What Is the Difference Between Hiking and Backpacking?

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By: Sonia Zannoni

Summer is by far the best time of the year for outdoor activities such as hiking, trekking, canoeing, bungee jumping, and backpacking. Since there are so many different types of people in the world, it is most likely that not everyone fancies the same sporting activities!

That is why, before planning out your summer vacation with your family, you should do your research and make sure whether the activity you’ve chosen is the right one for you and the family.

If you are an adventure seeker looking for your next adrenaline rush, then you should opt perhaps for mountaineering or rock climbing as your next outdoor escapade.

However, if you want a quieter, meditative sporting activity, then backpacking is more suited to your needs.

Now let’s have a look at the differences between hiking and backpacking from 3 different vantage points:

What the Dictionary Tells Us

At first, the terms and definitions of hiking and backpacking might confuse you. What exactly separates the two?

Hiking is defined as walking for a long distance, especially across the countryside.

Backpacking is defined as traveling or hiking while carrying one’s belongings in a backpack.

Thus, based on the definitions from the dictionary, it’s quite obvious why backpacking is called as such. As the name implies, it involves the use of a backpack to carry your belongings. So, does that mean, when you go hiking, you don’t pack a rucksack? Sounds ridiculous.

The Literal Difference

Here is what actually separates the two. Largely speaking, hiking is a part of backpacking, a single activity that may or may not is done while you go backpacking.

Now, in lay terms, your outing is called hiking when it involves walking through trails, desert, or the wild. You, at most, spend a day or two on these hiking excursions unless you choose to extend your journey.

No rule says that you should not bring a knapsack while hiking. On the contrary, it is recommended you carry essentials like water, snacks, ropes, first aid, compass, etc. in a good travel backpack.

You can go on long-distance walking with your family and friends. If you decide not to return the same day, you can just set up camp and spend a great night outdoors under the stars together.

Since your trekking trip could last over a period of a few days, it is advisable always to carry portable camping gear or sleeping bags while you go hiking. No one is blaming you if you do not take a backpack on your hiking adventure, though.

Backpacking has a lot more to do with what’s on your back. No backpacking trip is complete without the presence of a travel backpack on your back.

Unlike hiking, backpacking doesn’t merely end with a walk. You can go backpacking amidst the safaris of Africa, in the modern cities of Hong Kong, in the grasslands of the Sundarbans, or amidst the technological marvel called  Silicon Valley, as long as you are experiencing feelings in the positive spectrum, where you go and what you do doesn’t matter.

This is where hiking comes in. Your backpacking trip will never give you any joy if you don’t take long walks to reach your destination finally.

The beauty of both hiking and trekking lies in the feeling you get when you finally get to stop after a long, tiring walk for food and drinks and feel yourself fully exercised and rejuvenated.

The Aesthetic Difference

Hiking can be done either with family or friends or alone. In most cases, though, the trip is way more fun if you bring along your loved ones because that’s what hiking stands for a day off from the humdrum of life and walking together sharing, playing, and making memories.

The fact that hiking trips can last only a day or two adds to the whole experience as you will cherish it with your family and friends. Once you overdo hiking, most people will want to go back to the responsibilities of life. Hence it is never advised.

Backpacking, as well as solo hiking, is more soulful in nature. Usually, you go alone on a backpacking excursion, though there is no rule, sometimes you can make your trip more fun by taking your soul mate or your best friend.

Backpacking is all about finding the real you and getting in touch with what you really love about this world. Because let’s face it, with jobs and such, we rarely fully get to experience what we enjoy in life.

Backpacking is your one opportunity to see everything the world or your surroundings have to offer.

Backpacking is the perfect way of spending time with both yourself and with complete strangers. It is the ideal way of knowing both the beauties of the world; the technological and the natural.

Difference between Hiking and Backpacking — Young Woman Backpacker Enjoying Nature.

Our words will never adequately describe what hiking and backpacking will unlock inside you. Grab your backpack and head out to find out the pure delight that has always been waiting for you.

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