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It may appear that fastpacking brings out the toughest, and most illogical, elements of both trail running and backpacking. From my experience that rings true, but the absurdity is precisely why I love it. Fastpacking allows me to cover long distances in (relatively) short periods of time, but also to linger and savor them in a way that a normal trail run does not. How many times have you found yourself, 15 miles out on a gorgeous ridgeline, and imagined yourself waking up to the same scene the next morning with a cup of coffee in hand? Fastpacking allows me to not simply see the sights using my two feet, but also turn them into an outdoor room with a view for a night!
On a recent fastpack overnight, my partner Steve and I expected to enjoy a romantic night out at a remote desert overlook. We even splurged by carrying the extra weight of beer with us! Though the sunset was magical, as the cloudy skies overhead faded from blue to yellow, we were also blasted with constant 30mph winds. The gusts persisted, and without a tent, nor any natural shelter, we had no choice but to burrow into our sleeping bags for 12 hours atop a sandstone ledge. The good news is that I slept like a rock, on a rock. And the next morning, we were able to enjoy our coffee with clear skies, a glorious sunrise, and the view we had hoped for!
But enough with the romance, let’s get back to logistics. During a fastpacking trip, I never find that my pack ever feels light enough for me to truly move fast. The added weight of carrying enough water in the desert always hits this point home for me. Likewise, despite the perceived weight, I always attempt to minimize my gear and end up feeling like I forgot or skimped on something. On a truly ultra-light fastpacking mission, one may even forgo a stove and eat cold food, or a sleeping pad and sleep directly on the ground. After a few too many true shiver bivvies, I try to ride the middle line and always bring along key ultralight items that I know will add some comfort to my experience–a sleeping bag, pad, and a stove. The tent, however, stays behind on fastpacking trips, and if there is weather a sandstone ledge and a tarp will do.
The other key detail is to wear clothes that are just as comfy to run in as they are to sleep in (the Janji Runterra fabric and the AFO-Vent Multi Short are perfect). I let my one outfit dry out before bedtime either by hanging out au natural while I eat my dehydrated dinner or suiting up in a lightweight down jacket and my sleeping bag. By the time the sunset starts to light up the sky, the logistics and gear minutia fade away, and I remember the reasons I moved kind of fast and kind of slow, with a sort of heavy pack with maybe not enough stuff–to enjoy the most incredible view. Best of all, when I wake up in the morning, I’m right here, ready to enjoy it all over again.