Backpacking, once the activity enjoyed only by scouts and hard-core outdoorsy types, is quickly becoming one of the favorite pastimes of people all over the world looking for a new and exciting way to get back to nature. It presents a great opportunity for people to get back to nature and explore the world from a different perspective, all while helping people get into shape and enjoy the company of other like-minded individuals. But it is certainly not for everyone, and there are probably at least as many reasons someone would not get involved with backpacking as there are to enjoy the sport. However, while this great outdoor activity has not quite caught on with those individuals who are not up to the challenge of hoisting a pack up the side of a mountain, there are plenty of interesting reasons that you should consider backpacking as a great way to enjoy all the natural places the world has to offer while getting some fresh air as well as some exercise. Yet, there are also several instances where backpacking may not be the best choice for getting that experience, which we'll also highlight in this list.
But first of all, let us take a look at 10 reasons backpacking is worth it. Would you consider backpacking?
20 Worth It - Tranquility
There is a certain tranquility associated with getting back to nature, and for those individuals that are looking for the ultimate way to get back in touch with nature, backpacking is the way. There is no car or technology to escape to, which means that you are not going to be dealing with the noise of traffic as cars (and RVs) pull in and out of a campground. Do it just right, and you will be miles away from any sign of civilization when you go out on a backpacking trip. Just be sure to leave your cellphone (or your tablet, or your Apple watch) at home – it will not work out there, anyway.
19 Worth It - Fitness
But to get out there, away from it all, you are going to need to walk carrying everything you need on your back. While many will not relish this idea, anyone interested in fitness is going to appreciate what it will take physically to go on a backpacking trek, even for only one or two nights. One does not need to be in tip-top physical condition to backpack, but once you load your pack up and hit the trail, you will be appreciative of your fitness level. Even if you are going to backpack across a level landscape, much less up the side of a mountain, you are going to challenge your body in ways it has never experienced, and that is all part of the backpacking undertaking.
18 Worth It - Self-Worth
Speaking of self-appreciation, going out and being almost completely self-sufficient (because, let's face it, you are still going to be somewhat connected to the rest of the world), will bring a certain level of “attaboy” pointed inward. Yeah, the thought of roughing it at the level of backpacking may seem scary at first, but once you get going, and especially when you get back from the trip, you will have a newfound sense of self-worth that comes with removing yourself almost completely from the rest of the world. What other activity gives you the chance to get out there and prove to yourself, and others, that you can do just about anything you put your mind to? Backpacking is one of those activities.
17 Worth It - See Untouched Places
But if you are not looking for a positive affirmation, then why should you go out there and backpack? Simple. How about for the opportunity to explore a piece of nature that few have ever even seen in person. When you go on a backpacking trek, you will be given the chance to see parts of the world that are only accessible to those that take the time to walk there with their pack on their back. This may be one of the most important reasons to take up backpacking, and will keep you coming back for more as you look for new places to explore with your livelihood strapped to your back.
16 Worth It - Solitude
Another great thing about backpacking that ties numbers ten and seven together is the solitude. You will not only be far away from civilization, but you will be far away from other people. Now, if you are not the kind of person that looks for solitude on a semi-regular basis, trekking into the wilderness may not be for you. But when you find yourself far away from the rest of civilization, as the only person around for hundreds of miles, you will have found that perfect place for your soul to unwind. And if you do come across someone else on your trek, you can exchange a quick couple of words before moving on your separate paths without the worry that you will need to keep up a conversation about something other than what the trail ahead looks like.
15 Worth It - Stargazing
Have you ever seen the Milky Way? Have you ever looked up at the stars and realized that it is impossible to count every single one of them? If you have ever been on a backpacking expedition, then these are things you will have likely experienced. Far from the lights of the city, the night sky becomes a different thing. Looking up (on a moonless night, especially), you will be treated to a spectacular view that most people only dream about when they look at pictures in magazines or on Instagram. But you will be seeing it first hand, and you will wonder at the marvel of the universe.
