The pack you use for fastpacking is probably the most important piece of equipment outside of the shoes on your feet. A pack that is uncomfortable or does not fit correctly can lead to a lot of issues and be the target of a lot of complaints and unhappiness on your trip.
The key to a good a pack for fastpacking is its ability to carry your kit of ultra light backpacking gear while running and traveling quickly for multiple days. Most packs designed for fastpacking or long multi day ultra light pushes do not incorporate a waist belt into their design. This is because an optimized gear kit will only weigh 9-12lbs, sometimes less or a little more depending on conditions. If you are not quite there yet with your gear kit we recommended checking out some of the options with a waist belt to help distribute a load of 20lbs or more.
The Ultimate Direction FastPack Series was one of the first dedicated pack lines specifically targeting the sport of Fastpacking. With versions of 15L all the way up to 45L we recommend sticking to the Fastpack 25L or Fastpack 35L. These recently updated packs are the perfect volume for most fastpacking trips and can meet your needs in more situations. They pull from a trail running vest design to incorporate a vest from system to securely carry the loads with a snug fit. The large rear mesh pocket is a great feature to give you a bit of added storage. We do wish the fastpacks had more front storage so you could access more of your daily necessities on the go. The 35L version comes with a removable waist belt for added load support.
With a similar running vest design the RaidLight Responsiv 20L offers a role top closure system in a crazy light 270 grams. It fits more inline with an aggressive running vest, but features a good amount of front storage below its bottle pockets. It also comes with 2 600ml soft drinking bottles. The lateral ratchet adjustment system is a unique innovation that proved nice on the trail to adjust the fit in small increments than most cinch strap systems. Its volume is a little small, but works well if you have your kit very trimmed down to the lightest essentials. It also has elastic attachments on the sides to strap on a sleeping pad or additional gear. If you are looking for the lightest running pack option this is the pack for you.
The UltrAspire Epic has been around for a few years and has been tested across many epic adventures. Although its main pocket only holds 11L it boasts a full capacity of 25L with all pockets. It is a great combination of vest and backpack with a load carrying waist belt for added security. If you want a running pack, but are not a fan of the vest only option this is a great alternative. The included rain fly is also a nice touch to be included.
The Osprey Talon is on our list for those who want to dip their toes into fastpacking with a more widely available pack that is not Fastpacking specific. It is on the heavier side, but has enough storage room and support to carry a kit that might not be as trimmed down as an ultralight backpacker’s. Even with featuring a multitude of more traditional backpacking features it still allows for great range of motion and can be cinched down to allow for a secure fit while running. The Osprey Talon 33 has enough versatility that we think it is a great value buy to be a multi use pack that can easily cross over into 2-3+ days of fastpacking.
A household name in the Ultralight backpacking cottage gear community, Mountain Laurel Designs creates some great high end ultra light equipment. The Core 28L is no exception. Although the Core 28L skews toward ultralight backpackers it can be customized to include added features that make it great for fastpacking. The basic pack starts at $90, but we recommend adding the 2nd sternum strap and including a bottle and gear holder to the front chest straps. Although not your typical pack for Fastpacking we think the Core 28L is great for those who might not being doing as much running, but still want an ultralight minimalist.
Choosing a backpack can be a difficult task. Each pack will fit everyone slightly different. As well, your running stride and form can greatly affect how comfortable or how much movement a pack will have while running. Take care to adequately pack, fit, and try your pack on before heading out the door on your next adventure.