testing a fastpacking backpack on a trail run

Best Fastpacking Backpacks For Multi-Day Trips 2023

The ideal multi-day fastpacking backpack is ultralight, 30-40L in volume, and offers a secure torso-fit to reduce bounce and sway while running or speed-walking. These models are our favorites for carrying a complete super ultralight kit.

Fastpacking is still a loose and amorphous term. But everyone agrees it exists at the intersection of trail running and ultralight backpacking, and that it typically involves minimalist gear and marathon-distance-levels of daily mileage. Some people will achieve this by transitioning between running flats and walking steeps. Others may opt to hike quickly all day long, averaging 2.5-3.5 mph for 10-12 hours straight.

Whatever your style, we’ve got a fastpacking backpack recommendation that suits it. We split this guide into fastpacks optimized running, which have a vest-like fit for extra torso security, and fastpacks optimized for hiking, which are super ultralight weight.

And while you’re here, don’t miss our 5 lb super ultralight fastpacking gear list, or buyer’s guides for trail running shoes, ultralight backpacking packs, and hiking daypacks. Cover Photo Credit: Simon Pratt.

Multi-Day Fastpacks For Running

Multi-Day Fastpacks For Hiking

Multi-Day Fastpack Comparison Table

Fastpack Weight (oz) Price ($) Volume (L) Fit Style
Gossamer Gear Murmur 36 12.7 185 36 Pack
Zpacks Nero Ultra 38 14.5 309 38 Pack
MLD Burn 38 16.5 325 38 Pack
Zpacks Arch Haul 40 19.0 399 40 Pack
Ultimate Direction Fastpack 30 21.3 180 31 Vest
Gossamer Gear Fast Kumo 36 21.5 190 36 Vest
Six Moon Designs Flight 30 31.0 225 31 Vest

 Fastpacking Backpacks For Running

A multi-day fastpack optimized for trail running should have an extremely secure fit, low volume, and light weight. This is achieved with running vest harness-style straps that wrap around the front and sides of your torso, instead of traditional backpack shoulder straps that are straighter and narrower. The ideal model should also be low volume, which improves balance and encourages the compression of gear to prevent bounce and sway. The size sweet spot is 30-35L.

Best All-Around Fastpack For Running

Gossamer Gear Fast Kumo 36 Fastpack

The Gossamer Gear Fast Kumo 36 takes everything we love about their ultralight packs and adjusts it to meet the needs of multi-day fastpackers by adding running-vest style shoulder straps for a more secure, less bouncy fit.

  • Weight: 21.5 oz
  • Price: $190
  • Materials: 70/100D Robic Nylon
  • Frame: Foam Sit Pad
  • Load Capacity: 25 lbs
  • Internal Volume: 28L
  • External Volume : 8L
  • Pros: Ultralight. Excellent & Voluminous External Storage. Good Value. Complimentary Sit Pad. Secure running vest-style fit.
  • Cons: 70d nylon and stretch mesh are not the most durable. Sweaty back panel. Wide shoulder straps can rub against lower neck.

Features

The Gossamer Gear Fast Kumo 36 is an incredibly sweet design based on GG’s tried and true ultralight pack formula: fold over closure; zipper pocket lid; large external mesh pockets; compression shock cords on the side, finished off with foam sit pad back panel/frame. And the whole thing weighs in at an incredibly ultralight 21.5 oz in size M/L.

But what differentiates this from most other backpacks, and all of the other packs in Gossamer Gear’s line, is the running-vest style shoulder straps for an extra secure fit. That’s because they’re much wider and thicker and do a better job of holding the pack in place, and higher up the torso, to prevent bouncing and swaying of gear as you run. One small complaint we have about these shoulder straps is that they are so big and wide that they interior side can rub against the lower neck. This wasn’t a huge problem, but could be depending on how it fits you.

They’re also fully decked out in pockets. They feature two bottle pockets, one zippered pocket, one trash pocket, and a mesh pocket. They are connected by two sternum straps to perfect the torso fit. Frankly, we wish all backpacks, not just fastpacks, had shoulder straps with pockets like these. They are really big and nice.