14 Worth It - Escape
Many people look to backpacking as a way to let their mind escape from the problems of the “real world.” While, for some, this will be nearly impossible, when you find yourself walking slowly down a trail along the side of a mountain, your mind is sure to begin to wander. And the more it wanders, the more you will realize that the problems of the world have been left far behind, and you have been given the possibility to focus your mental energy in a helpful and healing direction. Out there on the trail, you will quickly discover that the world melts away and you are left in a kind of meditative mental state that you will begin to crave once you return from the journey.
13 Worth It - Freedom to Travel
Backpacking is something you can do just about anywhere, and with relative ease. Want to travel to Europe? You can backpack there. Want to explore a new part of your home country? Try it with a pack on your back. Backpackers are basically a unique group of people that have traveled the world exploring new places on all seven continents, and each experience brings something new to the travel journal of the person (or people) participating in the trek. The chance to see the world from the perspective of a trail, with nothing but a pack on your back, is something that will undoubtedly enhance the entire travel experience unlike anything else.
12 Worth It - Fido
Depending on where you go backpacking, you may find yourself with a great chance to bond with your dog. Now, not everyone is a dog person, but those people that have the kind of disposition that calls them to walk through the wilderness with Fido, backpacking is a great way to not only explore the natural world, but let your four-legged companion do the same. Of course, you will need to ensure that the trip you have planned allows for dogs from a legal, as well as practical, standpoint. But if you find yourself wanting to share an experience that neither you nor your dog will forget, backpacking may just be the way to go.
11 Worth It - Sunrise And Sunset
The number one and final reason that backpacking is worth it is the opportunity to see sunrises and sunsets the way nature intended them to be seen. When you see the sun rise and shed its red and gold rays on the mountain peaks outside your tent, you will realize that the whole trip has been more than worth it. If you have never seen a sunrise or a sunset in the mountains or out in the desert or anywhere far away from the lights and pollution of the city, then you do not know what you are missing out on. And if you are a photography buff, you will relish the idea to experience the so-called “magic hour” in nature in a way you would otherwise be unable to experience.
Fortunately for those people that really enjoy backpacking, the sport is not for everyone. And even for those people that wish they could get out every weekend, backpacking has its drawbacks. Here are 10 of them.
10 Not Worth It - Physical Activity
Probably the biggest setback to backpacking relates up to one of its biggest appeals: the physical activity it involves. Backpacking does not require you to be in tip-top physical condition, but you will need to be in pretty good shape. Sure, there are easier trails for "beginners," but who wants to have to even be in moderate physical condition? And that does not appeal to a large part of the population that would rather sit around and view the world through their Netflix or social media accounts. So, if you are not someone who is very big on physical activity, then backpacking will certainly not be a thing for you.
9 Not Worth It - No Call For Help
Another drawback to backpacking is that you will be out there all alone, or in a small group. There is no payphone (and certainly no cellphone) that you can use to call for help. You get hurt, well, we have all seen those stories of survival. If you do not want to become a special on the evening news, then you likely do not want to risk going out into the wilderness on a backpacking trip. If you are the kind of person prone to getting sick or falling down, backpacking is probably not for you. Better to be safe in front of your TV with smartphone in hand than run the risk of getting hurt out on the trail with no way of getting in touch with home.
8 Not Worth It - Running Out Of Supplies
Because you will need to take just about everything you need with you for the entire trip, there is a chance that you could run out of something. You run out of food, you go hungry – unless you are able to catch something. If you run out of water, well, hopefully that does not happen. Safest bet: stay at home where you are certain that the pantry is well-stocked and the grocery store is just a quick five-minute car ride away. Preparing for a backpacking trip takes a lot of careful planning in terms of what you will need to take with you, so if you have a fear of running out of food or water, then backpacking is not a good choice for a summer activity.
