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Moving quickly over mountainous terrain, carrying little more than the essentials, sharpens the senses like nothing else. And it’s this pursuit of speed and self-sufficiency in remote environments that brought about the latest discipline of running at high altitude: fastpacking.

Occupying the space between ultra running and trekking, fastpacking is as much a sports category as it is a philosophy. In its simplest sense, it describes a period of rapid and long-distance mountain travel, usually over multiple days, carrying just the essentials and nothing more. And the appeal, for many, lies in its accessibility: trail shoes, a lightweight backpack, a simple bivvy setup, and clothing enough to stave off the cold overnight are all you need for a successful fastpacking mission.



To find out more about this fledgeling form of mountain running, Montane spent some time in New Zealand’s Puhi Puhi Valley, in the South Island’s domineering Kaikoura Ranges, with two of fastpacking’s most passionate participants – Mandy Robinson and Jake Vargo.

“Not only is fastpacking great training thanks to its high intensity,” explains Mandy, “it’s also one of the best ways to see more of the place you’re travelling through, because of the fast pace in which you move.”
Jake is also no stranger to moving fast through the mountains. “I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors and New Zealand’s backcountry,” he says, “exploring by any means necessary – bikes, rafting, mountaineering, or snowboarding. But fastpacking offers the opportunity to push my endurance limits even further, at the same time as taking on these wild environments.”

And the environments here are indeed wild. The Puhi Puhi Valley, located at the northern end of the range, rises up out of the sea roughly 15km from the town of Kaikoura. While Mt Manakau, the highest peak in the Seaward Kaikoura Ranges at 2,608 metres, occupies a skyline that – on a clear day – can be seen from the southern shores of the North Island, 120km away.


For Jake and Mandy, fastpacking further opens up the areas they love for exploration. “It's like a Disneyland for adventure here,” says Jake of the Puhi Puhi. “There aren’t many places like this in the world,” explains Mandy. “It’s always so exciting to come here and see new areas, or to explore a different ridgeline with nothing more than what’s on your back.” With the Puhi Puhi’s unspoiled views of the South Pacific, soaring peaks, and total lack of crowds, it’s easy to agree.

For anyone else looking to take on a fastpacking mission of their own, what advice would Jake and Mandy offer? “Understand the risks of being outdoors when the weather changes, and always make sure you tell someone your plans before you set off,” says Jake. “But most importantly of all?” Mandy adds, “Have fun and push your limits. Oh, and remember to enjoy the sun rises and views.”

“Everything should be functional, hardwearing, and extremely lightweight. For us, we couldn’t go without a seam-sealed jacket, warm underlayers, a down jacket, a beanie, a pair of gloves, and a headlamp.”



Close fitting, lightweight trail mission pack

Designed with the trail-specific COVALENT harness delivering a customisable, body-hugging fit without restricting movement, a multitude of pockets offering easy access to hydration, food and kit while on the move, the Trailblazer 8 is ideal for any fast-paced mission, where low-weight, stability and quick access to kit is essential.



Close-fitting, lightweight waist pack

The lightweight Trailblazer 3 is a body-hugging waist pack with a secure and stable fit. The multitude of pockets and attachment points allow for quick and easy access to hydration, food and kit while on the move.