Alex Roddie: “Fastpacking by Lily Dyu is an accessible introduction to an activity that’s a lot less intimidating than I’d previously assumed.”

A version of this review was first published in the January 2019 issue of The Great Outdoors.

The West Highland Way, South Downs Way, Alpine Pass Route – you may think you know these classic long-distance trails, but in this slim volume, packed with spectacular photos and tales from the trail, runner Lily Dyu introduces the concept of fastpacking.

The idea is simple: if you’re a backpacker, go faster. If you’re a runner, go further. It sits somewhere on the nebulous spectrum that also includes ultramarathons and ultralight backpacking, but I think the benefit of the ‘fastpacking’ label is that it’s a bit less intimidating than something with ‘ultra’ in the title. As the author writes in the book’s introduction: ‘Put simply, fastpacking is the hybrid of running, hiking and backpacking. It’s the art of moving fast and light on multi-day trail running journeys.’

If you often find yourself relishing the big miles when backpacking then a multi-day running trip could be for you. This author does a fantastic job of stripping away concerns and preconceptions, offering no-nonsense practical advice. For example, the introduction includes a wealth of information covering most of the questions newbies are likely to have, such as how to train, how fit you need to be (‘slowing down is the secret to multi-day running’), where to sleep, the difference between supported and unsupported fastpacking, and much more. There’s a decent chunk of info about bothies, which are invaluable for fastpacking in the Highlights. Also included are useful tips on how to find routes suitable for fastpacking, and a big section on gear (which has much in common with lightweight backpacking gear, with a few important differences).

The other two sections are all about inspiration and route ideas. The inspiration section includes twelve stories from the world of multi-day running. Collectively they do a great job of weaving a realistic picture of fastpacking for the reader – both the highs and the lows! I particularly enjoyed ‘Solo in the Sierras’, a story of fastpacking the John Muir Trail by Olly Stephenson. And the routes section is great too. There are twelve mapped routes along with key info, top tips, and mini ‘tales from the trail’ that help to ground each route with a story. These are great little vignettes that provide an insight into the pleasures and perils of long-distance running.

Fastpacking by Lily Dyu is an accessible introduction to an activity that’s a lot less intimidating than I’d previously assumed. Highly recommended if you’ve ever felt the pull of bigger miles and a lighter load.

Alex Roddie

Fastpacking by Lily Dyu is published by Cicerone Press, £12.95