Imagine yourself walking through a valley, the gentle murmur or a waterfall in the distance, vast open spaces filled with wildflowers and the occasional gofer, magnificent mountains engulfing the horizon. You feel at peace, you feel happy, you feel relieved and free of all those negative thoughts that were taking over your mind back in the city. You can finally breathe again. Now, imagine doing this with a 30-40 pound backpack! The scenery has not changed. That wonderful nature smell, that feeling of freedom has not evaded you. You are still waltzing through the valley, happy as a free bunny, but you are also carrying all your housing, sleeping, clothing and cooking equipment with you.
Now let us dive into what backpacking really is. If you are interested in exploring an area further, if you want to go deeper into the valley and maybe even summit a few of the mountains without having to worry about time or backtracking home the same day, backpacking is what you are looking for.
If you are following along, your next question is probably going to be: why make the extra effort and carry that weight all day long? The reasons are endless, the opportunities and variations are too.
Backpacking allows you to travel off the beaten path, making it possible for you to enjoy the peace and seclusion that come with the extra effort. It allows you to escape the more popular front-country and easy-access campsites - something that’s becoming increasingly important in today’s Covid-19 social distancing landscape. What better way to social distance than to venture into the backcountry and enjoy hundreds of acres of open space solo or with your hiking buddies!
People of all skill-levels can do this - one can start with an easier trip with less hiking time and elevation gain and go for a serviced backcountry campground. Some campgrounds often come equipped with cushy tent pads, picnic tables, fire rings, food lockers, potable water and outhouses. So, if you do not have much experience in the backcountry, this would be a great and safe place to start! However, with the pandemic, many of the serviced backcountry campgrounds remain closed and it is important to be careful when touching any commonly used surfaces like picnic tables, food lockers and outhouses.
Hiking for more than one day and stopping at various backcountry sites along the route will open up opportunities to travel through different landscapes, and if planned ahead, can be made into a loop or a thru-hike covering dozens of miles.
Okay, we have covered what backpacking is all about and why it is awesome, but is it really for me?
Take a quick second to go through this very brief list of questions:
Do I enjoy sleeping in the outdoors in a tent and a sleeping bag?
How do I feel about carrying a pack for a few hours a day?
Do I mind dealing with mosquitoes and bugs?
Based on my knowledge/research of wildlife in the area I want to explore, how safe do I feel over-nighting there?
How does being deep in a valley or forest, far away from cell reception and the internet make me feel? Is it anxiety-inducing or calming?
If your answers to these questions made you feel even slightly comfortable and excited about the idea of hiking for a few hours and camping overnight, maybe backpacking is for you!
It can seem intimidating at first, but backpacking can be catered to suit your needs if you think it is something worth trying. You do not need to be extremely fit or strong to have a successful backpacking trip - you just need an open mind and a sense of adventure.
Now that you know what backpacking is, what are you waiting for, give it a shot!
Pathloom is a Bay Area-based technology startup on a mission to get more people outdoors, more often by reimagining the way people discover the outdoors.