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Backpacking Guide

by mythic44

Backpacking is a term that has been used to denote a form of low-cost, independent international travel

Terms such as independent travel and budget travel are also often used. The factors that traditionally differentiate backpacking from other forms of tourism include the use of a backpack or other luggage that is easily carried for long distances or long periods of time; the utilization of public transport as a means of travel; a preference for inexpensive lodging such as youth hostels; a longer duration to the trip when compared with conventional vacations; and an interest in meeting the locals as well as seeing the sights. It is typically associated with young adults, who generally have fewer obligations and thus more time to travel. They also have less money to spend on hotels or private vehicles.


The definition of a backpacker has evolved as travelers from different cultures and regions participate. Recent research has found that “backpackers constituted a heterogeneous group with respect to the diversity of rationales and meanings attached to their travel experiences. They also displayed a common commitment to a non-institutionalised form of travel, which was central to their self-identification as backpackers.” Backpacking as a lifestyle and as a business has grown considerably in the 2000s as a result of low-cost airlines and hostels or budget accommodations in many parts of the world. Digital communication and resources make planning, executing, and continuing a long-term backpacking trip easier than before.

Backpacking is generally an extended journey or walk with a backpack. However, for North American hikers it more frequently describes a multi-day hike that involves camping, though occasionally it may involve the use of simple shelters or mountain huts. In New Zealand, tramping is an equivalent term though overnight huts are frequently used. Hill walking is the equivalent in Britain, though backpackers make use of all kinds of accommodation, in addition to camping. Backpackers use simple huts in South Africa. Similar terms used in other countries are trekking or bushwalking. A backpack allows a hiker to carry supplies and equipment to accommodate multiple days out on a trail. There is another form of backpacking (backpacking (travel)) that mainly makes use of public transport, for a journey which can last months.

Backpacking is an outdoor activity where gear is carried in a backpack. This can include food, water, bedding, tent, clothing, and cooking stove. Since all items must be carried, weight is a very important factor in choosing equipment. Backpacking trips consist of at least one night and can last for weeks or months, sometimes aided by planned food and supply drops or resupply points. Backpacking camps are usually more spartan than camping trips from a car or boat. In areas that experience regular backpacker traffic, a hike-in camp might have a fire ring where fires are permitted, remotewilderness areas, established camps may not exist at all, and hikers must choose an appropriate place to camp.

Backpacking in Europe differs from that in North America

In some places, backpackers have access to lodging that is more substantial than a tent. While backpackers do camp, other types of accommodation are frequently available, often with meals provided. Backpackers can walk from hut-to-hut high in the Alps using mountain huts, or in places like the Lake District or Yorkshire Dales in England stay in Youth hostels, farmhouses or guest houses. In the more remote parts of Great Britain, especially Scotland, d’etapes, which are simple hostels provided for walkers and cyclists. There are some simple shelters and occasional mountain hut also provided in North America, including on the Appalachian trail. Another example is the High Sierra Camps in Yosemite National Park. Long distance backpacking trails with huts also exist in South Africa, including the 100 km plus Amatola Trail, in the Eastern Cape Province.

Good backpacker practice is to minimize their impact on the land through which they travel, and this includes staying on established trails, not picking plants, and carrying garbage out. The Leave No Tracemovement offers a set of guidelines for low-impact backpacking: “Leave nothing but footprints. Take nothing but photos. Kill nothing but time. Keep nothing but memories”.

Backpackers can encounter difficulties, including adverse weather, difficult terrain, treacherous river crossings, dangerous animals, dehydration, heat exhaustion, hypothermia, altitude sickness, physical injury, giardiasis. The remoteness of backpacking locations can exacerbate any mishap.

History – While people have traveled for all history with their possessions in packs they carry on their backs, the concept of modern backpacking can be traced, at least partially, to the Hippie Trail of the 1960s and ’70s, which in turn followed sections of the old Silk Road. In fact, some backpackers today seek to recreate that journey, albeit in a more comfortable manner, while capitalizing on the current popularity of the green movement. Giovanni Francesco Gemelli Careri has been cited by some authorities as one of the world’s first backpackers.

