Fastpacking is Great
I just started a new hobby. I figured it had to exist already, because it combined some pretty popular things:
And it’s all under the very popular ultralight veil, so there’s that.
- get a backpack
- pack an ultralight tent
- pack an ultralight sleeping bag
- find a destination
- run there, camp, and run back
I added something extra: do it on Sunday night/Monday morning as an act of decompression—arrive at work early the next day, shower, and be done with it.
When I got home from my first trip, I googled "ultralight trailrunning camping". Turns out it exists and it’s called [fastpacking]. Craig gives a pretty great explanation of [fastpacking the John Muir Trail].
I love everything about it. When summer hits in Seattle, I think everyone starts doing a lot of extra socializing. "I’ve gotta get out and do things." That’s a great thing, and I love it. But it puts a lot of overload on me and at the end of the week I absolutely have to do something to unwind.
Why it’s great
I like hiking
I really do like hiking a lot, but I also have a very short attention span. Unless we’re talking about picturesque scenery that just won’t quit, I need something else going on.
Now that I know I like fastpacking, I think I know why hiking is fun, but not that fun: it’s too slow.
I’m not a fast-fast runner, but even a jog along a trail gives me a little something else to do. Watching your steps, keeping pace, sweating, and occasionally checking out scenery — these are all wonderful things. I’m of the opinion that if you’re looking at scenery all the time, it gets a bit boring.
I love roughing it (even though I don’t love roughing it)
I’m a big fan of the outdoors and being "campy", but I’m more inclined to sleeping in a nice, comfortable, modern hotel room. So I do what I can to change that a bit!
It’s a chore to have to scrape mud off of a tent stake before you put it back in a bag, and that’s going to make me a better person. Right? I’m adding character.
It’s a huge challenge, and I need that
See this next section...⬇︎
Why it’s terrible and no one will ever do it with me
My big toe has seen better days
The other evening I ran up to [Pratt Lake] and it was absolutely wonderful. When I woke up the next morning my legs were 3x more tired than usual, so I had trouble picking up my toes with each stride. So, I ended up murdering my right big toe on a small stump jutting up in the trail. And then a 1/2 mile later I murdered it again. And again. And again.
Now it’s one of the ugliest toes in my arsenal, and that scenario is going to happen every single time. I could buy some boots I guess.
I’m pretty bad at judging elevation and trail-running time
On that same fastpacking trip to [Pratt Lake], I didn’t pay attention to the difficuly rating in the (excellent) Mountaineer-published [Backpacking Washington] guide. (Mostly because these trips are split-second decisions as I’m throwing shit into my backpack, packing for the next day of work, and filling up a few water pouches.)
So I start up the first hill that turned into a 4-mile stretch of elevation and before you know it I’ve spent an hour-and-a-half thinking surely this is going to be the last switchback and what the hell was I thinking?
What’d it look like? Good question:
A lot of work, not much relaxing
I’ve been leaving around 5pm to hit I90, park, and start. The first time I sat by a fire for a few hours before heading to bed, but most recently went straight to bed. I was exhausted and didn’t bring anything more to eat than a Clif bar, so that was that.
The next morning I woke up at 4:25am, rolled everything up, and reversed my trek. The next night I slept for 12 hours and felt like a tank ran right over me.
Packing light means being not-really-prepared
For Pratt Lake, here’s what I brought with me: running clothes I had on me, extra shorts, long-sleeved shirt, Clif bar, sleeping bag, tent, iPhone, battery, car key. In the basin, of course, there wasn’t a cell signal.
That’s not enough if something bad happens. Sprained ankle? 4 hour walk, minimum, back to my car. (Though that really doesn’t sound like a bad deal, a broken ankle might be a full day until I get cell reception; probability of passing someone on a Monday is low.)
I’ll be bringing more on my next trip in the way of calories and clothes, but I can’t do much more, right? Buy a personal locator beacon?
Fastpacking is worth getting into, and I’d love to find some like-minded folks to team up with. Unfortunately it’s a little to niche.
In Seattle and need a running partner? [Email me].