On the flipside, the hip belt pockets are much smaller than average, able to store only one snack item each. But on the whole, this hipbelt is much comfier than a simple unpadded nylon webbing strap.

If you look closely and compare to other running vests, the extra wide shoulder straps transition to nylon adjustment webbing a bit higher up than most, and it might have been nice if they wrapped around the side of the rib cage a bit more, as this can reduce upward bounce. That said, in wearing in the real world, it hasn’t actually been a problem or issue whatsoever.

Verdict

This is an excellent ultralight fastpacking backpack with a very secure fit, incredible external storage, a user-friendly design, very low weight, and all for a good price. It’s our pack of choice for trips involving a mixture of trail running and hiking.

Best Fitting Fastpack for Running

Six Moon Designs Flight 30 Ultra Running Backpack

The Six Moon Designs Flight 30 is a dedicated fastpacking backpack with a full-on running vest harness. It provides fastpackers an incredibly secure and comfortable fit to prevent bounce and sway. Best in class torso security.

  • Weight: 31.0 oz
  • Price: $225
  • Materials: 100D Robic Nylon, UltraStretch
  • Frame: Aluminum stay, carbon fiber & plastic U-shaped suspension hoop, dense foam back panel
  • Load Capacity: 35 lbs
  • Internal Volume: 27L
  • External Volume : 4L
  • Pros: Best-in-class adjustable harness offers a very secure fit. Great for running. Load lifters.
  • Cons: Heavy for a fastpack. No rear mesh pocket.

Features

What sets the Six Moon Designs Flight 30 apart from the crowd is its best-in-class running vest harness, referred to as the Flight Vest Harness. Let’s dive in.

For starters, these are not your average shoulder straps. This is a true running vest harness with extra wide mesh carrying all the way down, dual horizontal cinches, and six pockets in total. They can store valuables, snacks, accessories, and soft bottles up to 500ml in size. And they’re connected by dual sternum straps. What’s more Flight 30 is the only frameless pack with an adjustable harness, meaning it truly is a one-size fits most.

The Flight Vest Harness works in conjunction with a removable hip belt with a pair of zippered stash pockets. All said and done, it creates a magnificently secure, and locked-in fit on the wearer’s torso to prevent swaying and bouncing of gear.

The pack itself is a no-nonsense roll top closure with shock cord compression straps on the top and sides for plenty of external storage. It also features two large side pockets for water bottles and an undercarriage pocket for quick access. All of these pockets are made with durable UltraStretch mesh.

If you don’t mind forking out an extra $100, you can also purchase this in ECOPAK fabric, which is a waterproof composite fabric made with 100% recycled materials from Challenge Outdoor. It’s also a few ounces heavier than Robic Nylon so we’ll leave that up to you.

One potential area for improvement would be to replace the rear compression shock cord with a large external mesh pocket. It’s just handier, more secure, and can store small or medium sized items that can’t be strapped down. Another is its weight. We understand that the fully built out running vest harness adds extra material and precious ounces, but something surely could have been done to get this one down from two pounds to one and a half. Just under two pounds is the extreme upper weight limit, but forgivable because of how securely it fits.

Verdict

This is a perfect fastpacking backpack for those who plan run more trail miles than walk. It delivers a best-in-class secure and sway-resistant, locked-in fit for a reasonable price with options to upgrade. We just wish it were a bit lighter weight.

Top Running Brand Fastpack

Ultimate Direction Fastpack 30 & FastpackHer 30 2.0

The Ultimate Direction Fastpack 30 and FastpackHer 30 2.0 are sleek and secure multi-day fastpacking backpacks built like running vests from a trustworthy and beloved ultra running brand.

  • Weight: 21.3 oz
  • Price: $180
  • Materials: 100% polyester
  • Frame: Aerated Foam and mesh panel
  • Load Capacity: Unrated
  • Internal Volume: 30L
  • External Volume: Unlisted
  • Pros: Running vest harness offers secure fit. Excellent vest pockets. Ultralight.
  • Cons: Minimalist hip-belt. Unnecessary side zipper. Potential durability issues.

