What do you need to go fast and light with tent? Is it worth paying extra, just to reduce the weight of your pack with a 100 gram here and a 100 gram there? Here’s a guide on what you need to think about when preparing for self-sufficient fastpacking adventures with tent.
I have just returned from another fastpacking adventure. This time we ran Femundstien, a trail that begins in Femundsenden and takes you all the way to Trysil. It is 98 kilometers through forest, marsh and over the mountains. A run on the wild side. No shops and no cabins to get food supplies on the way. A trail that requires that you carry all that you need to eat, sleep and be out there for a couple of days.
A different experience
Fastpacking with tent and being self-sufficient is a completely different experience in comparison to running from cabin to cabin. Being served a three course dinner every evening and getting breakfast in the morning is luxury. Cabin to cabin, you can run with a very light pack not worrying about food. It is also possible to get a hot shower and to dry wet clothes in many of the cabins.
In other words, running from cabin to cabin in Norway is the luxurious fastpacking alternative.
More stuff = more weight
When carrying tent and provisions, the pack you run with becomes considerably heavier. After all, you need to carry tent, sleeping mat, sleeping bag and food. And this is in addition to all the things you need to have in your pack when running from cabin to cabin. The food needs to be rationed, so, it is likely that you will experience being hungry during the trip. The food is worth a separate blogpost, because as you will soon understand when you start to prepare for a fastpacking adventure, food will be one of the things you need to bring and that weighs the most. If you are going really light, with dried food for breakfast and dinner and then snacks for the day, around 2000kcal in total, you’re looking at 500gr a day. Fastpacking 5 days? 2,5kg food, and then you will be hungry…
Choose the lightest products on the market and the weight of your pack will unlikely be much less than 6kg, even if you are going for a 3-day trip. And then you have cut weight on everything, just the most necessary of food and equipment and no luxury products in the bag whatsoever.
Why fastpack with tent? the pros and cons…
Now you may be wondering why you should even consider fastpacking self-sufficient with tent?
Running around with a heavy pack and being hungry may not sound very tempting, but the advantage of fastpacking with a tent is that you are completely in control when it comes to where you want to run and how long you want to run every day. It also allows you to explore areas where there are no cabins and last but not least, it is cheaper than board and lodging at the cottages. A place in a dormitory, dinner and breakfast will be 70€ (or more) a night, if you are a DNT member. A night in a tent with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I calculate an average of 25€ a day.
Wilder and more “back to basic” adventure, it is a completely different experience. If you plan to participate in a multiday stage race, like Marathon des Sables or Ice Ultra, this is also a great way to train and prepare yourself for the race.
What do you need?
Needless to say, when it comes to fast and light equipment; less is more. Less weight, the more it costs. Here, I will only write about the extra equipment you need when you go fast and light with a tent. Check out my blogpost about Fastpacking for beginners to see my basic fastpacking kit list.
A lightweight 1 person tent that weights 1kg will most likely cost you more than 400€. The NEMO Hornet Ultralight 1-2p tent weights 723gr and is, in my opinion, one of the best buys when it comes to weight, price and comfort. Price? 430€.
Nordisk Lofoten ultralight tent weighs no more than 565g, but the price tag is around 650€. And we have not even started to talk about the price of a good and warm lightweight sleeping bag and a lightweight sleeping mat…
Sleeping bags come in many varieties and qualities. But when it comes to sleeping bags, it is not always the lightest that is the best… When choosing a sleeping bag, you need to consider whether you are a person who freezes easily at night or not and where you intend to fastpack. The mountain can offer freezing temperatures even if it is mid-summer, but if you plan to use it on adventures in the lowlands and forest during summer you may not need a very warm sleeping bag. If you are fastpacking in wet environments, a normal down sleeping bag might not be the best, since normal down won’t keep you warm if it gets wet, you might need to consider buying a sleeping bag with treated down or synthetic material like Primaloft that will keep you warm even if it gets wet.
