Salt-spray on the wind, the pack on your back and an open trail ahead. This season we’re asking our community #WhereItTakesYou, exploring journeys between land and sea to find adventure on our doorsteps.
For the second in our series of sustainable Microadventures, we caught up with local running collective, Tuesday Night Trail Crew, exploring our coastal playground through the lens of fastpacking. What exactly is fastpacking? We’ll hand over to Will, Jen and Jamie to answer that…
What is ‘Fastpacking’?
Fastpacking is more than just running and camping. For us, it’s the ability to explore nature with minimum disturbance and impact on the environment. It's about going as light as possible so that you can get the most out of the adventure without the faff of your 90s family camping trip! Setting off on a run, with everything you need and nothing more, for a day and a night (or even several days and nights), not knowing where you'll be sleeping but knowing you can sleep anywhere… it's liberating.
Fastpacking comes in many different forms. Most people know it as running or hiking with all of your kit for an adventure, but it might involve finding secluded beaches to sleep on after a kayak paddle, or spending a weekend seeking out remote rock climbing locations. It allows you the independence to access the furthest corners of nature, exploring areas that few people ever get to reach.
When you are doing it, you’re in no hurry. The aim is to take in your surroundings, adapt to them and be at ease. As long as you're considerate, leave no trace and look after the environment we love to play in, there's no harm in rolling out your bivvy bag and sleeping when your legs are done for the day.
What’s so special to you about Fastpacking?
The unique appeal of fastpacking is in the adventure; you always have the freedom to have new and spontaneous experiences. Cornwall offers such a variety of environments, from coast path to mining trails to moorland, and fast-packing allows you to explore places you might not otherwise consider. Every trip is unique and the more you do it, the faster, lighter and more adventurous you can be.
We've set off before in the pouring rain, not knowing how we're going to make camp. It forces you to improvise, problem solve and laugh at yourself. One night we abandoned our plans for a wet night in the woods and slept under a bridge, beneath a main road! The spontaneity, shelter from the rain and plethora of available firewood made for the finest wild-camp a trio of fastpackers could ask for.
On the other side of that coin, you can go long and immerse yourself in nature in a way that you never could if you were encumbered by heavy kit. It can be a really fun challenge, fitting everything you need into one small bag that still allows you to stay comfortable in the hostile conditions that the coast can throw at you. It’s mostly conducted ‘out of hours’ too, so places are quiet and you get to experience them as nature intended. The added bonus to this is, if you’re a parent like Jamie or Jen, you can head out after the kids go to sleep and still be back in time for breakfast!
It’s a really accessible way to go and enjoy an adventure close to home. After a busy week, you can leave the frantic world of work, throw one lightweight bag over your shoulder, and leave all the chaos behind.
What kit do you need to do it?
With fastpacking, there is always a balance to be struck between warmth, comfort and weight of your pack. What you need is largely dependent on the weather but it's always a good idea to take a lightweight waterproof with you. The Rainbird is ideal for fast packing as it’s super light, fully waterproof and really breathable. When you’re out for a day and a night, staying properly dry can often be the deciding factor between type one fun and type two fun, appreciated only once you’ve got over the hypothermia. It’s also made in a fully sustainable way from recycled materials which marries well with the leave no trace ethos of these adventures.
A thin base layer is also essential. You can run in it and sleep in it, cutting out the need for extra clothes. Finisterre's Merino base layer is our go-to top because it's super light and regulates your body temperature better than any other product we’ve tried. And, by some sort of black magic of Merino wool, it doesn't smell – even after a couple of days! Other than that, it's whatever you normally run in and then a few warmer bits for camp and sleeping in if the temperature drops overnight. The Finisterre Nimbus packs up small, is lightweight and doubles up as your pillow. When a piece of clothing has more than one use, you're onto a winner in the fastpacking game!
Once you get off the trail and make camp, there’s a couple of different set ups to choose from. The essentials are a decent sleeping bag and a bivvy, the rest is all dependant on how comfortable you need to be to sleep. You can get superlight mats for comfort, tiny inflatable pillows, waterproof tarps and hammocks - all of which will improve your sleep but increase the load and size of your pack. A small gas cylinder, the Alpkit stove and Finisterre enamel mug fit together as a compact cooking setup. This then opens up the world of dehydrated foods but best of all means you can brew up a cuppa Joe! To keep it light, dehydrated meals are great - or simply make your own with some couscous.
And to carry it all you’ll need a pack which is lightweight but also has decent back support. The Finisterre 30L Drift Backpack is a great choice for a fastpacking bag as it is fully waterproof. It’s the perfect size for a couple of days of adventure, and guarantees a dry sleeping bag after a day running in the rain.
How does someone get started with fastpacking?
It couldn't be simpler to get into fastpacking. It is, in its very essence, the most simple way to travel. It's what people have been doing since there were people. Taking what you need and nothing more, getting from A to B, and back to A again. And you really don’t need as much as you might think.
The most important thing is to find a couple of mates, get excited about it, plan a route with multiple camp spot options and do it! Everyone brings their skill set whether it be fire craft, camp construction or good old fashioned common sense. And you might want to plan a manageable route to begin with, as you have to contend with new challenges of a heavier bag and finding your own water.
Start small, test out your kit, you'll soon find out why we love it... or you won't – but at least you’ll know for sure!
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