What is Backpacking?

What is Backpacking?

Someone once said to me, “the world is your oyster.” I never understood that phrase, it makes me think that people want me to eat the world, and who would want to eat a giant oyster anyway?The world is your oyster

To me the world is a playground, just waiting for me to explore it. Have you any idea the sheer amount of stunning vistas, cool canyons, majestic waterfalls, and beautiful lakes you can find out there? They’re waiting for you, untrammeled by the crowd. Pristine and untouched. But you could drive down every road in the world and never find one.

That’s because you need your own two feet to take you there. Many of the very best ones are too far to reach in only a days journey. So to get there, you need to backpack. At this point, some of you may be wondering, “what is backpacking?”

I’d love to tell you.

Hardcore Hiking

I think it’s fairly safe to say that nearly everyone has heard of hiking. Some people call it trekking but it’s still the same thing. However, I recently discovered that many people don’t know what backpacking is. This was a little shocking to me because I can’t recall ever not knowing.You can backpack to beautiful places

Backpacking is like ultra-hiking. When you go backpacking you are embarking on a multi-day trek, carrying with you everything you need to survive throughout that time, and camping as you go. It could be anywhere from a couple of days to weeks or more. The longer the time frame, and the more remote the area, the more skilled you need to be.

So What Skills Do You Need?

Though there are skills involved with simple day hiking, backpacking ups the ante. When you are hiking over multiple days you need to know how to survive in the wilderness without all the comfort and convenience at home. These skills may vary depending on where you are and the resources available to you in that area.

Some skills that you almost certainly will need, include:

    • Reading a map
    • Backcountry navigation
    • Water purification
    • Backcountry cooking
    • Setting up a tent

Backpacking requires necessary skills

As well as things you may not readily think of such as, how to pack a backpack effectively, how to select a safe campsite, and how to be safe around wildlife.

How Do You Build These Skills?

When you really start to think of the prospect of backpacking and everything it involves, the task can seem daunting. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be scary, and learning how to competently perform the necessary skills is very rewarding. There are many resources you can utilize if you’re just starting out.

The most obvious resource is the internet. There is endless information online including articles, and videos, that you can find relating to every single one of these skills. And I am personally writing about and constantly posting content that will help you understand how to be a great backpacker.

Unfortunately learning from the internet comes with drawbacks. It can be difficult to actually perform a skill yourself if you have only read about it or watched a video. The ideal way to learn an active skill is to hear (or read) about how to do it, see a demonstration, practice for yourself and receive correction and feedback.

If you are a first-time backpacker, I recommend finding someone who has already been backpacking, joining them on a trip and learning from them. If you don’t know any backpackers then practice, practice, practice on your own. Then begin backpacking in more popular areas where there are people to help you if you need it.

Know Your Limits

It is important to become knowledgeable and confident in your backpacking abilities and to know your own limits before heading out to the wilderness to test them out. Like many worthwhile pursuits, backpacking comes with real risks. These risks are mitigated as you become a capable adventurer.

Many mistakes that people make on the trail are completely preventable.

A few years ago I spent a summer working at a popular national park in Utah. I spent some time helping with the search and rescue operations in the park. I saw many people making simple mistakes every day that sometimes lead to real consequences. One of these mistakes was unseasoned hikers, overestimating their abilities.

I will always remember the first rescue operation that I assisted in. A very overweight man, who was recovering from the flu had hiked over a mile into the canyon with no water and was unable to make it back up. Several park employees were deployed to help carry him back to the top on a litter. This man did not know his limits.

Anyone can become a backpacker but it may require some time and some work. It may even require a training program to help you become physically ready.

But I can promise it is so worth it.

Why Become a Backpacker?

Backpacking isn’t just tramping around the woods and pretending to be homeless (as an old roommate of mine described it.)Become a Backpacker

Backpacking is one of the most rewarding endeavors out there. Some of the most beautiful and sacred places I have ever visited were only accessible by foot. I have enjoyed cultivating the knowledge and skill set required to trust myself as I travel to these places.

