Backpacking vs Hiking: What Is The Difference?(The Ultimate Comparison)

Summer is one of the best time of the year for outdoor activities such as hiking, backpacking, trekking, bungee jumping, and canoeing. Since each one of us has different taste and preference, it is most likely that not everyone will fancy the same sporting activities when summer comes!

As a result, before planning out your summer vacation with your family, it is advisable to carry out thorough research and ensure that the activity you have chosen is the right one for both you and your family.

difference between backpacking and hiking

Hiking and backpacking may sound like the same thing. However, they are totally different words when it comes to an outdoor adventure experience. Besides, they have other things similar.

For instance, all the two activities take place outdoors, but in each one of them, a different type of journey is undertaken. In this article, we give you a clear vision of the difference between the two activities.

For many cases, people do hiking interchangeably with backpacking when the two are entirely different activities. Now let’s consider the differences between hiking and backpacking from a different approach.

Hiking Defined

Hiking involves light trek, usually a long walk or long distance tours in the woodland areas. This also comes with less gear or completely no gear with no overnight stay. It basically involves walking for a long distance, especially across countrysides.

Backpacking Defined

On the other side, backpacking is taking a long trek that involves carrying full gear in packs which includes tools like portable shelter, sleeping pad, extra clothes, food, cooking gear, and other essential gear like the knife, fire starter, and water filtration.

So, what really separates the two activities according to the definition?

Based on their definitions, it is quite apparent why backpacking, as the name suggests, is called as such. It involves the use of a rucksack to carry your belongings.

However, does this mean that when you go hiking, you don’t have to pack a rucksack?

This may sound ridiculous.


Backpacking vs Hiking

This is what separates hiking and backpacking. Literally, hiking makes part of backpacking – a single activity that may or may not be done while you go backpacking.

Therefore, your outing trip is called hiking when it involves walking through trails, wild or the desert. Equally, no rule says that you should never bring a knapsack while hiking. Instead, it is advisable to carry essential staff in a good travel backpack like water, compass, first aid kit, snacks, ropes, etc.

you can decide to go for a long distance walking together with your family and/or friends. And suppose you choose not to go back home the same day, you can just set up a camp and spend together the entire night outdoors.

Since your hiking could last for a period of some few days, it is recommended to carry with you a portable camping gear. Plus no one will blame you if you do not take with you a backpack on your hiking trip.

When people get involved in a backpack activity it means that they take gear in their packs so that they will have the necessary equipment and/or supplies they need for their journey. Typically, campers have more space for equipment and can bring a lot more amenities and luxuries to camp compared to backpackers.

On the other side, backpacking has a lot to do with what is on your back. This means that for a backpacking trip to be complete, there must be all the required equipment such as a traveling backpack on your back, food, overnight tent, and sleeping bags.

People who typically engage in backpacking usually wear a backpack and walk for a long distance, which can be done in a single day or over a couple of multiple days.

Unlike hiking adventure, backpacking never ends with a walk alone. During backpacking adventure, backpackers camp outside in a tent or under the stars at night. However, this is not necessarily the case because many backpackers can also reserve rooms at cheap hotels or hostels for the night.

It is important to know that as long as you are experiencing feelings in the positive spectrum, where you go and what you do on backpacking does not really matter. And as a result, this is where hiking comes in to make a difference.

This just means that your backpacking trip will never give you any joy if you don’t take long walks to reach your target destination.

However, the beauty for both these two activities 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.

In A Nutshell

Generally, when you go hiking, it means that you are basically making day trips. Here, there is no overnight gear being involved.

Meaning that you will usually be going to certain places and then drive back home. Besides, backpacking will mean that you carry your living quarters with you. This will now involve full overnight gear.

If you are going for backpacking for your first time be sure to get in the right track before hitting your trail. With backpacking, you may experience more challenges than hiking.

This is because you are accompanying yourself with the extra weight of your camping gear.


It is essential to understand that people will engage in these two activities primarily for leisurely pursuits as a form of having fun and in some cases for spiritual reasons.

Backpacking and hiking are two activities that are relatively easy to engage in and require little expense other than the equipment and travel costs.

Another good thing with these two activities is that many recreational campsites are mostly set up for families and groups that enjoy doing this type of thing.

However, backpacking is highly recommended for more experienced people. This is because backpacking activity requires a significant amount of mental toughness, knowledge, discipline, and physical endurance to complete.

Therefore, before deciding on a backpacking trip, make sure you are good to go first.

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