Outdoor enthusiasts will have noticed the rapid growth in a new style of tackling the trail. Combining the speed and athleticism of trail running with the adventure of outdoor exploration, fastpacking - sometimes called speed-hiking or fast-hiking - is making big strides.
The pursuit is changing the perception of outdoor activity, combining elements of trail running and traditional hiking into an exciting hybrid, embracing performance, fitness, and speed.
The sport’s pioneers have set the bar high, with elite practitioners covering up to 40 miles in a day. One leading exponent, Matthew Hazley, stunned the emerging sport by conquering the 7,525-mile Triple Crown of the Pacific Crest, Continental Divide, and Appalachian Trails all in one season.
Their achievements are inspiring a new generation of exponents, attracting people from all backgrounds, fitness levels, and age groups.
By packing light, wearing performance-focused attire, and training yourself to add speed to your gait, you can turn any traditional hike into a fastpacking trail run.
So find an amazing trail, summon up your inner grit, and get involved with this incredibly accessible sport that has just as many benefits for the mind as it does for the body.
What are the benefits of fastpacking?
Fastpacking reveals new worlds, taking hikers further than they would have ventured before. Hiking at pace vastly increases the area you can cover, the sights you can see, and the adventures you can enjoy alone or with friends.
The inclines, declines, and obstacles of the outdoors present an ideal outdoor gym that simultaneously builds core and leg strength, agility, and endurance.
Powering your way through muddy plains will test the mettle of any experienced walker or runner, while zipping up imposing gradients delivers an adrenaline-piquing pump for your quads.
But what is attracting so many to the practice of pacy hikes is how these physical gains are earned not while staring at the inner walls and mirrors of a gym but, instead, the epic vistas of the trail.
Brushing a hand through long grasses, stumbling across unexpected flora and fauna, and feeling the wind on your face will reinvent what would have been a wearisome workout into an unforgettable experience.
Compared to road running, fastpacking has other benefits to offer. Running puts the knees and ankles under a lot of stress whereas an up-tempo hike reduces the heft of the impacts, strengthening muscles across the entire body more safetly.
Carrying a pack, and using poles, activates a range of major and minor muscle groups, from traps to tibialis anteriors. Your entire body is used to drive you forward, not just your legs, giving you a complete workout.
How do I get started in fastpacking?
The best way to begin this trail running, backpacking-hybrid journey is to set yourself a challenge. Identify a fantastic trail and give yourself a goal for completing the route in a time that will push your pace.
Once on the trail, be it a mountainside, country dale, or woodland, make a conscious effort to quicken your steps.
Identify several target split times along the route, and try to make each waypoint in good time.
You may need to work on upping your pace, even before your first fastpack foray, and this can be done at any time. Most people have a natural walking pace which they often replicate while hiking.
Accelerating your natural stride can take practice, so use everyday walking as a training opportunity by quickening your steps and developing a faster gait.
Once you hit the trail, you’ll have already programmed yourself to walk with more urgency, giving you a big advantage for fastpacking success.
What fastpacking gear do I need to get started?
Fastpacking has very different demands compared to traditional hiking. Your added speed requires a much lighter pack, while the heightened level of activity means more breathable, performance-focused clothing is a must.
Responding to the growth of the sport, manufacturers have already launched fastpacking ranges, tailored to meet the needs of mountainside surges, decline dashes, and grassland gallops.
These include fast-climb jackets, trousers, shorts and shirts, hybrid mountain trainers, speed-focused boots, lightweight carbon poles, and fastpack packs designed for the pared-back outdoor pursuit.
Wiggle has a vast selection of specialist trail running and fastpacking gear, providing easy access to the necessary equipment for those looking to get started, right up to the cutting-edge kit for the seasoned pro.
Fastpacking shoes and boots
For quick movement over rough terrain, you’ll need sturdy but nimble footwear capable of navigating slippery rocks as easily as sticky mud. They need to be hard-wearing, waterproof, as well as comfortable, breathable, and light - a tall order for a simple shoe, but some of the best on the market have managed to meet the complex challenges hiking at speed presents.
In the outsole, the Salomon X Ultra 3 Shoes offer two different types of rubber, strategically placed to work in unison for a more intense grip and maximum traction over a range of different surfaces. Whether wet, dry, snowy, or sandy, the X Ultra 3 can grip terrain aggressively to give you more control and stability.
Inspired by athletes and made for a lively performance, Merrell's MQM Flex GTX Shoes offer protection and comfort while at speed. With GORE-TEX technology and a rugged sole, no mountain trail will be able to restrain them.
