Run, don't walk: Mastering the art of fast pack­ing

Kuwait Times - - TRAVEL -

Few things give free­wheel­ing trav­el­ers greater plea­sure than tak­ing an order and turn­ing it in­side out. 'Walk, don't run!' say the dis­ap­prov­ing teach­ers, of­fi­cious swim­ming pool at­ten­dants, sanc­ti­mo­nious sign­posts and other agents of the fun po­lice. Well 'bah' to that, be­cause when it comes to ex­plor­ing the out­doors, some of us feel like we can ex­pe­ri­ence a whole lot more by lac­ing a pair of trail­run­ning shoes to some fleet feet, pack­ing light and mov­ing fast.

Fast pack­ing facts

It's a very sim­ple con­cept: in­stead of walk­ing a trail, you run it. Why? Be­cause it feels good, and it al­lows you to cover greater ground, ex­plore more farflung cor­ners and see the scenery from a com­pletely dif­fer­ent point of view. Run­ning doesn't nec­es­sar­ily mean rush­ing. It can in­volve an en­gage­ment with the ter­rain that's far more tac­tile than tra­di­tional trekkers re­al­ize, with ev­ery root and rock an­a­lyzed be­fore the foot falls on it.

A lit­tle bit of speed can quite eas­ily lead to wealth of stealth too, and often fast pack­ers will en­joy en­coun­ters with shy wildlife that chatty, clat­ter­ing wan­der­ers can but won­der about. Trail run­ning al­lows a trav­eler to do a 'day walk' be­fore break­fast. Fast pack­ers - who take the no­tion to the next level and carry overnight gear - can tackle long-dis­tance ex­pe­di­tions in days rather than weeks.

Where in the world

Places that have large swaths of wilder­ness and good net­works of well-main­tained long-dis­tance foot­paths are ideal for fast pack­ing ad­ven­tures. New Zealand is a stand­out ex­am­ple, with its sys­tem of Great Walks and myriad other top trails all looked after su­perbly by the De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion. World-fa­mous routes such as the Mil­ford, Route­burn, Ton­gariro Cir­cuit and the Abel Tas­man are, on pa­per, mul­ti­day com­mit­ments for hik­ers, but a rea­son­ably fit fast­packer can com­plete them in one or two days, while still ex­pe­ri­enc­ing all the glory of the ter­rain they tra­verse.

Other great lo­cales for fast pack­ing can be found all over the globe in des­ti­na­tions as di­verse as Aus­tralia, Canada, the US, UK, South Africa, Ire­land, Ja­pan, Ger­many, Kenya, Columbia, Italy, Ecuador, France and Peru. These coun­tries all have sen­sa­tional hut- and camp­site-punc­tu­ated paths ripe for ex­plo­ration by trail-run­ning trav­el­ers. You can go any­where with the right gear and at­ti­tude, but care­fully con­sider the cli­mate when plan­ning when and where to go avoid­ing ex­tremes of heat or cold will ob­vi­ously make the es­capade a lot more en­joy­able. sure you've put all your equip­ment through its paces well be­fore you leave - es­pe­cially your footwear.) You'll want some­thing that bal­ances light­ness with good lev­els of sup­port and pro­tec­tion from the el­e­ments: the XA Pro 3D GTX by Salomon are per­fect, but for ex­tra bounce, try a trail shoe from Hoka One One. lay­ers you need, but a high-qual­ity, breath­able shell jacket (made with Gore-Tex, eVent or sim­i­lar ma­te­ri­als) is al­ways an ex­cel­lent in­vest­ment - the Min­i­mal­ist by Mar­mot (mar­ is a good op­tion. Dry socks and a beanie-style hat are worth their weight in gold at the end of a day's run­ning, and it's worth stash­ing ther­mals. meals - and some, such as those by Back­coun­try Cui­sine are al­most worth it - but it's also easy to take your own light­weight grub. Go for carbs (pasta, por­ridge oats, cous­cous) and pro­tein (al­monds, tuna sa­chets), but don't ne­glect taste: a few dried herbs weigh next to noth­ing.

