What Does Backpacking Mean? | Hikers University

Exploring the wild side of the world? Backpacking is a popular way to escape bustling city life. But what does backpacking mean?

Backpacking is an amazing way to travel. It's affordable, you can go wherever you want, and it's a great way to get to know the local culture. But what does backpacking actually mean? And how do you do it?

Backpacking is a form of low-cost, independent travel. It typically involves carrying all of one's possessions in a backpack and often includes travel to wilderness areas or places with little infrastructure. You need the right equipment and gear for backpacking and to stay safe in the wilderness.

If you're thinking about giving backpacking a try, you should keep a few things in mind. Make sure you have the right gear. A comfortable backpack and sturdy hiking shoes are essential. You'll also need a tent, sleeping bag, and cookset. You will also want to choose your destination carefully.

As backpacking enthusiasts, we have been going in and out of backpacking trips for over a decade. This guide will tell you all that you need to know about backpacking.

Table of contents


What is Backpacking?

Backpacking is a great way to see the world on a budget. It typically involves traveling to remote or less developed areas with a backpack and camping gear. The term "backpacking" can also refer to any long-distance hiking trip, whether it's for leisure, business, or education.

There are many different reasons why people choose to backpack. For some, it's a way to see the world on a budget. Others enjoy the challenge of hiking through rugged terrain. And still, others appreciate the simplicity of living in nature.

Backpacking is a great way for many people to get away from it all and enjoy the outdoors. While it can be challenging at times, backpacking is also incredibly rewarding. There's nothing like feeling totally self-sufficient and immersing yourself in nature.

Whatever the reason, backpacking is an increasingly popular way to travel. In fact, according to a recent study, the number of backpackers has been over 57.81 million in the past decade.

Backpacking is popular among young people, as it is a relatively cheap way to travel. However, it is not limited to young people – anyone can enjoy backpacking. Backpacking can be a great way to meet new people and experience new cultures. It can also be a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

What Do You Need for Backpacking?

There is a lot of gear and equipment needed for backpacking. Start with the basics and build up from there as you gain experience. Here's what you'll need to get started:


Choose a backpack that's comfortable and fits well. You'll be carrying all your gear in it, so make sure it's big enough but not too big.

Sleeping Bag

A good sleeping bag is essential for staying warm at night, and it gives you comfortable cushioning, allowing your muscles to relax. Choose one that's appropriate for the climate you'll be hiking in.


A tent will protect you from the elements and animals in the wilderness and provide a place to sleep. Again, choose one appropriate for the climate you'll be hiking in.

Hiking Boots

Comfortable, sturdy hiking boots are a must. Make sure they're broken in before you hit the trail.


Pack versatile clothing that can be layered to adjust to changing temperatures. Wool or synthetic materials work best as they quickly wick away sweat and dry.

Food and Water

You'll need to bring enough food and water to sustain you on your hike. Pack high-energy foods like nuts and dried fruits for snacks and simple meals like pasta or rice for dinner. And don't forget to pack a water filter so you can drink from any water source.

First-Aid Kit

A basic first-aid kit should include bandages, antiseptic wipes, and pain relievers.

Map and Compass

A map and compass will help you navigate your way. If you're hiking in an area you're not familiar with, study the map before you go.

Hiking Poles

Hiking poles can help take some of the strain off your legs and back. They're especially helpful when hiking uphill or on uneven terrain.

These are just the basics. As you gain experience, you may want to add other items to your list, like a stove for cooking or a satellite phone for emergencies. But don't let all the gear overwhelm you. Start with the basics and build up from there. Soon you'll be a seasoned backpacker, ready for anything the trail throws your way.

Where Do You Go for Backpacking?

There are a few things to consider when choosing where to go backpacking. First, think about what kind of terrain you want to hike through. Do you prefer mountains, forests, or open plains? Each type of landscape has its own set of challenges and rewards.

When it comes to backpacking, there are endless possibilities for where to go. From towering mountains to sprawling deserts, there are beautiful and fascinating landscapes worldwide waiting to be explored.

However, some places are more popular than others among backpackers. For example, many people flock to the Appalachian Trail in the eastern United States, which winds its way through forests and rocky peaks.

In Europe, meanwhile, the Camino de Santiago is a popular route that takes hikers through picturesque villages and along ancient pilgrimage routes.

In Asia, many backpackers head to Nepal to hike through the Himalayas. Ultimately, there is no wrong answer when it comes to choosing a destination for backpacking. The most important thing is finding a place that inspires you and makes you feel safe and comfortable exploring.

What are the Types of Backpacking Trails

There are many different backpacking trails, each with its own unique features and difficulties. The most common types are Bikeways, Boardwalks, Interpretive/Nature Trails, and multi-use trails.

Bikeways are trails that are specifically designed for cyclists. They typically have a hard-packed surface that is smooth and free of obstacles. Bikeways can be either on-road or off-road and are often shared with pedestrians.

Boardwalks are raised walkways that are typically found in wet or marshy areas. They provide a dry, stable surface for hikers to use while still allowing them to enjoy the natural surroundings. Boardwalks can be made from various materials, such as wood, plastic, or metal.

Interpretive/Nature Trails are trail systems that are designed to provide information about the natural environment. They often have signs along the way that explain various features of the area, such as plant and animal life. You can find interpretive/nature trails in both urban and rural areas.

Multi-use trails are open to both hikers and cyclists. These trails typically have a wide, hard-packed surface suitable for both activities. You can find multi-use trails in both urban and rural areas.

How to Stay Safe While Backpacking?

When backpacking, it's important to take some basic safety precautions to avoid potential hazards. Here are a few tips on how to stay safe while backpacking:

  • Be aware of your surroundings and know the area you are hiking in. This includes being familiar with the terrain and weather conditions.
  • Always hike with a partner or group and let someone know your itinerary before heading out.
  • Bring a map and compass and know how to use them.
  • Carry a flashlight, whistle, and other signaling devices in case you become lost or injured.
  • Pack essential supplies, including food, water, and first-aid supplies.
  • Be prepared for emergencies by packing a small survival kit.
  • Be cautious of wildlife and know what to do if you encounter an aggressive animal.
  • Avoid taking unnecessary risks and always err on the side of caution.

You can help ensure a safe and enjoyable backpacking trip by following these tips.


Peter Brooks

Peter Brooks

I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.

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