So, what is backpacking?
Backpacking can be described as an independent, often international, low-budget way of travelling.
Someone who backpacks is called a ‘Backpacker.’
Backpackers generally travel for a longer period of time than most other tourists, and they tend to travel in several different countries during their time away.
The number of countries differs.
A backpacker can be on the road from a few weeks to several years. However, that is the short way of describing it.
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What is Backpacking?
Backpacking is a very loose definition. There are backpackers who go tramping in the forests sleeping in tents and on the beach, and hitchhike their way around the world.
And there are those who backpack with roller-bag suitcases, sleep in hotels and rent a car to get around a country.
These are two completely different types of traveling, but they both like to call themselves backpackers.
You can however separate these into 3 different backpacking genres if you like:
- Ultralight Backpacking
- Flash packing
- Backpacking RTW Travel
The two later ones are newer styles in ways of backpacking.
Difference between backpacking and hiking
There is a difference if someone says they are going backpacking versus hiking.
You are considered to be hiking when you are walking for a long period of time. You may drive somewhere scenic to go hiking while traveling. Or around your home, you may hike within a local park. Many people enjoy hiking in forest preserves and national parks.
When you hike, you walk for long periods but that is relative to the person. You can take a mile hike or a 10-mile hike. When hiking, you will likely bring water and a small daypack for emergencies. This may include a first aid kit and snacks.
Backpacking is different than hiking.
When you backpack, you are literally carrying a backpack on your back.
As an example, people backpack while hiking down the Grand Canyon.
They will spend the night at the bottom and then hike back up with their backpack. They will need to carry their food, water, emergency supplies, and sleeping gear — all in their backpack.
You can go backpacking for an overnight or for up to months at a time while traveling throughout a country or countries.
So while both involve walking, there is a difference between backpacking and hiking.
What does it mean to be a backpacker?
Think of a “backpacker” as someone who is traveling with a backpack.
This is a person who is taking a vacation or traveling for whatever reason but instead of carrying a suitcase and luggage, is carrying everything in a backpack.
A backpacker is likely someone who would be staying in a hostel rather than in a hotel.
They will be more likely to take public transportation and walk than to rent a car.
Backpacking is considered to be an inexpensive way of traveling.
You can also think of backpacking as in, “I’m going backpacking this weekend” to mean someone who will be hiking while carrying their belongings and food for a camping trip.
This is different than someone who is a backpacker.
Ultralight backpacking is becoming more and more popular.
Today the industry puts a lot of focus on making things ultra light.
The backpacks are light like feathers, and the sleeping bags can be squashed down to the size of your palm.
But is you really want to go Ultra, opt for a sleeping bag liner.
This is definitely something for anyone to look into, as it could really help you ease some weight from your backpack.
These Ultralight backpackers go all the way, counting every ounce, cutting their toothbrushes in half to ease weight.
Although if this is your first time on the road, you will never understand WHY people would ever want to travel like this.
But trust me after over 6 months travel, with your back hurting you will start to consider this style of backpacking more and more.
You find more and more Ultralight backpackers using smaller packs.
I think in the future a balance between this style and Backpacking RTW Travel will become more and more normal.
Every ounce counts when backpacking
My son has been on several backpacking trips with his Boy Scout troop.
As these boys quickly learn, ounces turn to pounds fast when you are carrying everything from food, water, toiletries, first aid supplies, swim trunks, quick-dry towel, socks, sleeping bag, cooking supplies, and more.
On my son’s first backpacking trip, he carried his backpack filled with 19 pounds plus he carried part of his tent.
They hiked for 11 miles the first day, and nine the second.
You can believe he cut his toothbrush in half before going, though they do sell travel toothbrushes.
On another backpacking adventure, he backpacked at the Grand Canyon.
He hiked down / backpacked down — with his backpack and everything he needed — on a Friday. He backpacked back up on Sunday.
What did he put in his backpack for this trip?
He needed enough to eat, sleep, and protect himself from sun, cold and rain.
He was a backpacker! His pack included snacks, food, water, a tent, rain gear, a winter hat, extra shoes and socks.
Flashpacking is a new type of backpacking.
It is generally where you travel more expensively and with higher living standards.
Many people like to explain the definition of a flashpacker as someone who travels with a lot of tech gear like iPods and laptops and such, but I think that has become so common these days that nearly everyone carry an mp3 player with them, and laptops are hardly something expensive anymore.