Packs for mak­ing tracks

Seek out a day-size back­pack (10-30 liters, de­pend­ing on the ex­tent of your es­capade), with a good har­ness (waist and ster­num straps are es­sen­tial to stop it jig­ging while you're jog­ging), eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble pock­ets (for stash­ing trail snacks to eat on the hoof ), a ven­ti­lated har­ness de­sign (to stop your back sweat­ing) and an in-built hy­dra­tion sys­tem (se­cured wa­ter bladder with hose). Osprey and Camel­bak both make ex­cel­lent packs for this pur­pose.

The speed of light

Since you'll have to carry ev­ery­thing while run­ning, it's es­sen­tial to travel as light as pos­si­ble, but don't skimp on qual­ity - a gear or wardrobe mal­func­tion in the wilder­ness can be se­ri­ous. For overnight mis­sions you'll need a sleep­ing bag that of­fers max­i­mum bang for min­i­mum bag­gage, so splash the cash on a good goose down num­ber such as Alp­kit's ul­tra light PipeDream.

Many long-dis­tance trails have huts, which are su­per help­ful, but if you're ven­tur­ing into the gen­uine wilds for mul­ti­ple days you'll need some form of light­weight shelter. In warmer ar­eas a sim­ple tarp like the Sil­tarp from Rab or the Es­capist by Sea to Sum­mit will suf­fice, but for more pro­tec­tion, go for a one-per­son tiny tent such as the Vaude Bivi. A stove is an­other con­sid­er­a­tion: the Mi­croRocket or Whis­perLite by MSR are good op­tions, and the same com­pany makes ex­cel­lent in­te­grated cook­ing sys­tems (pans and plates) which are com­pat­i­ble with their stoves for easy stash­ing.

Nay-say­ers and trail man­ners

Fast­pack­ing is a sur­pris­ingly con­tentious is­sue. Some dyed-in-the-wool walk­ers take ex­cep­tion to peo­ple trot­ting along trails, even though trail run­ning is ar­guably a lower-impact pur­suit than hik­ing. After all, you carry lighter gear and spend less time on the path and in huts/camp­sites, leav­ing a smaller foot­print and burn­ing less fuel.

Part of the ar­gu­ment seems to re­volve around the fact that you 'should' spend more time ap­pre­ci­at­ing the im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence of the route, but re­ally, every­one is free to en­joy the wilder­ness in their own way: cy­clists ride, walk­ers hike, run­ners run - no big­gie. It goes without say­ing, how­ever, that you should be cour­te­ous to other trail users, not barg­ing past them, let­ting peo­ple know when you're ap­proach­ing from be­hind and def­i­nitely not lit­ter­ing the track with gel wrap­pers or other waste.

Other tips

Stay safe: take a map and com­pass and know how to use them. Also pack a small first-aid kit, a space blan­ket and a phone, and let peo­ple know where you're go­ing and when you ex­pect to be back.

Record your route: a smart watch such as the Am­bit by Su­unto will show you ex­actly where you've been, how much el­e­va­tion you achieved and how fast you trav­elled.

En­joy it: un­less you're at­tempt­ing to break a record, it isn't a race. Stop some­times, and drink in the views.— www.lone­ly­

Take lay­ers, start­ing with a tech­ni­cal t-shirt or two (made from a poly fab­ric - any brand will do, no need to spend big) that will dry fast after be­ing drenched in sweat or rain, and a long-sleeved light­weight merino wool top such as those made by Ice­breaker or Smart­wool. Your des­ti­na­tion will dic­tate how many

Com­fort­able and durable run­ning shoes are es­sen­tial for a suc­cess­ful fast pack­ing trip. Every­one has a per­sonal pref­er­ence about how much padding he or she likes be­tween their pinkies and the path, but un­less you're a very ex­pe­ri­enced bare­foot run­ner, this isn't the time to ex­per­i­ment with min­i­mal­ist shoes. (In fact this isn't the time to be test­ing any­thing new make

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