Sleeping bags get heavier the warmer they are. That is just the way it is. But there are sleeping bag manufacturers who can make a sleeping bag that suits you and your needs. And it is amazing what you can save on dropping zippers and other unnecessary things. Not to mention what difference it makes if you get a sleeping bag that is custom made to your body measurements. If you are 1.60m tall, it’s unnecessary to run around with a sleeping bag suitable for a person who is 1.85m…
Some examples of sleeping bags for fastpacking:
The RAB Mythic Ultra 360 (606gr) with comfort down to -1 degrees is perfect for fastpacking in the mountains in Norway in summer. Price tag: 600€ +/-
Rab Mythic Ultra 180 (400gr) with comfort down to +5 degrees is a lighter variant but is better suited for fastpacking in the lowlands during Norwegian summers. Price tag: 540€ +/-
If you want a custom sleeping bag, check out PHD Design.
It depends a great deal on how much comfort you need. You can get sleeping mats that weighs less than 80gr, but the comfort is comparable with rolling out a garbage bag and lying on it. Price: 25€ +/-
You can get sleeping mats that just cover head to hip and looks kind of like an inflatable skeleton. Weight? 150gr. comfort level? Well, if you can sleep on a fence, you’ll probably survive a couple of nights… Price: 70€ +/-
KLYMIT V Ultralight weighs 316gr, but on this you can also expect to get a good night’s sleep. For me, it is worth adding an extra 150gr to my pack if I can sleep well at night. Price: 130€+/-
Believe it or not, a stove is not something you absolutely must have, but it does make the fastpacking experience a whole lot more enjoyable when it comes to eating. Most dried and freeze-dried food can be rehydrated with cold water, but it takes longer time and the food tastes so much better when you use hot water. I usually use the PocketRocket Deluxe Stove Kit from MRS. It weights 371 grams and then you need a fuel canister. A small fuel canister weights 113 grams. But depending how many days you will on the go and how many meals/hot drinks you are planning to prepare, you might want to bring a bigger fuel canister. Price for the set: 100 € +/-
But there are alternatives to a stove. When the weather has been too dry in the forest to use any flames, I use the BaroCOOK 400ml cup. It is lightweight, the cup weights 340gr and then you need a heating pack (20gr) for every time you boil up 400ml water. The product is good when you are fastpacking solo and when you can’t use flames. It is also a cheap alternative since the price for the BaroCOOK is not more than 30€ +/- . The cons are that it takes longer to heat the water and it’s more trash to carry because the heat packs weights more after use.
There are many good packs out there made especially for fastpacking. I usually use the Inov8 all terain 25L, the same pack as I used for Beyond the Ultimate Ice Ultra in 2019. When choosing pack for fastpacking, it is important for me to have a pack that is comfortable to run with, have good solutions for packing smart so that I have access to what I need when I run, is durable and at the same time lightweight. It also needs to be the right size, because it need to be big enough to carry what I need, but not too big so that it will have room to let my stuff in the pack jump around when I’m running.
I’ve found that 25L is the size that fits my needs for up to a week out on the trails. Another thing that I like about this pack is that it has a roll-top which makes it possible to make the pack bigger or smaller as needed. The inov8 allterrain 25L weights 1kg when you have all the extra stuff on, but you can strip it down so that it weights no more than 460gr. When preparing for the Ice Ultra, I stripped away all unnecessary stuff, like the top pocket and the plate that makes the pack stiffer. Price for the pack: 125€
You pay more for less (weight)
Fastpacking is an investment in time and commitment and normally one would have experienced camping and backpacking before moving ‘fast and light!’
Fastpacking is not cheap initially, especially if starting from scratch. Don’t compromise though, you will only find that you will go back and replace chaep/ heavy items later with more expensive and lighter options.
But if this is something you would like to do in the future, then look at it as an investment.
In summary, be conscious about the weight and the quality of the products you choose. It will pay well to go for the light and good products now that you can enjoy for many years and adventures ahead.