JENNY TOUGH FASTPACKING: SYSTEMS
Success in the outdoors can be greatly improved by mastering a few systems in a manner suitable to your pursuit. Jenny Tough knows the tolerances of these systems is exceedingly fine when it comes to fastpacking success.
Like so much in the outdoors, your enjoyment of it – and how you move through it – relies heavily on how well you look after yourself. call it what you want; self-maintenance, personal admin, grooming etc, if you don’t know how to do it efficiently in whatever environment you are in it will impact what you get out of what you are doing:
It helps to try a few iterations until you find what you’re comfortable with. On my first big expedition, I wanted a tent as I would be facing some really gnarly mountain weather, including thunderstorms, snow storms, and hail storms, so the shelter was really appreciated. My more recent expedition was in the far more warm and forgiving Atlas Mountains, so a bivvy was more than enough. There are pros and cons to both. The biggest factors are warmth, safety, and comfort, so be realistic about the adventure you have planned, what you can get away with, and what you’ll find enjoyable.
Taking care of yourself on long, multi-day runs, is the difference between an enjoyable adventure and an emergency situation. I always bring 15% more food than I think I need, just in case. Water filters have become super light and convenient over the years, although boiling is still the safest method. If I’m in Scotland, I will probably run with a very small amount of water and just top up from the abundant water sources as I go. In drier or unknown climates, I’ll carry a large bladder so I have the ability to fill up for long stretches.
Whether to take a stove or not is an issue of endless debate in the ultralight community. The verdict is generally to find out where the ‘tipping point’ is – where the weight of your stove and fuel are made up by dehydrated food. I carry an extremely ultralight stove, so generally, on adventures lasting two days or more without resupply, it’s lighter to carry the stove and dehydrated rations than to carry heavier ready-to-eat food. I also feel much more comfortable with a stove when heading into fierce mountain environments, where the ability to heat water can make all the difference in a bad storm or cold night. Also: coffee.
What to wear is an incredibly individual subject, so I will only suggest two concerns: 1) chaffing, 2) body odour. If you’re already covering long distances and have experimented with the added challenge of wearing a backpack, you know about chafe and don’t need any of my particularly graphic stories to push you in the direction of technical clothing. In the interest of packing light, I will wear the same clothes every day (current record standing at 23 days, thank you), where shirts with anti-odour qualities (like merino wool) really come into their own. I will, however, always carry one extra set of socks and underwear, and wash the current day’s set with bio soap in a stream every evening. I’m not an animal.
In mountain environments, you need to be equipped to handle all temperatures, so layering makes a lot of sense. While daytime might see really hot running, early mornings might require a midweight fleece with trekking pants, afternoon storms a rain shell, and cold nights a down jacket and probably everything else you have in your bag. Good quality, technical layers never weigh enough to be worth leaving at home and facing the risk of being caught out.
Best tip: Pack your sleep system and all clothing (except for your rain jacket) in the same waterproof stuff sac to save space and keep all of these important items dry in your pack.