Wednesday, April 13, 2016
Is It Really Just a Walk in the Woods?
Most people probably don't understand that yes, there is a difference. Merriam-Webster defines a hike as "to walk a long distance especially for pleasure or exercise". Backpacking is "traveling (on foot in this case) carrying your belongings, including a shelter, on your back for an extended periods of time". One way to think of it is that a backpacker is always a hiker but a hiker isn't always a backpacker. So even though you might have spent a lot of time out in the woods walking around, you aren't a backpacker without, well, the backpack.
That might seem like a trivial difference to some, especially for those who might take some type of daypack with them on a hike. I've used an old bookbag on my day hikes to carry things like water and first aide and sometimes a snack or lunch. But a backpack is different.
When backpacking, you must carry everything you need for your trip in your backpack. Your shelter, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, food, clothing, stove, water filtration, etc. all get carried on your back. On average about 30 pounds. That's 30 extra pounds that you're carrying around up inclines, down hills, over obstacles. Yes, sometimes your pack can be lighter. Mine was 25 pounds on my last trip and this trip I'm hoping to stick close to 20. But it can be heavier too. My husband's pack weighed about 34 pounds last trip. And I've known people who have carried 40 pounds.
Another difference is the gear needed for backpacking versus hiking. In hiking, you need a decent pair of shoes. You can even hike in a sturdy pair of sneakers. And while some people backpack in trail runners or even tennis shoes (Grandma Gatewood did a thru hike in a pair of Keds), it's usually recommended that those going backpacking purchase a sturdy pair of boots that are made to withstand the added back weight over potentially rough terrain. You also need a pack, sleeping bag, sleeping pas, water filtration, rain gear, bear proof food storage (could be as simple as an odor proof ziploc type bag), a stove, tent or hammock and a bunch of other things. Hiking requires really nothing thought you can opt to get trekking poles or a fancy daypack or hydration pack.
So to sum it all up, yes, backpacking is different than hiking, but that doesn't mean one is better than the other, they're just two separate types of experiences.