According to the Macmillan Dictionary, in American English, backpacking simply refers to “the activity of traveling around an area without spending much money, often on foot and carrying a backpack.” This seems mostly accurate, but we could argue that there are people who spend quite a bit of money on backpacking, if not necessarily during the travel portion of their activity, then on expensive gear prior to going.
Over at Wikipedia, we find that backpacking has two main branches: travel and wilderness. Travel backpacking refers to “a form of low-cost, independent international travel.” When people refer to “backpacking across Europe,” this is what they’re talking about. Our focus here is wilderness backpacking, which is “the outdoor recreation of carrying gear on one’s back, while hiking for more than a day.”
Mr. and Mrs. Family Trivium are both a little past the prime “backpack across Europe” age and the kids have yet to get there, though there is not really an age limit – I’m sure we’d be a little out of place staying in a youth hostel where the vast majority of other guests would be book-ended by our family’s ages. In the United States, people of all ages engage in wilderness backpacking. In a recent Backpacker Magazine article we learned about a five-year-old who has set out to hike the Appalachian Trail, with his eyes already on the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail.
All of us here in the Family Trivium household day hiked on a very short portion of the Continental Divide Trail – it’s 3,100 miles in its entirety; we covered about 3 miles. We can attest to the beauty to be taken in along these “through hike” trails and can understand why one would want to wake up in and spend each day immersed in such environments day-after-day, week-after-week, or month-after-month.
While this summer has various camps in store for different members of the Family Trivium household, only one will be spent entirely outdoors, though it will not involve backpacking. However, in the coming months and years we are looking forward to going on some backpacking trips whether they be relatively local weekend jaunts or multiple-day journeys in more exotic places. Check back as we delve into backpacking’s interconnection with hiking and camping.