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Kate Siber Wednesday, 28 December 2011 07:27 TWEET COMMENTS 0

Praising Arizona - Page 4

Fastpacking 101

Demetri "Coup" Coupounas once carried a 65-pound pack on his wilderness forays. Now the founder of GoLite fastpacks with a five-pound kit and has ticked off the Colorado Trail, Vermont's Long Trail and California's John Muir Trail. "Yes, you've got to have the right gear, but also the right underlying knowledge and techniques and the right philosophy," says the fastpacking guru.

The reward? Coup manages to squeeze 80 miles into a weekend, seeing more than most do in twice the amount of time. He offers the following tips to beginning fastpackers.

:: Cut the extras. The vast majority of your weight savings is not achieved with the lightest high-tech gear, rather from cutting out things you don't need (e.g. multi-tool, spare clothes, towel, etc.) and then from the synergy from weight savings—if you have a light load, then you don't need a fancy pack harness system or heavy hiking boots. Wearing trail runners and a light pack, you can go farther.

:: Think holistically. In the summer, I don't take a stove, because I'm happy eating dried mangoes, nuts and jerky. But I get better sleep by toting a slightly heavier sleeping mattress, which pays for itself in energy the next day.

:: Move forward. You're not necessarily going faster, you're just going longer. I don't stop much, just every few hours to get water. You don't need to because you're not tired; you're having a great time. That's how you cover 30 miles in a day with a pack.

:: Learn the techniques. I use a 10-ounce poncho for my raingear and shelter. If you know how to rig up a poncho, which is basically an 8-foot-by-10-foot rectangle, you can ride out storms with no problem. But that takes knowledge, skill and confidence. Practice in your backyard before going out with light gear.

:: Commit. A lot of people are conservative, but, by just committing, you learn tons. I'm not advocating that people try things they feel unsafe with. By diving off the deep end, you understand why moving through terrain that's hundreds of miles between roads is so freeing.


The Gear Primer: Choose the right gear and know how to use it

  • Pack. A daypack with 20 to 35 liters of capacity should weigh under two pounds. Our pick: The new Osprey Exos 34 ($149; ospreypacks.com), which weighs 1 lb 12 oz yet offers handy features like mesh pockets on the hip belt, a mesh back panel to wick sweat, and shoelace-thin compression straps for a compact load.
  • Sleeping Bag. Without question, down still offers the best warmth-to-weight ratio and the least bulk of any insulating material. By planning to wear all of your clothing to bed, you can slash ounces off your pack weight by taking a higher-temperature-rating sleeping bag. Our pick: Montbell's Super Stretch Down Hugger sleeping bag series, with temperature ratings from -20 degrees to 35 degrees ($264-$549; montbell.us). Elastic baffle stitching helps the bag cinch around the body, eliminating extra air space yet allowing freedom of movement.
  • Sleeping Pad. A thin three-quarter-length sleeping pad can be supplemented by an empty pack under the feet. Our pick: Thermarest's new NeoAir inflatable mattress ($140; thermarest.com), which packs down to the size of a one-liter bottle and weighs 14 oz.
  • Shelter. For guy-line-savvy runners, a rain poncho can double as a shelter. Two-person, single-wall ultralight tents also work well for two people and weigh around three pounds. Our picks: GoLite's Ultra-Lite Poncho/Tarp ($50; golite.com) is made of a strong silicone-elastomere fabric, doubles as a rain jacket, and has built-in loops for rigging as a shelter. Black Diamond's single-wall, two-person HiLight tent ($350; bdel.com) is a cinch to set up, with three poles that attach to interior loops. It features a mesh vent to reduce condensation and weighs 3 lbs 2 oz.
  • Trekking Poles. Trekking poles can ease impact on the joints and are useful for setting up shelters. Our pick: Black Diamond's carbon-fiber Contour Elliptic Carbon trekking poles ($160; bdel.com) have flick-lock adjusters, ergonomic handles and Nubuck wrist straps.
  • Footwear. Without a heavy pack, there's no need for more than a sturdy pair of trail running shoes. Our pick: The new Montrail Mountain Masochist ($90; montrail.com) is a beefy trail runner with excellent stability on technical terrain and an airy mesh upper for warm days.
  • Food. Bring foods you love—as long as they're dehydrated. The average adult male can refuel on a pound to a pound and a half of dry goods, like nuts, dried fruit, bars, jerky and dehydrated meals each day. Our pick: For dinner, Backpacker's Pantry (two servings for about $5.50; backpackerspantry.com) has a new line of organic dehydrated meals like bacon-cheddar mashed potatoes.
  • Stove. Stoves are optional for summer trips, but for chilly spring and fall nights, warm drinks and eats can be worth the weight of an ultralight stove. Our pick: The titanium, 1.9-ounce Snow Peak LiteMax Stove ($55; snowpeak.com) is the lightest stove on the market and barely bigger than a snack-size Snickers.
  • Water. Bladders and water-treatment pills are the lightest way to manage water in the wilderness. Our picks: Platypus BPA-free, 80-ounce bottles ($10; platypushydration.com) weigh one ounce and collapse when empty. Attach a drinking tube for hydrating on the move. For water treatment, Aquamira Water Purifier Tablets ($8 for 12; aquamira.com) taste loads better than iodine, kill just as many bugs and weigh next to nothing.


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