground covered. It's not about compromising safety or comfort, its being smart and efficient with how you travel through the bush.

I'd reply pretty much the same way if someone asked me for what I do when "backpacking light".

Except that "fastpacking" kind of implies an element of speed - squeezing a few more miles per day or traveling a bit quicker.

Where "backpacking light" may be simply for the experience of carrying less and enjoying the trip more, without needing any distance/time factor in the mix.

I'm always backpacking light but sometime i'll fastpack to ensure I can cover a certain amount of distance in the given time.

Trail running is, well, you are running. And you pack accordingly, with a pack that suits running with ease... This pursuit crosses to actual athletic pursuit and for overnight trail running i'd expect some comfort compromises so as to run with the pack.

For me, if someone said speed hiking I'd put it more in fast packing than trail running... But these terms are all relative - as is 'light' in backpacking light.

Edited by terra on 07/02/2012 07:22:28 MDT.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Smelling the flowers... on 07/02/2012 13:04:58 MDT Print View

Probably 90% of us backpack to "smell the flowers". And that's where I am.

I can see "fastpacking" for emergency reasons or as a SAR person, as mentioned above, but beyond that I think it's all about ego and braggin' rights.

Like UL backpackers fastpackers may have the effect of improving our sport in some ways, especially in the gear realm. So let 'em fly by me and (maybe) develop better gear. More power to them.

Have a happy 4th of July folks. Don't lose any fingers while celebrating!

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Re: Smelling the flowers... on 07/02/2012 13:30:43 MDT Print View

"I can see "fastpacking" for emergency reasons or as a SAR person, as mentioned above, but beyond that I think it's all about ego and braggin' rights."

Can't imagine any other reasons for fast packing like, it may be enjoyable for some, others may like the physical challenge or possibly people want to do longer trips into cool places in a limited period of time. Or all of the above. I started doing what many would be called fast packing to get into areas of the Sierra over a weekend that most take a week to do. I had time constraints. But I guess it was all about ego and bragging rights, don't forget the book and movie deals

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Re: Smelling the flowers... on 07/02/2012 14:10:19 MDT Print View

words, even coined words, and the definitions we give them are simply a necessary evil to facilitate communication.

you say you are a runner.
I think one thing.
someone else thinks another thing.
you have yet a third thing in mind.
but if you say you are a sprinter, or a marathoner, or an ultrarunner, we immediately get a little closer to what you are trying to communicate.
and the only reason is because society, over time, has given these words a definition.

so we can either spend all day long trying to explain to each other what we mean, or we can coin words and get it done in a sentence or two.

So what's wrong with giving the word Fastpacking a universal definition so we don't have to spend all day telling each other about ourselves.

for me, Fastpacking means :
1. carrying everything on your back that will allow you to stop and make a camp and sleep for a bit. its left to each individual to decide what that gear list is, and how long they want to sleep.
2. pushing yourself, at least slightly, beyond a leisurely stroll so that you can cover more ground than otherwise.
3. it does not imply UL or SUL, although these would make moving fast a bit easier.

as far as smelling roses, I can smell roses whether I'm going fast or slow, but I can smell them in more places if I'm going fast and far.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Fastpacking Definition? on 07/02/2012 14:51:10 MDT Print View

What comes to my mind is a BP/hiking version of the Iditarod: Run/hike till you fall over asleep. Repeat.

There are techniques I use that speed things up - no-cook food, eating and hydrating as I hike, iodine water treatment as I hike instead of stopping and pumping, etc. But like popping the lid-retaining ring off your Aquafina bottle, the biggest benefit is mental - it gives me a lift to consider that I covered another 2 miles while slowly munching my lunch on the trail instead of stopping and letting the mosquitos get me.

Nathan Hays

Locale: San Francisco
Fastpacking at any pack weight on 07/03/2012 10:11:19 MDT Print View

+1 Art, Greg, and some others.

Fastpacking to me requires that you:
a) carry what you need for camping, eating, hygiene, etc..
b) can go for multiple days up until the food runs out
c) you are moving as fast as you can.

I just hiked into the JMT through Lyell Canyon with the family carrying extra food. Two days later we were 15 miles in at Marie Lakes Jct - slow hiking. I then gave them the food and took back a bunch of stuff they realized they didn't want to carry to Whitney. With a now 38 LB pack, I fastpacked back to the car in 1/3 the trail time it took to get in.

I fastpack to press my limits and see what wrings out. I discover things more subtle than mere pack weight. Obviously UL speeds things up, but the energy output is the same. I learn about the various gaits I employ, how to navigate staircases at speed, how quickly can I run the pitstops.

Beyond technique, I learn about my mental issues that impede speed - losing discipline in refueling, electrolytes, hydration; counting or not counting the time to take a leak (not counting means I can get a longer rest for free); succumbing to the 'countdown' near the end that seems to stretch for eternity and saps willpower.

So to me fastpacking is a primarily athletic endeavour in the context of backpacking and backcountry. To distinguish it from trail running, I would say it has to be unsupported and at least be capable in theory of stretching over many days, limited only by food and fuel carried. Equipment choices, as for any athletic endeavour, can affect your absolute times, but not whether you are engaged in the sport or not.