The Fastpacking Female 

I think the awareness and understanding of long-distance running has changed over the years so luckily for us, turning up to a B&B with mucky trail shoes on with sweaty hair isn’t so uncommon anymore, especially in places like the Lake District or the Highlands. 

There are plenty of trainer-friendly destinations both in and out of the UK, and with women and long-haired men in mind, having hairdryers readily available, running life couldn’t be easier!  

Fastpacking is a term that refers to packing light to enable us to move faster which is exactly what we need for long-distance running, taking pressure off our bodies and taking weight on our feet.  Whether you’re planning a multi-day adventure with B&Bs on route, or just one huge day out, as the Fastpacking Female, you’re going to want to pack the bare minimum to keep safe and warm, but light enough to be comfortable. 

I see so many people on the West Highland Way up here in Scotland carrying a 60-liter backpack on their back, probably weighing about 15 kilos, and I’m not jealous in the slightest. Perhaps walking requires even longer days out but every time I see these hikers, it just inspires me to make my pack as minimal as I can and pack smart.

The basics for fastpacking 

For any runner, you’ll need to pack the ‘musts’ depending on how long you’re planning to go and over what number of days. For shorter adventures, no matter who you are, you’ll need a survival bag or foil blanket, some extra layers to keep warm including a warm jacket, waterproofs, and food and drink. 

If you aren’t familiar with the route, make sure you’re taking a backup map and compass. A phone with plenty of battery is always helpful, and a warm hat.  Always try to think about what would happen if you got injured, especially in the middle of nowhere; you need food to give you energy, a way to keep warm, a way of contacting someone for help, a way to get back on track and be able to plot exactly where you are. 

The Fastpacking Female - a woman standing looking ahead of her into a mountain range

I’m constantly freezing, so just be mindful of what you would personally need if you’re out in the middle of nowhere.  Both equipment and clothing are constantly evolving so you can easily make space – I always look at my waterproof trousers in admiration as they screw up as small as an actual crisp packet – though, granted, they look like one too but who cares in howling rain and wind! 

So, are there any differences between a male and female long-distance runner on a fastpacking trip? From my own experiences, I think yes, but a lot depends on the time of month you’re fastpacking and how you’re feeling.

The not-so-magic powers for the females

Women have a great upper hand – there are thousands of articles on how we are stronger and more successful when it comes to endurance running, which is a huge plus point.  However, there are some challenges too. Here are some of my challenges when it comes to multi-day fastpacking, and my top tips of overcoming them: 

Chaffing

We’ve all had it, and we certainly have it on fastpacking or long-distance running adventures. Not just a woman thing of course, but my thighs love a good rub, especially when it’s hot or when it’s rainy! It may sound simple, but it took me years to realise that my shorts just needed to be a little bit longer so the skin doesn’t constantly rub together like I’m trying to light a fire. 

Rain is a different ball game, but the answer is waterproof chaffing cream – there are loads of great ones on the market and they really do work. They are worth the price tag, and worth the weight on multi-days unless you enjoy the red raw look of course! 

Finding a good sports bra is also super important so you don’t end up with chest sores. You’ll need to experiment as I find even the more expensive sports bras can rub on my sternum, and having a shower afterward is not fun – not the congratulations you need after putting in some big sessions. To move even lighter, you could try dispersing the chaffing cream into a small sandwich bag.

Iron Deficiency 

I’m a longstanding sufferer of iron deficiency which can feel frustrating as a regular runner. Eating plenty of iron before you head away is key and try to plot where to eat on your evenings, making sure there are plenty of meals on offer high in iron. If you’re comfortable doing so, take iron tablets along for the ride – they don’t weigh anything! 

Emma runs down a rocky path underneath an overhanging rock in as The Fastpacking Female

Periods and the Menopause 

We all know them, and they should never prevent you from planning activities, but nature’s little gift each month just means more carrying! For me, pads are the simplest, as you can dispose of them every few hours in bins on your way round – plus, if there’s no bin right away, they’re a hygienic way of wrapping them up and popping them in the side of your bag. If you’re somewhere urban, it may also be possible to make planned stops on route. 

My top tip is to get enough sleep when you’re on these trips – energy can easily be zapped through our menstrual cycles and menopause, but the key is to be kind to yourself and rest, so plan to arrive at your destination in plenty of time where you can.  Bloating is a big issue for me and that’s always slowed me down, but I’ve made peace with that now, so just be mindful of your expectations with yourself. 

Skincare 

Again, the sandwich bag is a great way to save space by packing in any creams you need. If you suffer from eczema for example, you can just pop cream in either a small tub as you would on an airplane, or just use a sandwich bag which is a win-win – light, but easy to use once you’ve stopped running. 

Peeing in the outdoors 

As someone that has had a battle with UTI’s for many years now, I can’t advise enough that nature wees, although convenient, can cause unwanted bacteria. It took me years to realise this! Where possible, just take a pack of tissues with you and a small plastic bag so you are not littering on any trails, but you’re not giving yourself any infections either. 

Hair brush 

If you’ve got a mega running trip planned and you don’t want to look like a stig of the dump the whole time, take a comb, not a hairbrush. It does the same job without weighing too much. Forget about hair straighteners, you’ll need to go wild for a while! 

Heavy bag 

There are plenty women-specific running bags for multi-day use, so shop around on the market before you buy. It’s a bit of trial and error, but don’t buy a bag too heavy, and don’t buy a bag so minimal that it won’t even fit your sunglasses in there – make sure you test it out before you leave for a fastpacking adventure to make sure you feel comfortable. 

The Fastpacking Female - Emma runs down steps with a rocky mountain range ahead of her

For me, I like to make sure I have a comfortable waistline, and that the bag hugs me rather than hanging off – it makes for a much nicer trip and there are plenty of women-specific with those factors in mind that I have found work for me personally over the years.

All in all, fastpacking should be fun and as comfortable as possible and it’s always worthwhile just thinking about your daily habits and how you can be comfortable with a multi-running break to fulfil your needs, as well as your hobby. 

About the author: Emma will always run for beer and crisps and is usually found at the top of a ridge in the Scottish Highlands. Long distance running is her bag, and the steeper the climb, the better! 

Capital to Country Multi Day Ultra Nepal
Multi Day Ultra Nepal

"All in all, fastpacking should be fun and as comfortable as possible and it's always worthwhile just thinking about your daily habits and how you can be comfortable with a multi-running break to fulfil your needs, as well as your hobby."

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