Fastpacking is a fun new sport that can easily take the place of the big race or other athletic event that you were training for this summer. The courses are still there, even though the races are on hiatus. Fastpacking is a way to get out and play this summer.
For many of us endurance athletes and activity planners, 2020 is the year that everything was cancelled or postponed, from 5K races to marathons to ultramarathons. It’s almost like we all got dressed up with nowhere to go. My suggestion: go fastpacking!
Fastpacking is a relatively new sport that combines running and backpacking with minimalism. It is simple, adventurous, and easy to do. You may not have them yet, but all you really need is a fastpack and a set of poles. Beyond that, going from novice to expert will take one weekend and one self-guided trip this summer.
During each of the past two summers, I have enjoyed a weeklong self-guided faspack. The first was along the coast of Turkey on the Lycian Trail. The second was in Auvergne, France. Both are summer memories that I will always cherish.
So what is fastpacking? First, find a route that you would like to self-guide. The Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Coast Trail would be perfect. You’ll quickly cover somewhere in the range of 100-200 miles in five to seven days. Before setting out on a weeklong adventure, I recommend an overnight in your local trail system to iron out the kinks. You’ll quickly realize what you forgot and what you should not have brought.
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind as you plan to self-guide during your first fastpack adventure.
- Make sure your fastpack bag fits. I went from shop to shop, bought one that didn’t work, ordered ten more and finally settled on the perfect fastpack bag for me. I use an Osprey Talon 22liter. We tend to fill space. The smaller the pack, the lighter the pack. Fastpacking is not a “bring the kitchen sink” type of activity. Twenty-two liters is the small limit, 35 for the big. You do want to be able to run and be agile when you can.
Hint: The pack will be on your back for most of the week when you are not sleeping. If it is not comfortable at first, it will not get better.
- Poles are a godsend when you are tired and on unstable terrain. They will save your ankles and back, while working your arms. Nothing fancy here and, if need be, you can use them as part of a tarp or rainfly.
- Other than food and a raincoat, your pack will be filled with your preferred bedding. You have three options here:
- A sleeping bag and a hammock with a mosquito net. This is best for hot weather.
- A small tent, sleeping bag, and pad. This is the warmest option and is best for those who want more comfort.
- A sleeping bag, pad, and bivvy sack. This is best for those who want to rough it in areas where the nights are colder.
So this may not be the summer you were expecting. You may be someone who worked hard to run their personal best marathon only to have it canceled. But life goes on and we need to adapt. Like many of us, we were beginners at our favorite activities, only to find ourselves moving on from novice to advanced. Fastpacking might be your new summer goal and an activity to plan and prepare for. Get out there and have some fun.