Travel opportunities aren’t available to everyone, and most people won’t be able to go on grand, jet-setting holidays. Many people have to settle for solo travel options, like hiking along the country’s nature trails or going on road trips. But one of the most cost-effective methods for exploring local areas and other countries is by backpacking.

According to experts, 15.8 percent of Americans or almost 48 million people participated in backpacking from 2020 to 2021.

Today, learn what is backpacking.

What is Backpacking?

person traveling
Backpackers get to explore other cultures and see the world.

There are also several different types of backpacking, namely survival backpacking and luxury backpacking. Understanding the differences between these two can be very helpful when you are planning a travel vacation.

Backpacking refers to a form of travelling where you only bring enough items that can fit in a single backpack. This form of travelling is less expensive than other types because you don’t have to pay for luggage fees and similar prices.

Solo backpacking is also less constrained by schedules and reservations. This is because you can find accommodations as you go and don’t have to make expensive hotel reservations or similar arrangements.

  • Why is Backpacking Important?

All forms of backpacking, whether its luxury backpacking or survival backpacking, can help you expand your horizons, both culturally and in terms of connecting with nature. When you go backpacking, you open yourself to new opportunities that aren’t regularly available to travelers who stay in hotels or go about tour groups.

If you want to experience different cultures and see the world in a way that doesn’t seem like commercialized backpacking, backpacking is the form of travel you’re looking for.

  • When Should You Go Backpacking?

Backpacking tends to last longer than other forms of vacations because it costs cheaper and therefor allows you to stay abroad for weeks or months even. So it’s advisable that you go on your survival backpacking vacation when you have a lot of time on your hands. Students are encouraged to go on solo travel adventures when they are on their gap years.

According to the Student Conservation Association, as many as 3 percent of students in America take gap years. During this period, they can choose to travel so they can soak up new worldviews. Retirees and older adults also form a large part of backpackers as they have the freedom and resources to engage in different forms of travel.

Aside from regular forms of backpacking, which often involves staying in bed-and-breakfasts, affordable motels and youth hostels, there are two other kinds of backpacking. These are survival backpacking and luxury backpacking.

But how are these two different and who should go on either of them?

What is Survival Backpacking?

outdoor tent
Survival backpacking has a lot in common with camping.

Survival backpacking refers to a type of backpacking that focuses on enhancing your outdoor survival skills. This type of backpacking is supposed to help you become better at fending for yourself in the great outdoors.

Sometimes survival backpacking is done in groups, with a more experienced guide helping the rest learn and hone their skills. This can include lessons on foraging for food among the wilderness, setting snares for animals, lighting your own fire and learning how to navigate the terrain effectively.

Other times, people go on solo survival backpacking trips to challenge themselves. These often take place in wild territories far from settlements to better simulate survival situations.

  • Who Should Go Survival Backpacking?

Survival backpacking isn’t for novice outdoor enthusiasts and its certainly isn’t for people who aren’t ready to survive on their own in nature. Even if you are going on a guided group foray, you may not have the same skills as the others and fail to keep up.

If you frequently go out into nature as a hobby or part of your job, you may want to schedule a few trips every year just to keep your skills well-used. Preppers, or people who extensively make themselves ready for doomsday scenarios often go on these trips.

  • Why Should You Go Survival Backpacking?

If you are an avid outdoor recreation enthusiast and often go into woods and other remote locations for your job, an occasional survival backpacking trip can help you stay sharp. On the other hand, you may want to go on such a trip just because you want to be better prepared in case you find yourself lost in the wilderness or some other scenario that robs you of modern conveniences. You can also go on solo trips because you want to enjoy time out in nature, far from the bustle of civilized locations.

  • What Should You Bring When Survival Backpacking?

When you go on survival backpacking trips, you should always back everything you need when you go on extended camping trips such as food, water, cooking utensils and shelter. A backpacking cot is expected, but you can also stick with a bedroll if needed.

Essential backpacking survival gear include tools, like spades, knives, navigational aids and rope. You should have enough equipment to ensure that you are well-fed and capable of finding your way back to civilization when the trip is over.

What’s Luxury Backpacking?

person with glasses traveling
Luxury backpacking is more comfortable and less stressful than regular backpacking.

On the opposite end of the spectrum from survival backpacking is luxury backpacking. The name is somewhat of a misnomer because it’s only luxurious compared to regular backpacking. This doesn’t mean you go on something like glamping, where you are at best pretending to be camping while other people cater to your needs.

Luxury backpacking simply means that you don’t have as much freedom or spontaneity as regular backpacking. This is because you have bookings with hotels, you may go on tours and you basically try to travel as comfortably as you would if you weren’t backpacking.

  • Who Should Go Luxury Backpacking?

Regular backpacking should be reserved for people with the stamina and the resources to shop around for accommodations. Older adults and people who are less interested in scrounging for places to stay are better off served by going on luxury backpacking trips when they go on solo travel adventures.

  • Why Should You Go Luxury Backpacking?

If you have a limited time abroad, you should also consider luxury backpacking so you don’t have to spend a lot of time looking for places to stay. If you are a novice traveler, backpacking with secured accommodations and plenty of comfort can make the experience more pleasant in the long run.

  • What Should You Bring When Luxury Backpacking?

When you go on these trips, you don’t have to bring a backpacking cot or any of the survival gear for backpacking trips. All you need to bring is what you’re supposed to bring when you go traveling. This includes essential documents like your passport, visas, airplane tickets and the like. Clothes and other travel essentials are a must when luxury backpacking.

Backpacking is one of the most common forms of travel for people across the United States. Learning what makes survival backpacking different from luxury backpacking can help you plan a great or educational vacation.

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