Features

To get the basics out of the way, the Ultimate Direction Fastpack 30 and W’s FastpackHer 30 2.0 are a lightweight roll top pack design covered in mesh pockets attached to a running vest harness. Pretty much exactly what you want for a multi-day fastpacking backpack optimized to run, as the secure, torso-hugging fit reduces the bouncing and swaying of gear.

The Fastpack 30 vest harness pockets are excellent and you can tell they were designed by ultra runners. They can fit two water bottles, and an array of bars, balms, sunscreens, and your phone. Very handy, very useful. The mesh rear and side pockets pull inspo from the world of ultralight backpacks, and are perfect for storing bottles and other handy items.

Speaking to the materials, we think this is an area to improve upon. For staters, stretch mesh, as-used in all of the pockets, is susceptible to ripping/tearing and is widely considered to be not so durable. What’s more, the entire pack is constructed with polyester, which is an interesting choice; maybe they know something we don’t? We’re in process of testing and will report back, but traditionally poly is softer and lower volume, but heavier and less durable than nylon.

A design feature we’re not in love with is the full length side entry zipper, as it adds cost, weight, and an additional failure point without much benefit. Hypothetically, this creates easy access to items inside the body compartment. However, you should be packing in such a way that the only items needed from the body compartment are stored at the top of that section and can be easily accessed via the roll top.

It comes with a removable waistbelt, but it’s nothing more than nylon webbing. This feature does an acceptable job of locking the lower portion of the pack down to prevent bouncing, but isn’t particularly comfortable and doesn’t offer any additional storage pockets.

The aerated foam back panel with valleys covered by mesh adds breathability, but it’s no sweat reduction miracle.

Lastly, weight. At slightly over 20 oz, this is definitely a lightweight fastpack, but about average for its category.

Verdict

This is a good all-around fastpacking backpack from a reputable and trustworthy ultra running brand with excellent pockets and a running vest harness fit. Despites our nitpicks, it still checks all of the boxes and would serve you well as a multi-day fastpacking backpack.

Fastpacking Backpacks Optimized For Hiking

These are the type of packs used for unsupported FKTs. A multi-day fastpacking backpack optimized for hiking should be super ultralight weight (~1 lb), comfortable, and very easy to use. It does not require an extra secure, running-vest style fit. Rather, it can save weight by deploying ultralight shoulder straps, and can even forgo the hip belt. It also can, and should, be slightly larger in volume than a running-optimized fastpack. Hiking and speed walking does not require as much balance as running, nor does it create much bounce and sway. Therefor, a bit of extra volume is beneficial as it reduces time wasted playing gear Tetris and/or the harmful over-compression of down. The size sweet spot for a hiking optimized fastpack is 35-40L.

Best Super Ultralight Fastpacking Backpack For Hiking

Zpacks Nero Ultra 38 Backpack

Now proven successful on many a thru hike, the Zpacks Nero Ultra 38 is our pick for best super ultralight backpack. The frameless design is nothing more than a roll top dry bag with shoulder straps, a hip belt, and external pockets. But when it comes down to it, that’s all one really needs.

  • Weight: 14.5 oz*
  • Price: $305*
  • Materials: Challenge Ultra 200 or 100
  • Frame: Frameless, with optional foam sit pad back panel
  • Load Capacity: 20 lbs
  • Internal Volume: 25L
  • External Volume : 13L
  • Pros: Super ultralight. Waterproof. Large external pockets.
  • Cons: Frameless. Minimal weight transfer to hips. Minimal load capacity.

*Weight and price measure base model in Jet Black (ULTRA 200) with size medium padded hip belt and foam sit pad.

Features

For those who already have a completely dialed in ultralight kit and want to explore the world of super ultralight gear, the Zpacks Nero Ultra 38 could be their last big upgrade. This is a roll top pseudo-dry bag style fastpacking backpack with large external pockets, extra wide, 3/8″ thick EVA foam shoulder straps, and a top compression strap.

