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    I want to try fastpacking this year. I am a ultra distance trail runner and a backpacker. I want to try combining these two hobbies. I have more experience trail running than backpacking. My main question is this. When I’m shopping for a pack and sleeping bag how light should I look for? For instance do I need a pack that weighs under 3 pounds or should I go for sub 2. My main concerns right now are my pack, sleeping bag. I’m going to start out with some two to three day trips of 30-40 miles a day during the summer months. One more question. Are there any good books that focus on fastpacking?

    BPL Member


    Normally, I would say go for lightweight gear… to the point where you find it fun to hike. Beyond that, it’s more psychic than any real physical benefit.

    But if your interest is fastpack from the get go, then I would say go for the lightest that you can find/afford — that will still give you the comfort and safety you want or need.

    With maybe two glaring exceptions, almost everything ultralightweight turns out to be cheaper than their heavier, over-engineered counterparts. The two exceptions are tents, and even more glaring — sleeping bags!

    But for everything to work well for your fastpack pursuit, get the lightest and most compact bag that you can find for your required warmth! Two makers that come to mind: Western Mountaineering and MontBell. They make some of the lightest bags around, so you can buy from them (expensive!) or use them as benchmark.

    As for packs, there are many to choose from. Choose all your other gear judiciously, and you can get by just fine without a frame — be it internal or external. Look at Gossamer Gear, ULA, GoLite and Six Moon Designs (there are others as well).

    Ryan Faulkner
    BPL Member


    sounds like you will be doing some running, so you should looks for a pack designed for adventure racing, with good compression and a flexible padded back pannel and thin shoulder straps and hipbelt., try to look for the lightest, but when running, you will want more function than lightweight. look for one that has a narrow pack body to keep your center of gravity in the center of your body. to expand on that, pack your heavier gear closer to your back. and get a pack that fits.
    good adventure racing packs come from golite, salomon, and gregory. I have a gregory advent pro, and recomend it for running. I stripped it down to 1 lb 10oz in size large, so it is not that heavy. of course it is compared to my G6 at 3.7oz, but that pack is not for you.

    for a sleeping bag, I recomend anything from golite or montbella light bag is one of the most important peices of gear you can buy, it determins how comfortable you are at night, so get one suitable for the season, but dont get one heavier than 2 lbs because it will weigh you down during the day. I would recomend montbell more than any other because their bags are very compressible, allowing you to get a smaller lighter pack, more suited for running.

    of course there is lighter gear I would recomend to someone focusing on UL backpacking instead of “fast” packing. like 1lb sleeping bags, 3oz packs, and 4oz tarps. But I think you are focusing on function here, so I recomend the slightly heavier gear instead of the lightest gear. I say try for a sub 10lb base pack weight instead of the 3-5lb list I carry. But if you want, I will share some more info on lightest of light gear


    Mark Verber
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    I would second the recommendation of a pack designed for adventure racing. If you have every tried to run carrying an convential backpack you will know what make for a comfortable backpack when walking might not be quite so good when you are running. I really liked the GoLite Speed for fastback / overnight trail running. There are a number of other good options. Is noted you want something that is narrow and back hugging to your center of granity isn’t thrown off too much.

    When it comes to sleeping bags, go with the lightest bag that will be adaquately warm. When fastpack weight really does have a big effect. I would go with a hig hquality down bag like those made by Western Mountaineering, Feather Friends, etc. You might want to consider using a sleeping quilt.

    J R


    My 2 cents

    Montbell and GoLite are pretty much where you want to be.

    Golite Multisport Pack – looks solid
    Montbell sleeping bag – tried and true
    And depending on season/conditions/preferences
    GoLite Lair1 Shelter – light and functional
    Montbell UL Sleeping Bag Cover – my choice
    Hennessy Hammock Light Racer – serious advantages in many places

    Edit: Montbell also markets (in Japan – though the Boulder flagship store carries them too sometimes) The “Blizzard” bag. Its the next evolution in space blankets. Havent heard a bad thing about them yet.

