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March 2021 Issue
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Fastpacker Alastair McDowell

Alastair McDowell likes to go fast and light to cover greater distances on his weekend trips. Photo: Nick Allen

Alastair McDowell is a member of the New Zealand Alpine Team and enjoys fastpacking, where he covers in two days the kind of distances trampers usually walk over multiple days.

I use a 15L Macpac vest-style pack which has large pockets on its sides and front to keep food and devices within reach, allowing me to eat and navigate on the go. It also holds two 500ml soft flasks – I add electrolyte tablets to one and keep fresh water in the other. They are easy to fill up in streams and I never carry excess water as you do with a large reservoir.

I pick a great forecast so I can get away with fewer clothes, but still just enough to weather a storm: T-shirt, Macpac Nitro mid-layer and a raincoat. For my legs, I pull on stretchy polypro/elastane long-johns when it gets cold. I wear thin leather gloves when moving through scree and snow. T8 Sherpa shorts have handy waistline pockets.

I have a 450ml aluminium pot (50g), home-made methylated spirit coke can cooker (10g) and plastic bottle of methylated spirits (30ml/person/day). One tablespoon of methylated spirits can heat enough water for a dehydrated meal and hot drink.

Emergency kit and toiletries
I always take a PLB, first aid kit and a SOL bivvy bag. I take a half bamboo toothbrush, Skinnies concentrated sunscreen, anti-chafe gel and two-metres of strapping tape.

Sleeping bag
I cram my 370g Macpac Firefly 200 (new bag coming in spring 2021) sleeping bag into a Sea to Summit compression sack (46g). It’s the lightest setup I have found as the bag has no zips and it contains high quality down and is plenty warm enough for sleeping in huts in summer.

Radix dehydrated meals – high-fat content from coconut oil means lots of calories for less weight. I take two foil packets (breakfast and dinner) and re-package all other meals in compostable bags to reduce trash. I also take an assortment of snacks and energy food.

La Sportiva Bushido II trail shoes (710g) are robust on rocky terrain, scramble well and are rigid enough to accept crampons. Bridgedale waterproof Storm socks keep my feet warm on icy river crossings and when travelling through wet snow – I couldn’t recommend these enough.

My phone doubles as a topo map (with Gaia GPS app) and camera. My Petzl Actik Core headlamp is USB-rechargeable and I take a Cygnett 5000mAh battery bank (110g) for extra power. My Coros Vertix GPS watch helps with navigation.

Alpine gear
Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z poles (284g), Camp Corsa aluminium ice axe (205g), Petzl Leopard FL aluminium crampons with dyneema cord linking system (384g), Petzl Sirocco helmet (170g) and 10 metres of 6mm cord tied around my waist for glacier travel.

– McDowell is sponsored by Macpac through his membership of the NZAT.