For how simple it is, there are some nice potential customizations. Choose between Challenger Ultra 200 (black) or save .3 oz with Challenger Ultra 100 (gray). Strap on the complimentary foam sit pad (1.0 oz) as a back panel to add structure and lump-protection, and/or add the padded 30z hip belt to keep the pack securely fitted while hiking. And why not add a .6 water bottle should pouch while you’re at it?

We tested this pack on the Wonderland Trail and found it comfortably and that it easily managed an ultralight load.

And did we mention that it has an even slimmer sibling, the 9.3 oz Sub Nero 30 in Ultra 100? While the Nero family is clearly designed to cater to the super ultralight backpacking niche, they do double duty as travel or hiking day packs. When compressed, the take up only 1L of volume and can easily be stored in a larger pack.

Verdict

We completely understand that super ultralight backpacking isn’t for everyone, and that frameless fastpacking backpacks put more weight on the shoulders and can be uncomfortable. Do not buy this backpack on a whim, unless your kit is already fully dialed. But for those who have mastered the art of ultralight, the Zpacks Nero Ultra 38 backpack may be your best possible chassis for hauling a super ultralight kit for the least possible weight.

 

Compare this to more great options in our guide to the best ultralight backpacking backpacks of the year.

Best Value Super Ultralight Fastpacking Backpack For Hiking

Gossamer Gear Murmur 36 Hyperlight Backpack

For a super ultralight weight fastpack at a super reasonable price, grab the Gossamer Gear Murmur Hyperlight Backpack.

  • Weight: 12.7 oz
  • Price: $185
  • Materials: 30d/70d Nylon
  • Frame: Frameless, foam sit pad back panel
  • Load Capacity: 20 lbs
  • Internal Volume: 28L
  • External Volume : 8L
  • Pros: Super ultralight. Good external storage. Good value. Surprisingly water resistant.
  • Cons: Frameless. Minimal weight transfer to hips, low load capacity. Delicate.

Features

Gossamer Gear Murmur 36 Hyperlight Backpack is the super ultralight version of Gossamer Gear’s go-to frameless-with-sit-pad-back-panel ultralight pack design. This fastpack combines highly water resistant 70d Robic Nylon with 30d Cordura to achieve massive weight savings.

The result is functional and durable enough, so long as you are careful not to drag it over abrasive surfaces. Used intelligently, it can last for many hundreds, if not thousands, of miles.  Used sloppily, roughly, or incorrectly, and it will not last. If you’re hard on your gear, don’t buy this pack. You know who you are…

Affixed to the roll top pack body are ultralight micromesh external pockets. Like the body materials, this mesh sacrifices ruggedness for weight savings, so be gentle. That said, we love to see the full size rear pocket for storing handy items like a rain jacket, snacks, or a map. Polish off the pocket suite with a pair of complimentary hip belt pockets and you have all the external pockets you need.

The back panel is an external foam sit pad, slotted into mesh holding ports which creates a modular 2-for-1. This style is common in the fastpacking backpack space, and more comfortable than it would appear.

Verdict

The Gossamer Gear Murmur 36 Hyperlight Backpack is a super ultralight fastpack (just 12.5 oz) with great external pockets all for reasonable price. Sure it’s a bit delicate, but that’s par for the course in this elite weight class.

Best Ultralight Fastpacking Backpack With Frame For Hiking

Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra 40L Backpack

The Zpacks Arc Haul 40 is an astounding design based on the fact that it has a full external frame and still weighs less than 20 oz thanks to Challenge ULTRA fabric. It has the best weight transfer of all sub-20-oz packs.

  • Weight: 19.4 oz
  • Price: $399
  • Materials: Challenge ULTRA 200
  • Frame: External Carbon Fiber Frame, lycra back panel.
  • Load Capacity: 40 lbs
  • Internal Volume: 25L
  • External Volume : 13L
  • Pros: Ultralight. Great external storage. Waterproof fabric. Wide Shoulder Straps. Full-frame weight transfer. Load lifters. Adjustable torso height.
  • Cons: Frame could be more durable. Hip belt pockets sold separately. Expensive.