So the view of a Flashpacker now is more of someone who has all the latest stuff, doesn’t have to save up for a trip, spends his money on drinking, partying and staying in nicer places.
Another way to define the flashpackers would be to say – ‘THEY BACKPACK IN STYLE.’
They prefer to go to the main guidebook destinations, do the main attractions, see what everyone else tells them to see.
They view backpacking more as an extending party than anything else.
The Changes of Backpacking…
Backpacking has changed considerably the last decade.
It has always been around, but today it’s easier than ever before.
The flight tickets are cheaper, in many places it’s safer, the communication is better etc.
Plus, you don’t have to take care of the boring part of traveling like plane tickets anymore, there are hundreds of organisations over the world that help you with that stuff.
Some people actually buy all their tickets to each country (including the one back home) before they’ve even left, through one of these companies.
All you do is to go into their office, tell them where you want to go, how long you’d like to stay in each place, and they’ll book all the flights you need for a trip round the whole world if that’s what you want.
Although, they obviously don’t work for free, and certainly won’t spend extra time looking for the cheapest flights.
There are also heaps of tours you can make.
How about hiking and biking through Africa or New Zealand with your backpack?
These days everything is more easily accessible, so that is also why you start to see more and more people leaving their hometowns and exploring the world.
Which is such a wonderful thing, whatever way you do it.
What is a backpacker tourist – Backpacking RTW Travel
This is the type of backpacking that you will find the most information about on our website.
Backpacking in this term means traveling on a budget, usually for longer distances, seeing many different countries and for a longer time than normal holiday travelers.
These backpackers can be quite diverse, exploring different cultures and travel both in cities as well as on the countryside.
Some of them might make a short hike for a few days or do some volunteer work, and then continue their travels.
They view backpacking and travel more for seeing amazing new cultures and as a personal growth than as a party, or simply a short get away from the real world.
They see the whole world as their home, and don’t really feel a need to get back to the ‘real-world’ anytime soon.
Travel is their life.
For you who weren’t quite sure what the term backpacking means, I hope this made it more clear for you and that you are now interested in also going out there no matter what type of backpacker you are and start exploring the world.
It’s a real fun way to travel and it’s not just young people who do it… backpacking is for everyone!
If you’re already planning a backpacking trip, how to choose the right backpack for your trip.
Essential Gear for your Next Backpacking Adventure
If you’re sick of city life and looking for a brief sabbatical, it might be time to dust off those old hiking shoes, tighten the straps of your backpack and head out into the wild.
Before you go, however, there are certain things you should consider such as the terrain you’ll be encountering and the gear you’ll be taking with you.
After all, you’re likely to be far from any sort of town or settlement and trekking through some arduous terrain, so it’s important that you pack accordingly.
Below we’ll take a look at some essential items to pack in your backpack the next time you’re thinking of taking the road less traveled.
Sturdy Hiking Boots
Always spend good money on things that separate you from the ground, whether it be a bed, car tires or in this case hiking boots.
Since your feet will be bearing the weight of not just your body but your pack and gear too, it’s important to have reliable boots that will give you support and protection over long distances.
You might have to spend a bit of money to get a decent pair but it’s a worthwhile investment; better a slightly dented wallet than a broken fourth metatarsal.
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Designed to keep your feet dry and warm when it starts to get wet, and cool when things heat up, hiking socks are almost as important as boots when it comes to taking care of your feet.
They should be able to dry quickly and be durable in the long run.
If you can get your hands on them, Merino Wool socks definitely check both boxes in this regard.
And if you’re looking for gifts to give a fellow traveler, backpacker, and hiker, then hiking socks should be number one on the list as they’re something that can always be put to use.
A military watch is one of the most long-lasting and robust watches out there.
The features from watch to watch vary, but in general, a military watch is water resistant, has luminescent hands and numerals, and is super lightweight.
Additional features include a scratch-proof watch face, power reserve for close to 48 hours capabilities and a moon phase calendar, all of which do wonders you’re trying to navigate in the wild.
You needn’t break the bank on these either.
Second-hand military watches of many different varieties can be found across the web on a number of sites such as Chrono24.
Lightweight and Waterproof Tent
While some trails such as the Appalachian and Pacific Crest trails have simple shelters along the way to take refuge in when it comes to night time, getting space in one is never guaranteed.
It’s therefore vital you always have a tent to provide shelter from the elements.