Balancing modern design and tradition, the Genesis GTX Shoes use Nubuck leather Nano-Cells™ technology to attain maximum breathability and climate control when working hard. Advanced GORE-TEX® technology works to create a full waterproof layer against the elements and combines with an insole for full foot breathability and long term comfort.
Light and breathable but with enough brawn to handle a mountainside, the clothing you take on your speed hike adventure must cope with the discipline's addition of speed while using the latest fabric technologies to triumph over the demands of the trail.
Slip on the Jack Wolfskin Women's Essential T-Shirt for its lightweight, natural feel and comfortable fit, to take you to the mountain or trail in style!
The Salomon Agile Short is a lightweight 2-in-1 running short with a soft, lightweight internal short and superlight outer shell, as well as a convenient zipped key pocket - perfect for a high octane zip through the outdoors.
Stretch shorts with supportive, built-in lycra undershorts. The stretch outer fabric gives you full freedom of movement while the inner lycra layer provide support in all conditions.
The H5 GTX Active Hooded Jacket provides full waterproof and windproof protection from sudden downpours with a drawcord at the waist to trap vital body heat, preventing windchill as you battle an uphill headwind or hike over an exposed fell. An integrated hood with reinforced peak also keeps the rain and wind away from your face while it's lightweight fabric makes it ideal for packing away in your bag when the sun shines.
While careering through those passes and fells, the latest tech can help you discover something new and give you feedback on your speed, distance, and much more.
The Suunto Baro 9 multi-sport watch comes with an all new intelligent battery with three predefined battery modes: Performance, Endurance, and Ultra. With up to 120 hours of recording time with GPS tracking on, a wrist-based heart rate monitor, and up to 80 different sport modes, you're fastpacking experience will be digitally enhanced. The bundle includes Suunto’s heart rate monitoring chest strap.
Garmin’s Fenix 5 Plus GPS Watch comes with advanced navigation options. Built-in mapping and navigation can keep you on track whether you’re commuting through the city or blasting through the beaten trail. The watch comes with integrated full-colour, TopoActive Europe mapping with at-a-glance navigation and location tracking. It also allows you to find the best possible routes using Trendline popularity routing which uses millions of kilometres of Garmin Connect data.
Garmin’s Fenix 5S Plus GPS Watch comes offer the same advanced navigation options, multiple sport capability, and wrist based heart rate monitor. However, it also offers storage for up to 500 songs with 16GB of memory, so you'll never be alone even while at the end of the earth.
Fastpacking equipment and accessories
A mountainside dash is no easy feat and requires some top-notch tech and equipment to overcome nature's less than nurturing side. Here are some equipment options to take your canter through the countryside to new heights.
The soft plastic material of the ULTRAFLASK™ is designed to fit most pockets whether hydration belt, vest, or pack pocket, offering a comfortable carrying experience and shrinking as you drink, reducing the off-putting sloshing while on the go.
The Stash 1 Litre is designed for the ardent adventurer who knows when you are on the move, size is everything. The bottle, when not in use, crushes down to a quarter of its size, allowing you to stow it away without compromising your performance.
Jam-packed with features certain to inspire any hike, this cap is extremely breathable and keeps you cool when the sun graces your adventure. Offering up UPF 50 sun-protection fabric to fend off harmful UV rays, this classic hat breathes energy into your activity as well as fresh air.
One of the best things about the Bindi Headlamp is that it can quickly and easily be recharged while on the go as the light is fully USB rechargeable. You can plug the light into any standard USB port to charge, such as on your computer, your smartphone charger, or portable charging unit.
The ACTIK headlamp offers 300 lumen brightness. Featuring a mixed beam, it is ideal for outdoor activities like mountaineering, running, hiking and backpacking. Red lighting preserves night vision and prevents blinding other members of the group. Its reflective headband helps you to be seen when a light is shone on it, while it's equipped with an emergency whistle for rescue situations. ACTIK is a HYBRID headlamp that is also compatible with the CORE rechargeable battery.
Silva’s Headlamp Trail Runner 4 casts a powerful 250 lumen beam. The headlamp comes with three LED lights including a red/green LED and two semi high power LEDs. These can emit light that can be seen from up to 65 metres away which will help you see every twist and turn of the trail.
The Talon 33 is Osprey's iconic mountain professional pack. The AirScape™ back panel and die-cut foam hipbelt and harness keeps your load under close control but allows ventilation to run free.
Alongside its common use during mountain marathons, biking, hiking, skiing and more, the OMM Classic 25 Marathon Pack has been taken to the summit of Everest. OMM design principles ensure the pack is light, stable, accessible, and durable. Hydration options with internal sleeve and side bottle pockets also feature.
The Hikelite is simple yet effective, featuring durable materials and packed with features with a high level of comfort, offering great value for an excellent, super-light pack.