For the LOVE of Fastpacking
Transition. Expansion. Exploration. These 3 words are what come to mind when I start to think about the direction in how I spend my time on the trails. While I spent over a decade racing ultra's and challenging myself on start lines in just a running capacity I've enjoyed taking my passion for the trails in new directions. From racer to adventurer, from carrying so much pressure as a performance athlete to one that now gets to run purely for the joy under my own terms. Please don't get me wrong. Racing is at the core of my soul. I would NOT change my ultra racing days for anything for it is through the sport that I met so many wonderful people, traveled to the coolest places around the globe and tested myself through and through again. I learned how to compete, how to win and how to loose. I learned that some days you have it and other days you are far from putting the best version of yourself on the line. Through my athletics I turned into a coach. I challenged myself to learn from the best in the business, to keep current in training methodologies and to really focus my area of expertise around working with people of all levels who want to challenge themselves in some aspect of endurance. My athletes keep me on my toes, pushing me to constantly learn and to find techniques to bring the best out in themselves. I love sitting down to work every single day, connecting with those that are trusting me to help them achieve their goals. From Leadville winners to adventure racing National Champions to people who have completed their first marathon or earned a spot on the podium at a big international stage race, I consider myself to be the lucky one in being asked to be on the journey with someone. Interestingly enough, my coaching resume suddenly started to expand one day as people were contacting me for training in another way.....not just for racing but now to help develop the fitness to go out and achieve bucket list type of endurance goals. This really got me thinking....a lot.....and I came to the quick realization that lots of people are searching for an adventure via their own two feet that is not necessarily "racing" but rather one focused on exploration, challenge and a damn good time. I knew instantly what the direction of my coaching business "challenge by choice" would move in...... guided adventure trips.
Check out all the adventures that I am offering in 2018 and you will see that several of them are FASTPACK style. This means that we will hit the trails for a multi day running trip carrying everything on our backs. Naturally, this quickly sparked the question by many ........."what do I need for gear?" Fear not, I have you covered! The following are core items that you will want to consider when heading out on such missions. I evaluate all gear with the following criteria.....performance, weight and functionality.
I thought to help you get started I'd highly a few items that I use on my multi-day fastpacking trips...........
1. Pack Choice
Ultimate Direction is the leader in fast packs, making a wide array of sizes to choose from. I've been using the FastPack 35L for 3 years now and it gets me through a 3 day trip with comfort. Sometimes I will opt for my FastPack 45L when more space is needed. I always recommend a 2 bottle system (or even just 1 pending your location and water access) instead of a bladder as filling in streams is much easier. One bottle can be purifying while the other is drinkable. The pockets on the UD fastpack hold bottles perfectly. I love the large mesh external pockets for carrying all the daily essentials that you might need to get at (jacket, food, map, go-pro, In-Reach, hat etc.)
2. Sleeping Bag & Thermapad
Looking for a lightweight, warm and yet compressible sleeping bag. Don't go so lightweight that you will freeze at night. Remember, your body has been working hard all day, you will sleep colder and will still be burning through calories. My current thermapad is the Exped Downmat HL Winter, one which we used to cross Baffin Island 2 years ago during a Winter expedition. It seems to work for me for all seasons. As for my sleeping bag, I use a -7 bag here on the coast as I sleep cold. I'm about to test out a new bag very soon from MEC called the Talon. Stay posted.
3. Bivy & Tarp
After always using an alpine bivy bag that while it was good for all elements, it did take up a bit more space in my bag, I was very excited when Ultimate Direction came out this year with the new FK Bivy. It is super lightweight, taking up virtually no pack space. I also appreciate the fact that the fabric will not sit right on your head (because who likes that feeling of being suffocated at night right.) The quick set up bubble is perfect for good sleep. Pair this with the FK Tarp for a super quick and easy set up in bad weather. And get this, you can use your run poles (I use the Black diamond Z pole) to stand it up. Brilliant!
4. Cooking & Food Prep
The only way to go (in my humble opinion) is the JetBoil for heating water. My only need on fast packing trips is to be able to heat water fast and efficiently. The JetBoil makes the most sense with the boil time being anywhere from 2-3mins!! Carrying only 1 canister of fuel and using the JetBoil as "the pot" is perfect. Various sizes are available. You can even use the Jetboil as a coffee press (most come with this attachment) so it is a win-win no matter how you look at it. For food, my main meals are eaten right out of the de-hydrated bags and I carry a small mug that can be used for drinking or eating. Of course, a "spork" is all your need to complete your fastpack kitchen! I've recently spent time looking to see what new food products are out on the market that are healthy and NOT full of crap. Here are 2 brands that you might want to look at if you are wanting to eat "real food" out there and void the unknown ingredients:
Good Too-Go and Nomad Nutrition. Both are so tasty and you will feel good about what you are consuming.
I don't mess around with lighting on any adventure. In fact, I consider it to be one of the essential items for success and safety so whatever you do, DO NOT skimp of having a solid light that is reliable. You never know when that light might be needed right! If you run a disposable battery unit, of course be sure to bring extra batteries. I'm in love with Lupine Lights after my buddy Ray Zahab exposed them to me on an Arctic trip back in 2009. Since then, I've come to rely on their incredible 1200+ lumen output for fast movement on the trails during the night. I use the Piko set-up and love it (very lightweight and water proof and pumps out huge light.) I always carry 2 batteries with me on any outing.
Happy Fastpacking everyone! Hope to see you out there!