Features

What stands out the loudest about the Zpacks Arc Haul 40 is the exposed “external” curved carbon fiber air stay frame and taught lycra back panel. This mechanically transfers weight to the hips while also holding the lycra in place that creates an air gap between you and the inside of the pack. Thus reducing sweat/venting heat. Lastly, the frame includes a patented torso height adjustment mechanism.

Another very notable feature is the best-in-class Challenge ULTRA 100 or 200D fabric used in the construction. It’s waterproof, ultralight, and preposterously durable relative to its weight. Since it adds only a fraction of an ounce, we recommend choosing the jet black ULTRA 200 colorway.

Thirdly, we just adore the full size mesh back pocket with slack for extra storage space. Arc Haul 40 also comes with two full size side pockets, and a nice wide hip belt with pockets sold separately. It’s finished off with various external straps on the top, bottom, and upper sides.

Verdict

The Zpacks Arc Haul 40 has best-in-class weight transfer, waterproof/hyper-durable Challenge ULTRA fabric, and excellent pockets. It is the perfect fastpacking backpack for high mile trips that require heavy food bags.

 

Compare to other models in our guide to the best fastpacking backpacks.

Best Frameless Ultralight Fastpacking Backpack For Hiking

Mountain Laurel Designs Burn 38L

The Mountain Laurel Designs Burn 38L is perhaps the most well balanced super ultralight pack when it comes to weight (only 16.5 oz), capacity, durability, features, and price. What more, it’s made with best-in-class Challenge ULTRA fabric.

  • Weight: 16.5 oz
  • Price: $325
  • Materials: 200/400 Challenge UltraX
  • Frame: Frameless, line internally with sit pad
  • Load Capacity: 25 lbs
  • Internal Volume: 25L
  • External Volume : 13L
  • Pros: Super ultralight. Great external storage with pleated ULTRA pockets. Waterproof fabric. Very durable. Y Strap Top. Excellent construction.
  • Cons: Frameless. Minimal weight transfer to hips, low load capacity. Hip belt pockets not included. Expensive.

Features

The MLD Burn 38, now in UltraX, is a classic roll top, pseudo-dry bag style fastpacking backpack with basic shoulder/hip belt straps and large external pockets. The entire pack, is constructed with Challenge ULTRA, including the VERY deep rear and side pockets.

Did we mention we love these pockets? They are made with the same waterproof/indestructible Challenge UltraX as the rest of the pack, and are pleated so as to expand when stuff fills them up. This is a desirable pocket construction, because it is more durable and more protective than mesh, without needing to create space via stretch. They are finished with bungee closures and drain ports.

Oh and the shoulder straps? They’re a whopping 3″ wide, which is incredible helpful and comfortable as it disperses pressure. Frameless packs are unable to transfer weight to the hips, so more is felt on the shoulders. However, the fact that you’re packing a super ultralight kit helps compensates for this.

On top of the pack is another excellent feature, the Y strap, which can secure anything from a fleece jacket to a bear canister. We find this feature to be extremely handy, and is a good consolation prize for those who don’t have a pack lid.

Verdict

Mountain Laurel Designs Burn 38 claims to be the FKT Record Setter, and we believe it. If you want ultralight-frameless, this pack has no major flaws, weighs very little, and is a joy to use.

 

Fastpacking Backpack Conclusion

We hope that by reading this buyer’s guide, you found the fastpacking backpack of your dreams. Adventure Alan & Co has lots of experience fastpacking in hiking style, but we’re only just getting started in exploring the running side of things. As such, this list is subject to change in alignment with our preferences. For now, based on what we know, these are the fastpacks we recommend.

Disclaimer

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking a link on this site, a small portion of the sale helps to support us at no additional cost. We are never paid  directly to write about a product, nor are we ever required or obliged to do so. Finally, this post expresses our own independent opinions and does not represent the views of any brand we cover.

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