Backpacking In A Nutshell

The dry definition of backpacking is “Travelling around with only a backpack on your back”. In reality it’s so much more, it’s a way of life. The more traditional state of mind would associate it with a person’s younger years, but again reality will not concur.

So who is the typical backpacker? Age wise, its hard to answer. Backpacker’s age ranges from 18-mid 60’s. Some of the most interesting backpackers i have traveled with were in their mid 60’s. People today live longer and seem to not age mentally but only physically, which increases the average age of backpackers. Backpackers will often be on the road longer than the average tourist and will usually include more than one country on his/her itinerary.

Backpacking: a backpacker at Broken Top, United States

What is Backpacking?

Like backpackers, backpacking is also very loosely defined. Some will sleep on deserted beaches, pitch a tent in the middle of the forest, sleep in hostels or just hitchhike away. Between all that, we can distinguish 3 major backpacking genres:

  1. Ultralight Backpacking
  2. Flashpacking
  3. Backpacking Round The World (RTW)

Ultralight Backpacking

Pack as less as you can and what you do pack make sure its the smallest and most compact in terms of use.  Sleeping bags that can be packed to a minimal size, Super light backpacks and ultra light and compact stoves make up for some examples of Ultralight backpacking gear. While ultralight backpacking every ounce matters, as usually the distances are very long per day. You can and will not carry everything and stick to the bear necessities.


More posh than ultralight backpacking, flashpacking is characterized by higher living standards and a bit more forgiving on the gear aspect. Higher budgeted backpackers will be found here plus a bit more tech savvy. Travel cameras and travel watches are abundant and even laptops and iPads are known to make an appearance. Accommodations are also a factor here. Travelers who prefer a little more upmarket digs than a hostel dorm room will fit this category nicely.

Backpackers backpacking

Backpacking RTW

Hard core backpackers will tell you that RTW definition is: “To properly travel RTW you must circumnavigate the earth along a great circle and pass through at least two antipodal points.” Although that is the exact definition, the actual meaning is more of a lenient one. RTW is more about stepping off the beaten path. Take a bit longer than the average couple of weeks vacation to explore that which is outside of our comfort zone. There are plenty of variations to RTW backpacking but the common consensus is that a traveler must visit several countries while not being on the same continent.

Those were my 2 cents. Agree or disagree about something? Feel free to comment.

(Editor’s Note: Planning a backpacking trip? Check out our comprehensive and complete guide for Hiking gear, Backpacking gear and Photography gear).