Backpacking (wilderness)

From Academic Kids

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Backpacking (also tramping or trekking in some countries) is the complete combination of hiking and camping. It is usually done for recreation, to explore a place that the backpacker considers beautiful and fascinating. A backpacker camps in one place, then packs all of his or her gear into a backpack and hikes off to a different location. This gear must include food, water, and shelter, or the means to obtain them, but very little else, and often in a more compact and simpler form than one would use for stationary camping.

The main advantage of backpacking over day hiking is that it allows the hiker to see remote areas, almost entirely devoid of people or their effects, that are otherwise inaccessible. The main disadvantages are that the encumbrance of the backpack itself substantially reduces the hiking pace, so that less ground can be covered in a day, that the backpack is something of a nuisance and a distraction to enjoying the scenery, and that camp chores use up a considerable amount of time every day.

Many backpacking trips last just a weekend (one or two nights), but long-distance expeditions may last weeks or months, sometimes aided by prearranged food and supply drops.

Backpacking camps are more spartan than ordinary camps. In areas subject to a regular traffic of backpackers, a hike-in camp might have a fire ring and a small wooden bulletin board with a map and some warning or information signs, but many hike-in camps are no more than level patches of ground without scrub or underbrush. In truly desolate areas, firmly established camps do not exist at all, and travelers pitch their tents wherever they please.

In some places, backpackers have the option of lodging more substantial than their tents. In the more remote parts of Great Britain, bothies exist to provide simple (free) accommodation for backpackers. Mountain huts provide similar accommodation in other countries, though one must usually join an organisation to make use of their facilities.

The Scouting movement has traditionally been very involved in backpacking.



All backpackers seek to minimize the weight and bulk of gear that they must carry. A lighter pack causes less injury and soreness, and allows the backpacker to travel longer distances. Every piece of equipment is evaluated for a balance of utility vs. weight. Significant reductions in weight can usually be achieved with little sacrifice in equipment utility, though very lightweight equipment is often more costly.

A large industry has developed to provide lightweight gear and food for backpackers. The gear includes the backpacks themselves, as well as ordinary camping equipment modified to reduce the weight, by either reducing the size, reducing the durability, or using lighter materials such as special plastics and alloys of aluminium. Designers of portable stoves and tents have been particularly ingenious. Homemade gear is common too, such as the beverage can stove.

The food is typically highly packaged, dehydrated fare that can be reconstituted by adding hot water. Some backpacking meals are pre-cooked and vacuum-packed without being dehydrated, and reheated when needed by a chemical reaction, allowing the backpacker to avoid carrying a stove and fuel. (This technology was originally developed for military purposes.) However, meals of this type are heavier, and if the backpacker carries more than two or three, there is typically no weight savings. Trail mix is a form of backpacking food that can be manufactured at home.

Some backpackers go to greater lengths to seek lightweight and compact gear than do others. The most radical measures taken in this regard are sometimes called ultralight backpacking.

Due to the emphasis on weight reduction, a practical joke common in some circles is to secretly pack a small but relatively heavy luxury item, such as a soft drink, into another backpacker's pack. Then, once the group stops for a rest, the perpetrator retrieves the item, thanks the bearer for carrying it, and consumes it.

Related topics

Related activities

  • Canoe camping is similar to backpacking, but uses canoes or other boats for transportation.
  • Ski touring and snowshoeing are alternative forms of hiking (overnight or otherwise) that can be engaged in when the ground is buried deeply in snow.
  • Some travelers use pack animals (usually horses or mules) to carry their equipment, and sometimes also themselves. This is variously called horse packing, mule packing, etc. Porters are sometimes hired for the same purpose.
  • Urban backpackers live as transients in towns and cities. Their main interest is the culture of the places they visit, rather than the natural wonders, though they may also take wilderness side trips.
  • Adventure tourism is travel in a region or environment that is, for one reason or another, highly unpredictable or hazardous.

External links

  • ( (specializing in lightweight backpacking)
  • Compass Monkey ( Compass Monkey | Hiking Trails and Activities
  • Experience Outdoors ( Camping and Backpacking Informational Articles

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