Learning how to backpack can be very fun and satisfying. I love knowing how to successfully navigate in the wilderness without a trail. I love feeling confident in myself and my skills and proving that confidence is well-founded by completing a successful trip.

Backpacking helps you to improve physically, mentally, and emotionally. It can help you foster a connection with the earth and bring you closer to your very roots. As a human being you are part of this planet, spending time out in raw nature can help you in ways that you can’t presently imagine.

I hope you will allow me to be a resource and a friend as you embark on, or continue your backpacking journey.

I know you can do it. So open the door, take a step outside, and discover a new world waiting where the sidewalk ends.


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14 thoughts on “What is Backpacking?

  1. Great website Mariah,
    I am not a Twofoot traveler and I experienced camping for the first time last summer. My family and I loved it and we are now thinking about getting a camping pop-up trailer. I like trying new things and I was happy my wife came with me this time.
    Outdoors are great and it is a great idea to have this website as it will help newbies like me get into this awesome activity.
    Bring more posts in.
    Great job

  2. Hi Mariah,

    Very good post and your passion for backpacking is obvious from your writing. the pictures are a nice touch and make me want to be there!

    Only problem with that is that I might be like the over weight man you described as having to get rescued. LOL… Been working out but do not think it is enough yet!

    Have a great day!

    1. Thanks for reading! It’s always good to start small with any new thing. I would never recommend jumping into full-on, multi-day trips right at the start. Luckily there are a lot of shorter hikes that beginners can go on that lead to beautiful places as well.

  3. Mariah. Thank you for your very interesting article. I was born and bred in the bush in Australia and loved to go for walks every weekend with my older sisters. Sometimes I would disappear into the bush when my parents were annoyed with me and resurface when things were calmer. It’s been a long time since I’ve been out backpacking, you have rekindled the desire to do so once again. I just need to get some of the necessary gear. Jim

    1. Excellent! I have never been to Australia much less backpacked there, but I’m sure there are many amazing places to go. Hope to make it there someday. I’m so happy to help rekindle your desire. I am planning on writing some posts on my favorite gear soon. I hope you will take a look back when I do.

  4. Hello Mariah I like the sub heading “your two feet can take you anywhere”, it reminds me of a time long ago when life was much simpler. Back in the day I could go 2-3 miles and be camping now it is at least 20-30 mi and it is still not the same, I miss those days. Thanks for bringing back those great memories.

  5. I don’t know if I could handle back packing at my age but with some work and some others who would be willing to go, I would try it. It sure is easier when you’re younger and in shape. I love the outdoors so we’ll see where it goes. It sure would be a great experience at this point in my life! Thanks for a great article!

    1. Thanks for reading! There are a lot of wonderful hikes that don’t require backpacking to get to as well. If you’re looking to get started I would definitely recommend day hikes to start out, and gradually increase mileage and pack weight. The great thing about backpacking is that you can go as slow or as fast as you want to.

  6. In New Zealand, we call hiking “tramping.” You are right when you say that some of the most beautiful scenery available is only accessible on two feet. Nature is awesome, and I’m not sure if I like the idea of you encouraging lots and lots more people out into these beautiful secluded spaces. Haha, I am joking. Nature is a gift to us all in this modern age of ‘big city living.’ We can all benefit by spending time out to de-stress from our normal busy routines.
    Kind regards,

    1. Thanks for reading Andrew. I totally understand what you mean about not wanting lots and lots more people to head out into the secret beautiful spots. The fact is that lots and lots more people are already going to these places than ever before and I hope I can help these people do it in a safe, responsible way and avoid getting hurt.

  7. Mariah,

    I really enjoyed reading this! Cheers to that.

    It has definitely given me some inspiration to get out there and explore. I love the idea of finding new things you can only see on foot.

    The idea of being surrounded by wildlife and not being able to call anyone if something happens definitely scares me but they say it’s good to do the things that scare you anyways!

    Cheers & thanks for the great read!

    1. Hi Kahlua,

      I ‘m glad you enjoyed it. I think you’ll be happy to know that the wildlife are more afraid of you than you are of them. I know it’s cliche, but it’s true!