Updated: Apr 18, 2020
Age 22, I inadvertently fell in love with fastpacking. Of course I didn’t know it was called fastpacking. With limited gear and insufficient food, my pack was light and I travelled fast.
Age 30 I inadvertently fell out of love with fastpacking. Why? Because I made mistakes, in particular, I wasn’t honest with myself. For by 30 I had more gear, better gear, but it wasn’t light weight gear. The truth is I was no longer a fast packer, I had become a slow plodder with the biggest pack on the trail, for I believed more gear as in more thermals, a warmer sleeping bag and better rain gear, would provide me with a safer experience. It did, at least in respect of hypothermia. But with that weight I struggled. Come day 3, I put my neck out whilst stuffing my sleeping bag into its stuff sack. For the last 2 days of that 5 day hike, I couldn’t turn my head. Yes, it hurt.
I’m pleased to share by age 37 I’d learned the error of my ways. I finally understood the need to go through my proposed pack with a fine toothcomb. Now I’m a confirmed fast packer and have a wardrobe full of lightweight gear designed to help me achieve my goals.
I hope by sharing these tips, you won’t suffer as I did.
1. Be honest about your fitness level. The fitter you are, the less you will suffer. Even the steepest and longest climbs can be fun when you’re fit.
2. Be honest about your experience levels and the terrain you can handle. It helps to practice beforehand, so build yourself up by doing half day and then day hikes, even weekend hikes, on terrain that’s as similar as possible to your intended hike. It won’t just help build your cardiovascular fitness, it’ll also help develop your legs, especially your quads, your bottom and everything else. It’ll also get you used to pack carrying.
3. Be honest with yourself and accept that every gram you carry counts. So weigh everything you take, even your emergency whistle. Definitely weigh all your electrics including leads and charges. Do you really need it all? What impact would it have if you left some of it behind?
4. Be honest with how much weight you can carry and for how far you can carry that weight each day. This will impact how long you can stay out on the trail, as it’ll impact how much food and fuel you can carry.
5. Be honest with how much money you can afford to spend on kit. There’s amazing good quality outdoor gear that’s lightweight too. But as with everything else in life, quality costs. If you want the super duper quality lightweight yet waterproof and breathable jacket and rain pants, be prepared to pay for it.
6. Be honest with what type of sleeper you are. If you’re cold at night, you’ll need that warmer rating sleeping bag. More money. But, if you sleep badly, you might hate the nights and struggle during the days.
7. Be honest, how good are you at taking care of your kit? Will you be hiking through jungle like trees that rip up your pack and jacket? If so, a flimsy jacket and pack won’t last as long and you’ll need to spend more money fixing or replacing essential kit.
8. Be honest how you handle rain. Will you be a misery guts if it’s raining and you’re in a tiny bivy bag? Would a small though lightweight tent suit you better? If planning a multiday hike, how small a tent could you cope with? Are you willing to trade carrying an extra ½ kilogram in return for more space, remember every gram adds up. Which will serve you best out there, a music player or a couple extra muesli bars?
9. Be honest how much time you’re prepared to spend investigating, making and testing dehydrated food recipes? Or, will you buy ready make dehydrated “just add hot water” food? Perhaps you’ll take something more complicated to cook? Premade dehydrated food is expensive, then again, for you it might be worth it. Whatever you do, if relying on shop bought dehydrated meals, try it beforehand.
10. Be honest with yourself as to your budget. Start saving right away, ages before your planned trip, and invest in good gear that’ll last. Long term, it could help save you money, as there’s less of a chance you’ll feel the need to upgrade your gear in a year or two. If you can’t afford new, check out second hand forums though inspect the gear before you buy, ask around at your local hiking clubs if they know of someone getting rid of kit and check out factory shops that might sell kit in last year’s colours or slightly damaged kit – just remember, a sleeping bag with a wonky label on it is fine, a sleeping bag with a wonky zip, is not.