"Fast packing is all about finding the balance between efficiency and utility".
Jenny Tough’s passion is human-powered endurance challenges, and exploring this beautiful planet, but particularly in mountains.
These are her top tips for fast packing, thanks for sharing Jenny!
It is important to ensure your kit remains lightweight without compromising safety, but also remember a modicum of comfort – used sparingly and strategically – will help you perform.
I tend to follow the rule that everything in my (preferably 25-30l) pack should fall into either; something edible, something to keep me alive, or a camera.
The specific items will change between climates, but my standard packing list looks like this:
- Waterproof sleeping bag
- Sleeping mat
- Down jacket
- Rain jacket
- Merino wool base layers
- Down booties (trust me, they are essential!)
- Spare socks + underwear
- Beanie + gloves
- Trekking pants (for cold mornings)
- Mini stove + food
- Water system
- Navigation system
- Trekking poles*
- Sunscreen, bio soap, toothbrush/paste, etc.
- First aid kit**
- Wearing: technical tee, shorts or tights, trucker hat, trail shoes
*Fully loaded with food and water, my pack can weigh around 10kg. That extra weight goes through my legs and feet, adding considerable strain bounding down a mountainside. Trekking or running poles spread the load, making your arms do some of the work.
**Duct tape and ibuprofen.
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.
Some times a tent isn't needed...
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.
One word: Coffee.
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 or polygiene) 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.
You never know what the mountains will give you. Be smartly prepared.
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 mid-weight 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.
A full 25-30L pack will weight up to 10kg, including water.
Best tip: Pack your sleep system and all clothing (except for your rain jacket) in the same waterproof stuff sack to save space and keep all of these important items dry in your pack.
Lastly, have fun, and don't forgot the chocolate. Test out your gear on a one or two night fast packing adventure and plan away for some epic missions!
Through her adventures Jenny Tough is always pushing her limits and also finding them. Luckily for us, she loves sharing her stories and encouraging others to explore their own limits, love the natural world, and protect our wild places.
Currently making her way around the globe, Jenny is running across a mountain range on every continent. In 2016 she ran across the Tien Shan of Kyrgyzstan, in 2017 she ran across the Atlas of Morocco, and more recently ran across the Bolivian Andes and the Southern Alps in New Zealand, where she became a great friend of the Further Faster team. You can check out her fast packing collection in the shop and online.