Here is a very good list of the top 10 best 2 person backpacking tent.
There are various things to consider when choosing a tent, but above all else it should be lightweight and waterproof.
For a comprehensive list of tents check out CleverHiker’s best backpacking tents.
Things to Consider When Going on a Long Distance Hike
Rather than starting out with a backpacking trip, you may start with a hike.
People hike for a number of different reasons.
Some people are attracted by the allure of the great outdoors, a chance to reconnect with nature and spend a few days or weeks among the various flora and fauna that they have access to.
For others it’s a chance to escape the humdrum of big city life and take to the trails to experience some solitude and, in the words of Robert Frost, take the road less traveled.
However, this isn’t a task that should be taken lightly.
Long-distance hiking requires a lot of preparation and planning and, if not done correctly, can often be dangerous.
You need to think about the weight and durability of your kit, how long your supplies will last, and when you’ll be able to stock up on fresh supplies again.
Below, we’ll look at some of the most crucial things to consider before heading out on a long distance hike.Things to Consider When Going on a Long Distance Hike
While not a physical item, resupplying is one of the most important considerations when hiking for a long period of time.
Food, a new pair of boots or some fresh clothes – these are all perishable in the long run and need to be replaced.
Thankfully for travelers, eCommerce has changed the game and we’re seeing a lot of online shops appear due to software like this, which means we can get some great items, for once!
There are many different online companies with an abundance of food and other products geared specifically towards hikers.
Don’t spend big money buying things last-minute at your local shops, instead, plan way ahead and get the best prices online.
Often one of the heaviest items in your pack, these are also the most vital.
You cannot cut corners when buying hiking boots no matter how much they weigh.
They’re the first line of defense between your feet and the forest or mountain terrain.
And since you’re depending on your feet to get you through the hike come rain or shine, it’s really important that your feet are well supported and protected.
Your choice of boots should depend on the terrain you’re looking to tackle and how well maintained your trail is.
For a comprehensive look at the best boots on the market, switchbacktravel.com has a decent list here.
Food for hiking
Hiking all day is a full-body workout, and your body is going to expend a huge amount of energy to keep you going.
This means you’re going to need to eat a massive amount of calories just to meet the energy needs that hiking demands, as well as maintaining the proper balance of nutrients that your body requires.
You’re also going to want to have foods that you can eat on the go, as stopping to prepare meals not only requires heavy cooking equipment, it’s a waste of valuable light and time.
Dehydrated fruits and vegetables and prepackaged and freeze-dried foods are the way to go.
Businesses such as Greenbelly have created food specifically with backpackers in mind, meaning you can eat calorie-dense food without sacrificing on nutrients or stopping to cook food.
Clothing for backpacking and hiking
When it comes to planning on what clothes to bring, the thing to think about is versatility.
You’re going to need only a few changes of clothes to keep your weight down, but they’re going to have to be adaptable to all types of conditions.
Consider long pants that can cover your legs when walking through long grass or cold weather, but that can zip off to become shorts when the weather is hotter.
You’re also going to want a wind or rain shell, a hat for the sun and a down jacket for the cold.
If possible, try to get most of your clothing made from synthetic materials that dry fast and don’t hold an odor. You’re likely not going to get to wash your clothes very often, so you want them to be as bearable as possible.
What is backpacking?
The act of backpacking means you carry all of your belongings and gear in a backpack.
You might be hiking while doing this or you may be traveling more conventionally making your way from town to town.
All the while, you will likely wearing hiking boots and other gear that serves multiple purposes.
The goal is to carry as little weight as possible while having the essentials.
Backpacking tips for beginners
Before you pack your backpack and set off for a 3-month European trek, start small.
Take a weekend to go backpacking to see what it’s like. You may find it extremely challenging to pare your belongings down just to the essentials.
Start by visiting thrift stores to see what you might find.
You want to look for things that work well for layering. Before you purchase backpacking gear new, see if there are some things you can borrow from friends.
Are you in shape? Think of the extra weight of a fully-loaded pack.
You may want to start off by hiking a trail without the weight of a full backpack.
Instead, pack a daypack to start conditioning yourself. Then you can start adding weight to your backpack.
You can work up to carrying your necessities for an overnight and then from there, try for two or more nights.
Definition of backpacker
Get fitted for your backpack and plan a trip.
You will soon learn the backpacking meaning and can call yourself a backpacker.