While travel along the old Hippie Trail has been rendered complicated since the early 1980s due to unrest in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran, backpacking has expanded to other regions of the world. In recent years, the proliferation of budget airlines and low-cost flights has contributed to this expansion. At present, new “hippie trails” are being formed towards Northern Africa in places such as Morocco and Tunisia.

Technological developments and improvements have also contributed to changes in backpacking. Traditionally backpackers did not travel with expensive electronic equipment flashpacking trend. And not only is there a shift in what backpackers carry now, there is also a change in what they use to carry that gear: backpacking is becoming less and less reliant on the physical backpack in its initial form.

Culture – Of importance in backpacking is a sense of authenticity. Backpacking is perceived as being more than a vacation, but a means of education. Backpackers want to experience the “real” destination rather than the packaged version often associated with mass tourism, which has led to the assertion that backpackers are anti-tourist. There is also the feeling of “sneaking backstage” and witnessing real life with more involvement with local people.

Flashpacker – opts for comfort and style, worrying less about saving money and more about saving time.

In a recent Hostelworld.com study, 21 percent of those surveyed travel with a laptop, 54 percent with an MP3 player, 83 percent with a mobile phone and an astounding 86 percent travel with a digital camera. Of all age groups, those 25-29 years old carry more of these items than anyone else.

With this trend gaining momentum, many in the hospitality industry are meeting the growing demand by providing equally tech-ready accommodations at high-end hostels that cater to the needs and wants of the hostel bars

Planning and research – Planning and research is an important part of backpacking, aided by such publications as adventure travel and backpacking guides. These books provide information about such topics as the language, culture, food and history of a given country. They also offer listings of accommodation and places to eat, together with maps of key locations. Figital format guidebooks are becoming more popular, especially since the advent of smart phones and lightweight netbooks and laptops. There are also many online resources aimed at backpackers, as well.

Walking tour 

A full, partial-day, or longer tour of a historical, or cultural or artistic site, or of sites, in one or more tourist destinations, which can be led by a tour guide, as an escort. This type of walking tour frequently takes place in an urban setting.

Both the Grand tour and Pilgrimages resemble the two different kinds of walking tour considered here. A Grand tour was “a long tour of major cities” undertaken in Europe, in earlier centuries, as part of a wealthy young man’s education, and involved visits to cities, are on foot. But all are a form of holiday, and Chaucer’s 14th-century narrative poem Canterbury Tales certainly indicates that a pilgrimage can involve pleasure.

There are also similarities between walking tours that involve long hikes and backpacking (wilderness), while non-pedestrian backpacking (travel) is a kind of modern, inexpensive Grand tour that makes use of public transport.

Tours of cities, and cultural sites

With guides – A walking tour is generally distinguished from an escorted tour by its length and the employment of tour guides, and can be under 12 hours, or last for a week or more. They are led by guides that have knowledge of the sites, or the landscape, covered on the tour, and explanations and interpretations of the site can cover a range of subjects, including places with historical, cultural and artistic significance. Walking tours, of various kinds and length, are universally part of the tourism industry, and can be found around the world.

First Person Narrative – Several cities now have groups that are employing dramatic spectacle to add interest to their tours. Usually guided by actors in costume playing a role, these walking tours create the feel of living history as guests walk in the footsteps of those who came before them. These tours, which blend history and dramatic narrative, share “history in a non-academic, very accessible fashion.” These tours are similar in nature to a style of Site-Specific theatre called Promenade theatre. Although the theatrical nature of these tours is similar to a theatrical form called Museum Theatre in that it makes use of First Person Interpretation, the fact that these tours take place outside of traditional museum settings and requires the audience to move through urban environments truly makes this style of walking tour a genre of its own.

Self-guided tours, utilise a range of methods to aid travel through a place, or landscape, such as books, maps, pamphlets, and audio material.

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