Fast and Light (Fast and Lite, Light and Fast) Mountaineering and Backpacking

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Fast and Light has become a catch-phrase propagated by many outdoor company’s marketing departments, and it has led to a bit of a backlash against the term by some.

That is unfortunate, as in some ways it is giving a very valid and appropriate concept a negative perception.

As with most things – what is needed is a proper balance.

The “Lightweight” Philosophy we embrace at ProLite Gear emphasizes the following:

  1. Scrutinize gear, clothing, and food selection to fine-tune minimum packing needs.
  2. Aggressively seek out smaller volume, lighter-weight, high-quality/high-performance gear and clothing.
  3. Seek clothing and gear that can serve multiple purposes (multiple gear use).
  4. Educate yourself on backcountry travel and safety, being well prepared for changing weather, wildlife encounters and whatever else may happen.
  5. Use lightweight techniques to keep travel through the backcountry low-impact on both yourself and your environment.

The concept of “Fast and Light” originated as a technique for alpine climbing, and later garnered support among backpackers, helping form the foundation for the Lightweight Backpacking and Ultralight Backpacking movements.

Yvon Chouinard’s book Climbing Ice, published in 1978 contained one of the first descriptions of light and fast techniques and ethics.

As many other articles have suggested – the style “Light and Fast” must be coupled with the admonition “Fit and Experienced”, and “Intelligent and Safe”.

Practiced improperly – Fast and Light could get you killed. Too many people have mistaken Fast and Light with “taking too little gear.”

Once upon a time “fast and light” was practiced as “I’ve got nothing in my pack and I am putting myself at risk”. However, with the growing trend in high quality, functional, and lightweight gear along with the increasing awareness of proper lightweight alpine climbing and backpacking tactics, it can mean you have all the high quality equipment and clothing you need for a safe trip.

Carrying heavier-than-need-be products can increase the stress on your body, and injuries. They can slow you down when moving fast could help you avoid danger – like from an oncoming storm.

Light and Fast alpine climbing is an approach to traditional mountaineering that seeks to leave behind everything but the minimum gear required to reach the objective under the assumed conditions, allowing the climber to summit faster. One who is experienced might strip away everything that was not used on previous climbs.

This practice leads some to believe that a Fast and Light approach leaves little or no room for error. Taken to the extreme – that may be correct, but we do not advocate the extreme.

We are advocates for a Fast and Light approach where you are reducing the stress on your body and allowing yourself the option of moving fast if need be (eg: to escape an oncoming storm) by scrutinize gear, clothing, and food selection to fine-tune minimum packing needs

A modern Fast and Light approach does not mean leaving yourself no room for error. It does not mean leaving behind safety gear, or enough clothing and food to stay warm in the event you have to spend a longer than anticipated amount of time on the mountain in adverse conditions.

Bottom line – be smart. Get your body in shape, learn the proper lightweight techniques, and don’t sacrifice necessary equipment in the interest of going light.

A Fast and Light approach can be enjoyable, and safe.

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