Let’s first define backpacking for our purpose of this article. It is the act of carrying one’s gear on his or her back while out hiking in the great outdoors for more than one day. This is pretty broad and can mean carrying gear from lodge to lodge so you are carrying minimal gear. But, for the purpose of this article, backpacking means you are carrying all your gear – shelter, sleeping gear like a sleeping bag and mat, cooking supplies, food, water, clothing, etc.
1. The fitness benefits are fabulous! Long days of strenuous hiking burn a lot of calories. Add the weight of a 35-45 lb backpack and the fitness benefits gained multiply. But this doesn’t start and end with your trip. You MUST train! This includes the cardio necessary to finish the hike plus the strength required to carry the additional load. This means strength training and I have yet to find credible research that says strength training and muscle conditioning is bad for you. If fact, the overall health benefits of strength conditioning range from warding off obesity to managing chronic conditions like arthritis. Then, when you find how much you love hiking and getting out in the wilderness on your own two legs and with what’s on your back, the fitness benefit just becomes a way of life. Need some tips to start getting ready to carry the load? Check out our training information.
2. Oh, The Places You’ll Go! Dr. Seuss nailed it – you have to explore to experience life and always be thinking about what is around every corner. Nature provides you with all sorts of surprises and if you just sit and wait for it to happen to you, it will never happen. What does this have to do with not going horse or portered supported – or even lodge to lodge for that matter? When you settle only for the trips that have a porter or pack animal available, you are limiting yourself to so few places. Pack animals are not allowed in all places in the backcountry, they are not necessarily easy to come by (unless you have your own team of pack rats that can actually carry 35+ lbs) and you are relying on a guide service about 99% of the time to provide you with the support you want. Oh, and there are not lodges found after every 10 miles of hiking in the middle of nowhere. Unless you have amazing friends that are willing to carry your load, their load and fan you with palm fronds the entire hike, you may want to consider getting out of your “waiting place,” suck it up and just carry your own weight.
3. It’s cheaper. This goes along with number 2. Pack and porter supported trips are typically only provided by guide services. Hiring a guide can already be a good investment, adding someone to carry your gear to your bill just makes it that much more expensive – especially in first world countries like the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK. And we do get it, there are some locations where hiring a porter is customary and sometimes required, but when you are in a place you can forego that additional cost, throw the pack on and just go!
4. Backpacking gear has gotten lighter. Backpacking gear is not the gear your parents were using 20 years ago – or maybe the gear you were using in your Boy Scout days 40+ years ago. Shoot, gear today isn’t even the same as the gear that came out 2 years ago. Technology is constantly
improving backpacking gear and if you invest in the right stuff, you can get your pack weight down to 5 lbs before adding your personal items, water food, etc. My personal gear includes the Osprey Lumina 60, Big Agnes Fly Creek Platinum 2 Person tent, Big Agnes Flume UL 30 Degree sleeping bag, Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite sleeping pad and the Jet Boil MiniMo Cooking System – weighing in at less than 7 lbs before adding all the items you would have to carry yourself on a portered trip anyway. Of course, the lighter the gear, the more expensive it is, but you are also paying for quality so you will be able to get years of trips out of your $1000-$1500 investment (which is about the price of one portered trip).
5. You will earn an amazing sense of accomplishment. There isn’t much to say here. You do something that takes training, preparation, sweat, tears and hopefully little, to no blood, and you will feel good about yourself. You did it on your own and you gave it that extra something to experience more than those unwilling to carry their own weight.
And of course, if you need a little help figuring all this backcountry stuff out, check out what Just Roughin’ It has to offer for your first or next backpacking trip. Want more way cool tips and just plain fun reading? Check out our blog!