Contouring above the John Day River with the Volpi Fastpack
This winter and spring I took the Volpi Fastpack out on a variety of Oregon High Desert trips, utilizing it to go fast and light in environments where that kind of travel is not the norm. I also tested out how it handles big water carries and being stuffed to its total volume, even using it on a packrafting trip! For a very purpose built pack it showed a surprising amount of versatility, and a stellar carry at low weights and high speeds.
How Does the Volpi Fastpack Carry?
The Volpi Fastpack uses a vest harness that has dual attachment points to the main pack body. Due to a clever combination of D rings, the vest can be adjusted through a single point at the bottom of the shoulder strap. The straps themselves are skinny at the top and flare significantly in the chest area, effectively spreading the pack load over a large surface area. The straps have load lifters attached to the extension collar that can pull the pack closer to your body, though in my case I seemed to get the best shoulder wrap leaving them looser. There are dual sternum straps that attach to daisy chains, allowing for height adjustment. I anticipate this would accommodate folks with more developed chests.
My favorite moments with the Fastpack were scrambling. The secure fit and low profile of the pack really shine on technical terrain and any time balance is key. Scrambling with the Volpi feels as close to not wearing a pack as possible.
Straight ahead hiking is also very comfortable at weights to the high teens. With anything close to 20 pounds or above I’d prefer to be in a more traditional frameless pack. Short jogs, particularly those on a slight incline, also ride smoothly; though I would not want to run for an extended period of time or at a sprint with the pack on. It does handle higher-than-hiking speed well, say skipping down a good trail descent at something closer to 4 or 5 miles an hour.
Accessibility and Pack Size
There are four shoulder strap pockets on the Volpi Fastpack. Two traditional water-bottle type pockets work well with either a 500ml to 700ml soft bottle or Smartwater, with a little over the neck of the bottle shock cord for extra security. A phone also rides comfortably in these pockets, or sunglasses, or a Garmin inReach Mini. The outer shoulder pockets do not have any cinch, and I had difficulty finding the right item to stow securely in them… things like lip balm, sunscreen and bug repellent would fall out. I had some success using items that filled up the entire pocket, like fleece gloves or bagged snacks.
The side pockets are easy to access while wearing the pack, and can accommodate two Smartwater bottles in each pocket, though it is very tight. This is a bonus if you’re moving fast or scrambling, as the pockets are very secure.
The front pocket mesh is not stretchy or high volume, but is big enough to hold a few outside of the pack essentials like some snacks and a rain jacket. Sewn-in shock cord secures items in the front pocket. Also, a shock cord criss-crosses the outside of the pocket, which could be used to lash some drying socks or a sit pad.
There are convenient loops at the bottom of both sides of the front pocket to stow trekking poles securely. They are a bit small for an ice ax but extra added-on cordage would work just fine for an ax carry.
Pack Volume and Construction
The Volpi Fastpack I tested was made of Ultra 100. The pack was not seam taped, so a pack liner has definitely been necessary despite this fabric’s inherent water-resistant properties. The sewing and overall finish of the pack is excellent. The 30 liter internal volume is in a narrow package that causes the extension collar to ride a little higher than one might expect for such a small pack, but not high enough to ever feel tippy.
For those with an aggressive UL mindset this pack will have no problem with 4 day carries in high-season conditions. The external storage adds on another 9 liters.
Some Unorthodox Use Cases
A good example of this is an overnight packrafting trip I took on the John Day river with the Volpi Fastpack — a 15 mile off trail hike up the river, with a 15 mile float back in the morning. A 6 lbs baseweight gave me just enough room to squeeze an Alpacka Scout, Supai Olo Paddle, and dry suit in the pack for my morning float!
On another trip I was out for big miles cross-country over multiple nights with a river crossing on my route.
- Great carry in the mid to upper teens
- Easily accessible pockets
- Great for fast hiking and scrambling
- Excellent construction
- Lots of features in a lightweight package
- Can get hot due to snug fit
- Outer shoulder pockets don’t have a cinch
- May not be comfortable for folks with larger body types
The 30 mile a day thru-hiker will absolutely love this pack. It's built to crush miles — as the finishing piece in an ultralight kit. It also would appeal to those on big objective shorter trips. Off-trail high routes would be a joy with this pack. Think of it as a small pack that can help create some big plans!