Backpacking and Hiking Information Guide

backpacking and hikingBackpacking and hiking are very popular forms of outdoor recreation. As walking is humankind’s primary mode of transportation, backpacking and hiking are easy activities to participate in. This does not mean there are not any dangers to contend with when hiking. Whether one is backpacking across Europe or hiking your favorite trail in the continental U.S., safety is a primary issue of concern. Hiking is considered a long walk through nature. Backpacking essentially is a blend of hiking and camping. Those who backpack hike for extended periods and carry their essentials in their backpack. Before engaging in either activity, one must first ensure that they are strong enough to handle any challenges that arise. Knowing how to handle emergencies is also imperative to a positive hiking or backpacking experience.


Backpacking and hiking boast a lengthy history. Primitive man was known for migration. This occurred on foot. Archaeologists and scientists discovered what may be a primitive backpack frozen with Otzi, the “Ice Man.” The structure dates back more than 5,000 years, and experts believe Otzi carried a backpack when he traveled. This may be the oldest form of backpacking known to science. While primitive man used hiking as a necessary transportation mode, by the 19th century, hiking would be associated with recreation.

Military units worldwide commonly use backpacking and hiking for transportation, and equipment such as the backpack evolved over time. During the romantic period in Europe, hiking or enjoying long walks was recommended as a way to view nature and remain healthy. Those practices occurred in the United States, and during the early 19th century, great attention was given to enjoying scenic views in nature on foot. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were both instrumental in creating an atmosphere that encouraged the common person to commune with nature while on foot. Congress passed a national park bill in 1890. This bill helped establish Sequoia and Yosemite as national parks. The bill laid the foundation for what would become the National Park Service.

Backpacking and hiking are related to conservation. As more people began to explore scenic wonders, great concern was given to preserving and protecting these areas. Organizations like the Sierra Club formed, with conservation being their primary goal.

As the 20th century approached, even greater focus was placed on encouraging citizens to explore the beauty of the country. New advances in backpack designs improved the experience, and more people took up the activity. One major development occurred when Lloyd Nelson designed a more efficient backpack in 1920.

Initiatives were set in place to establish hiking trails. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the National Scenic Trails Act that preserved hiking and backpacking routes and trails nationwide. Important trails protected under the act include the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, the Florida National Scenic Trail, and the Pony Express National Historic Trail.


There is a culture associated with backpacking. Many view backpackers as being at odds with traditional tourists. For example, there is a subculture or community of backpackers who would rather visit an area on foot than go through a travel agent, stay at recommended hotels, and explore recommended points of interest on a scheduled itinerary. Some view backpackers as being counter-culture, but that view has changed in the 21st century. Many backpackers associate with one another through modern methods such as social networking and form lasting friendships throughout their travels.

Hiking and Traveling

Hiking has always been a primary mode of traveling. We can see from the migration of early humans that they moved from one region to another on foot. While some may enjoy a pleasant hike on a temperate afternoon for several hours, there are many who enjoy extended hiking trips. There are groups who intend to travel long distances on foot while pointing out notable sights and interests along the way. Those who plan to spend extended lengths of time traveling on foot opt for backpacking.

Other Information

Hiking and backpacking are fun, enjoyable ways to explore the beauty of nature. It is imperative that those who are planning outdoor trips ensure that they have the proper equipment required. Backpacks, hiking boots, and seasonally appropriate clothing are paramount to withstanding the elements. Those who enjoy hiking and backpacking should take classes in first aid safety to make certain they are prepared for any emergency or medical situations that may arise. Always let others know when you are planning a hiking or backpacking trip.


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