7 Not Worth It - Rain Or Snow
Speaking of summer, or the weather in general, you are at the mercy of the elements when it comes to backpacking. You could be stuck out in the middle of a hailstorm, or a freak snowstorm, or just a plain thunderstorm. You will be forced to keep walking, or seek shelter, and you will (probably) be miserable. Nature can be something to enjoy, but she can also be wrathful against those that do not like to spend time outdoors. So if you hate to shovel your walk or get caught running across the parking lot in a thunder storm, then you should probably completely forgo the idea of backpacking where you could end up spending hours walking in adverse weather, just to find yourself still stuck in it for the night.
6 Not Worth It - Lions And Tigers (And Bears)
If the weather does not scare you, then maybe the chance encounter with the rest of nature will. From bears to skunks to mosquitoes and just about every other kind of misery-inducing creature out there, backpacking will put you right in the thick of it. Sure, it would be cool to see a bear. Until she attacks you. And not one likes the smell of a skunk or the bite of a mosquito. Again, if creepy-crawlies and big beasts frighten you, stay away from nature and backpacking. Animals are cool to look at in the zoo or on nature TV shows. That does not make them fun to run into on a trail.
5 Not Worth It - Equipment
A problem with backpacking is that you need certain equipment. While not highly specialized, unless you want it to be, the basic setup for a backpacking trip can set the average consumer back at least a couple hundred dollars. And what if you do not end up liking your experience? Then you are out the money and your garage is full of equipment that is just sitting there. From the basic things like a backpack and tent to more special things like a sleeping bag, water bottles, walking poles, and food, the list of things that you will buy and never use again goes on and on.
4 Not Worth It - Outside Your Comfort Zone
If you are going to go backpacking, you are going to step outside of your comfort zone. And that can be scary. You will be doing something radical and new. If you do not like doing radical, new things, then do not even bother with backpacking. Yes, there are plenty of people that will tell you that backpacking is worth it. However, if you end up out there on the trail and decide it is not worth the adventure, then you are stuck out there on the trail until you can finally get back to civilization. If you are uncomfortable with even that thought, then it is recommended that you DO NOT try backpacking.
3 Not Worth It - No Showers
What is the longest you have gone without a shower? Do you like the thought of a nice hot shower after a sweaty workout? Do you see where this is going? There are no showers in the wilderness, and that means you will not have any way of really bathing yourself. And because you are supposed to use special soap that will break down quickly, any “bathing” you do will not even remotely resemble a real shower, even the worst kind in a locker room at the gym. If you like to stay clean and free of body odor, do not even bother to think about backpacking as a suitable way to blow off steam.
2 Not Worth It - Sleep Deprivation
Another reason that backpacking is not worth it is that after a long day of climbing up and up and over and down and through nature, you are going to be bone tired. You are going to want a nice, comfortable bed. And you will not have one. If you are lucky, you will have been able to set your tent up on a place free of rocks. But it is pretty much guaranteed that, regardless of how tired you are, you will not sleep very well on a backpacking trip. For those that like their eight-plus hours of quality sleep a night, stay at home on your mattress and leave the backpacking trips to those that like a little sleep deprivation.
1 Not Worth It - Who Cares?
The final reason that backpacking is not worth it is that you probably will not have anyone to share the experience with. Depending on where you live and who you associate with, you may or may not have friends or acquaintances that will be interested in hearing about your adventure, much less sharing that adventure with you. You could go out there by yourself, but that is dangerous. And even if you are crazy enough to go out on a week-long backpacking trip by yourself, you are not going to want to keep it all to yourself, since it will be an accomplishment. So better to not even try, rather than suffer the disappointment of keeping it all to yourself.
So, there you have it. 10 reasons that backpacking is a really great activity, from physical fitness to outstanding photo opportunities; and 10 reasons that backpacking is nothing more than a mosquito-infested, sleep-depriving, miserable business. Where do you stand on the whole topic of backpacking after reading this article? Has your opinion of the activity changed? Are you going to start backpacking, or give it up? Hopefully, this has given you some good things to think about in regards to the adventure that is backpacking.