What is Backpacking?
Backpacking is a sport that allows individuals to experience nature firsthand and to grow closer to the group they are travelling with. Some of the most interesting and unique places can only be found through backpacking. Backpacking also introduces critical thinking skills to its participants such as planning and critical thinking. Backpacking is an extreme sport that should not be taken lightly, however it is a challenge that can bring out the best in whoever participates.
Types of Backpacking
Here are the types of Backpacking:
- Lightweight: Lightweight backpacking involves paring down the standard backpacking equipment. Examples of this could be bringing less food or a different kind of stove. This type of backpacking is slightly more difficult than traditional backpacking, but it brings an extra flair and allows individuals to travel slightly longer distances by saving weight in their packs.
- Ultra-lightweight: Ultra-lightweight backpacking is taking the removal of gear to the extreme. Often only bringing a sparse shelter and the smallest amount of food necessary, ultra-lightweight backpacking can be found regularly on the Appalachian trails or the other Triple Crown.
- Flashpacking: Flashpacking is a type of backpacking that is done to get from one place to the next. Flashpackers are backpackers that use backpacking to travel, to get from one place to another. Backpackers try to stay solely in nature, but flashpackers can find themselves along a national park or in a five star hotel.
- Traditional: Traditional backpacking involves bringing adequate shelter, food, toiletries, and clothing for the weather conditions. This type of backpacking is hallmarked by being prepared for whatever may come.
- Ultra-Long Distance: This is a style of backpacking in which the goal is to travel insane amounts of distance! Examples of this can include the Triple Crown, the Sea-to-Sea trail, or the various Mountain-to-Sea trails that exist.
Backpacking has a rich history. Camping and travelling are not new concepts, and the origins of backpacking can be traced all the way back to 13,900 years ago at the very least. This is the oldest site found that indicates travel and migration of individuals. These individuals were able to take their belongings and follow the game wherever it went. This developed into expeditions for discovery and mapping, and then further by nature enthusiasts into a framework that can be recognized as backpacking. Enthusiasts such as John Muir, a backcountry nature writer that was obsessed with finding the wilderness, founded backpacking as the sport we know today.
Backpacking involves very specific and specialized equipment. Clothing, footwear, and the backpack are items that need to all be fitted appropriately otherwise there will be injury. Shelter and a sleeping bag needs to be appropriate to the weather and climate of the backpacking location. Traditional backpacking typically requires 1.5-2 pounds of food per person per day. This needs to be food that will not spoil and needs to be cooked appropriately. A stove and fuel should be stored separately. Backpacking equipment is specialized, but it is necessary to understand how the equipment works and why you have it around. In addition to having the appropriate equipment, how to pack it is a skill that is developed over time with much trial and error.
Here is the essential Backpacking equipment you should have:
- Cooking utensils
- Hiking shoes/boots
- Sleeping bag and pad
- Stove and fuel
- Tent or shelter
- Water purification
Here is the common lingo and slang in Backpacking:
- Triple Crown: This is a specific set of trails that can award the "Triple Crown". Doing the Appalachian Trail, the Intercontinental trail (Also referred to as the continental Divide), and the Pacific continental Trail in one's lifetime award the triple crown.
- AT: The AT is the Appalachian trail. The Appalachian trail spans from Georgia to Vermont and is the shortest of the three trails in the triple crown.
- ICT: The intercontinental trail spans from the Canadian Border down into Mexico. The ICT is the longest of the three trails in the triple crown.
- PCT: The PCT is the Pacific Continental Trail. This trail stretches from Vermont to Washington State, where it meets both the AT and the ICT.
Backpacking is a sport in which the most "Famous" backpackers are individuals to pioneer a way of life. From being the first person to solo in a season the entire Appalachian Trail, to being one of the youngest backpackers in existence, the "famous" part of backpacking comes from being the first to do things a certain way. There are a few exceptions from these pioneers that have tremendous mental and physical fortitude, often accomplishing many feats across their lifetimes.
Here are the most famous Backpacking players you should know:
- Grandma Gatewood
- Andrew Skurka
- Christian Thomas
- Heather Anderson
Events and Competitions
Backpacking is a sport in which the main competition is the mind and body of the participant. All the backpacking events are feats of will and endurance. While there are many physical factors that need to be considered, such as endurance and physical capabilities, at the level of events like the Triple Crown, Six pack, and 52 Hike the participants undergo rigorous mental stress and fatigue. Oftentimes, the recognition for these achievements is personal satisfaction and a placard or a patch to accompany. These events are not as official as the Superbowl or the NCAA tournament, but the achievement, preparation, and satisfaction are comparable.
Here are the most popular tournaments in Backpacking:
- Triple Crown: The triple crown is a feat involving over 7,000 miles of backpacking. To achieve a "Recognized" Triple crown the AT, PCT, and ICT must be done in one calendar year.
- Six Pack of Peaks: The six pack of peaks is a backpacking challenge where an individual registers to the top of any six of the designated peaks in their region. There is massive support and route guidance from the amazing community involved.
- 52 Hike: The 52 hike challenge is simply a challenge to go out and be active. The requirements are that participants must record their hikes, and must hike once a week for an entire year.