Paring Down to Speed Up
When you strip down your pack weight, the gear you keep becomes all the more important. Here are a few new things you can count on.
In Vermont and across the country, the rise of fastpacking has created a new category of ultralight gear and caused many hikers and runners to rethink what (and how much) they bring on the trail. However, the Green Mountain Club’s Rob Rives’ has this rule of thumb: whatever else you cut, always bring an emergency bivy sack and a rain layer. “As you cut gear from your pack, you should put some thought into what it would look like to have to sit and wait for help if you slip and injure yourself with what you have.”
Be sure to bring The Ten Essentials: navigation (map and compass), sun protection, insulation, illumination (a headlamp), first aid kit, fire starting tool, knife or multi-tool, extra food, extra water or treatment and an emergency shelter.
As with ultralight backpacking, you want to prioritize gear with two uses where you can. Expect to consume about 3,000 to 4,000 calories per day of your trip. That translates to about 1.5 to 2 pounds of food for each day on the trail. “Aim for a 12- to 15-pound baseweight and trim from there,” says Rives, who says that at any weight higher than that, you’ll be hiking, rather than running most of your route.
For more about fastpacking and why more and more trail runners and ultralight backpackers are giving it a go, check out “Go Faster and Farther.”
($69.95) Weight: 5.8 oz
Rated to 300 lbs, this is ENO’s lightest backpacking hammock. Hammocks are great options for Vermont, where flat ground is rare and trees are plentiful. Fly not included, so purchase one separately if you plan to use it in the rain.
($170) Weight: 13 oz (women) to 15 oz (men)
New for 2019, Hoka has released a shoe it specially recommends for fastpacking. With a high ankle, multidirectional lugs, plenty of cushioning, this shoe maintains durability and support while keeping weight down.
Leki Micro Trail Race poles
($199.95) Weight: 6 oz
These ultralight poles use a special strap setup to allow you to eat, drink, etc. without taking your hand out or dropping your pole. With a quick and easy deployment, they stow neatly in the UD Fastpacker’s pole strap.
($275) Weight: Less than 5 oz
New for 2019, this ultralight rain layer is breathable, waterproof and windproof, thanks to lightweight Pertex Shield fabric. With vented mesh at the armpits and a packdown size smaller than a grapefruit, it’s a great layer for fastpacking.
Mountain House Meals
($8-$10) Weight: 4 oz
If you’re planning to carry a stove and looking for a quick and light way to get more than 500 piping hot calories from whole ingredients without bringing a bowl, check out the Beef Stroganoff or Chicken Fajita Bowl. All you do is pour hot water into the pouch, shake and wait.
MSR Trailshot Pocket-Sized Water Filter
This new filter can be stashed in the pocket of your running vest and filters one liter of water straight from the source into any-sized container in 60 seconds.
MSR Pocketrocket Deluxe Stove
($69.95) Weight: 2.09 oz
New for 2019 with a push-start ignition, simmer function and new broad burner, this stove offers ultralight cooking even in the wind. Try it with the 16 oz MSR IsoPro fuel canister for a weekend trip.
Outdoor Research Helium Bivy
($179) Weight: 16.2oz
Outdoor Research’s lightest shelter got a little lighter this year. Made of feathery waterproof and breathable Pertex Shield+ fabric, it’s a favorite among Appalachian Trail thru-hikers for its durability.
($125) Weight: 8oz
This ultralight option is breathable, waterproof and heat reflective. It adds 15 degrees of warmth to a sleeping bag by reflecting 90 percent of your body heat back at you, and lets condensation out. It’s also a great emergency tool to keep in your pack for day trips.
Thermarest NeoAir UberLite
Weight: 8.8 oz.
This new summer-weight pad packs down to the size of a burrito. Inflated, it has an R-value of 2 and a stack height of two inches. It’s the lightest insulated air mattress on the market.
Thermarest Vesper 32F/0C Quilt
($320-$340) Weight: 15 oz. (not pictured)
New for summer 2019, this quilt can replace a sleeping bag as a super comfy summer sleeping system and uses 900-fill Nikwax Hydrophobic Down for added durability and has a foot pocket. Packs down to the size of a cantaloupe.
($169.95-$184.95) Weight: 24.85 oz and 22 oz
Ultimate Direction’s fastpacking vest doubles as a bikepacking rig. Designed to contract or expand according to your load, the pack features straps for hiking poles, a water bottle pocket on the front and a snack or cell phone pocket. New for this season is a women’s specific model.