    BPL Member


    Locale: SoCal

    I agree with the others that an AR-style pack will probably best suit you. Some packs in this range that could work well… GoLite Team, Speed, Race, Multi-Sport, maybe even the Jam or Vision; ULA Relay; maybe the Osprey Atmos 24. I don’t think you’ll be able to find much below 16oz, but I’d avoid packs over 2lbs.

    For sleeping bag, I’d say buy the best bag you can get from a one of the top companies: Western Mountaineering, Marmot, Montbell, etc. I’m not sure where you’ll spend your summer months, so it’s hard to recommend a specific model.

    I don’t know of any fastpacking-specific books. The only one I can think of that sort of relates is Vonhof’s Fixing Your Feet. :)

    Ryan Jordan


    Locale: Central Rockies

    I love it when an ultrarunner wants to lengthen their runs by backpacking. Fastpacking is a really cool blend of the two sports.

    Other than my long hikes w/o resupply, fastpacking is my favorite aspect of UL.

    Some tips.

    If you’re gonna really run, then keep your pack less than 10 lbs and keep the pack small. Most of the so-called AR packs out there are crap. It really has to move with you and fit snug and not stick out like a tortoise shell – internal frames are a liability, hence the need to stay under 10 lbs. Above that and your desire to run, especially up, will be severely dampened.

    Fastpacking packs should have a long torso that does not inhibit range of motion of the upper body, which most short torsoed “day” packs do because the weight is pulling so badly on the shoulder straps. When running, stiff belts and shoulder straps are bad. They will chafe.

    My favorite fastpacking pack for running is the GoLite Powder 8 (I know, I know, it’s not a running pack). Trim off all the ski stuff, extra straps, etc. and it has the right volume for 2-4 day runs and if you’re into the ultra thing, should give you 200 miles of range pretty easy. The beauty of this pack is that it’s THIN (so it doesn’t bounce), TALL (the right direction to expand volume for gear and food), and NARROW (to let arms swing), the perfect recipe for an ultra running pack.

    Now, the key to getting your pack less than 10 lbs: be religiously fanatical about ditching your camping gear. You’re out there to enjoy the run, not the camp. When I run, I like soup at night and tea in the morning, but other than that, it’s cold food heavily leaning towards your usual ultra diet of gels and drinks for calories.

    When I run, my shelter is a breathable bivy sack (the Nano) and I find a tree to sleep under for overhead shelter from the rain. Yeah, you get wet in a downpour, but in the summer, it’s rare and the foliage keeps most of the rain off (in the deciduous forests of the south, beware this strategy, though! them trees are drippy…). Torso sized foam pad, a really light mummy bag or quilt (think 18 oz max), a few odds and ends, and you’re down under 4 pounds not including the pack pretty easily.

    Vick Hines


    Locale: Central Texas

    When fastpacking started in the 1970s (in California, of course), I designed a sortof fanny pack/haversack for some friends who were into it. It consisted of a horizontal stuff sack (no zippers, just drawstring)on a light hip belt and a bandolier holding a light blanket or comforter rolled inside a poncho. Worked OK – good weight distribution for trail running and you HAD to keep it SUL because it wouldn’t hold much. The “lambswool” lined bandolier (to reduce chafing while running) also held a water bottle. The stuff sack had room for food, a Sierra cup/Esbit cooker, extra socks, tarp line, stakes, ’emergency blanket’ groundsheet and first aid — which was about as much as anyone carried on those runs.

    Frank Ramos


    Vick, is what you designed similar to the bedroll pack shown on page 16 of this 19th century book ? (Someone posted the link to this book on BPL a few weeks back). If so, were their any problems with this pack besides lack of capacity? I’m a great believer in putting as much load as possible on the shoulders rather than the hips, and that seems one of the advantages of this bedroom/bandlier style pack. I’m just wondering if other factors (clumsiness, chafing against hip, etc) outweigh any load carrying advantages.

    Ryan Faulkner
    BPL Member


    Another good, cheap, pack I have found to work well for fastpacking is the outdoor products glacier II pack. It is small, durable and sort of light. I used it for a 75 mile 2.5day fast pack a while ago, and even with the thin shoulder straps and minimal webbing waistbel it worked well, and had enough room for my gear and food.

    and you can get it at walmart :-)

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