Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Backpacking (also tramping or trekking in some countries) is the complete combination of hiking and camping. It is usually done for recreation, to explore a place that the backpacker considers beautiful and fascinating. A backpacker camps in one place, then packs all of his or her gear into a backpack and hikes off to a different location. This gear must include food, water, and shelter or the means to obtain them, but very little else, and often in a more compact and simpler form than one would use for stationary camping. Long-distance backpacking trips may be done lasting weeks or months, sometimes aided by prearranged food and supply drops.
Overnight stays may be out of doors (under the stars or in a tent), or in some sort of permanent shelter such as in a hostel or with members of hospitality services. Hiking and walking trails cover all types of terrain and range in location from semi-developed areas to complete wilderness. The main advantage of backpacking over day hiking is that it allows the hiker to see remote areas, almost entirely devoid of people or their effects, that are otherwise inaccessible. The main disadvantages are that the encumbrance of the backpack itself substantially reduces the hiking pace, so that less ground can be covered in a day, that the backpack is something of a nuisance and a distraction to enjoying the scenery, and that camping-related activities use up a considerable amount of time every day.
Backpacking camps are more spartan than ordinary camps. In areas with comparatively high use, a hike-in camp might have a fire ring and a small wooden bulletin board with a map and some warning signs regarding wildlife, campfire safety, and the like. In truly remote areas, a hike-in camp is no more than a level patch of ground without scrub or underbrush.
The Scouting movement has traditionally been very involved in backpacking.
All backpackers seek to minimize the weight and bulk of gear that they must carry. A lighter pack causes less injury and soreness, and allows the backpacker to travel longer distances. Every piece of equipment is evaluated for a balance of utility vs. weight. Significant reductions in weight can usually be achieved with little sacrifice in equipment utility, though very lightweight equipment is often more costly.
A large industry has developed to provide lightweight gear and food for backpackers. The gear includes the backpacks themselves, as well as ordinary camping equipment modified to reduce the weight, by either reducing the size, reducing the durability, or using lighter materials such as special plastics and alloys of aluminium. Designers of portable stoves and tents have been particularly ingenious. Homemade gear is common too, such as the beverage can stove.
The food is typically highly packaged, dehydrated fare that can be reconstituted by adding hot water. Some backpacking meals are pre-cooked and vacuum-packed without being dehydrated, and reheated when needed by a chemical reaction, allowing the backpacker to avoid carrying a stove and fuel. (This technology was originally developed for military purposes.) However, meals of this type are heavier, and if the backpacker carries more than two or three, there is typically no weight savings. Trail mix is a form of backpacking food that can be manufactured at home.
Some backpackers go to greater lengths to seek lightweight and compact gear than do others. The most radical measures taken in this regard are sometimes called ultralight backpacking.
Due to the emphasis on weight reduction, a practical joke common in some circles is to secretly pack a small but relatively heavy luxury item, such as a soft drink, into another backpacker's pack. Then, once the group stops for a rest, the perpetrator retrieves the item, thanks the bearer for carrying it, and consumes it.
- backpacking.net (specializing in lightweight backpacking)
- Compass Monkey Compass Monkey | Hiking Trails and Activities
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