What is the Difference Between Hiking and Backpacking?

In the very basic form, hiking, trekking, and backpacking are forms of walking. However, there are differences you can discover if you attempt each. Backpacking and hiking are the main two activities and often confused with each other.

While the basic differing aspect is hiking is done on a trail over a single day, backpacking will be carried out in the great outdoors and comprises carrying your own sleeping system over several days.

Most of these disciplines will be carried out on a loop track or one way and can cover the same terrain. (Learn How Many Calories Does Hiking Burn)

group backpacking

You can learn more about the difference in our guide, as your gear can be different, especially if you are off on a long hike.

What Is the Difference Between Hiking and Walking?

Walking is carried out on flat and hard surfaces that don’t have many obstructions. Hiking is carried out on rocky mountain trails, up and down hills, and terrains that comprise a rough surface.

Here’s a quick differential comparison of backpacking vs hiking.

people hiking

What is Hiking?

Hiking is the action of walking in the outdoors on well-laid trails or unknown paths. Hiking requires you to walk at a brisk pace to help you lose weight, get healthy fresh air, and experience peace and quiet.

People hike in many areas that can comprise rural terrain, wooded areas or along beaches.

Hiking ranges from an hour’s walk to a few days. It depends on the difficulty level of the terrain and the capability of the hiker. Based on the hike’s length, hikers need to carry food, water, maps, a compass, sunscreen, insect repellent, and other things for the trip.

What is Backpacking?

Backpacking isn’t much different from hiking, and it comprises walking on nature trails etc. However, the key difference in the backpacking definition is like you are hiking, yet you are there for several days.

As a result, backpackers carry a pack that has their tent, daily supplies and more. In essence, it is camping in different locations and covering several days.

A backpacker hikes great distances in forests or mountainous areas as they search for suitable spots to set up camp for the night.

You will never do backpacking in a day or two, and you will look at this as extended hiking trips. Backpackers need to carry much more gear, including camping essentials like sleeping bags, clothing, tents, first-aid kits, waterproof jackets, survival tools and lots more.

Do I Need a Backpack for Hiking?

You only need a backpack that holds from 11 to 20 liters of camping gear essentials for short hikes. However, anything more substantial, and you could require a larger backpack.

Here are the different types of backpacking vs hiking.

Types of Hiking?

Day Hiking: For day hiking, hikers stroll outdoors for a day. It is suitable for people and beginners who don’t want to hike with lots of gear. (Learn What to Wear Hiking in Summer)

Base Camping: Hikers set up camp to stay for up to 10 days in one go and are perfect for those who wish to spend more time outdoors. With your camp, you travel on day hikes and return to camp ay night.

Section Hiking: Section hiking has hiked or completed a particular trail comprising several trips over a few years. Section hiking lets you walk at a slower pace to enjoy each part fo the trail.

Thru-Hiking: Thru-hiking or end-to-end hiking is the most challenging and takes the most time. It’s done by thru-hikers and backpackers who have completed or want to complete a full trail over 12-months. You often find this with trails such as the Appalachian Trail and other longer trails across the country.

Thru-hikers can also get away with smaller backpacks than a true backpacker because the amount of gear they take in one go is reduced.

Types of Backpacking?

The backpacking definition is quite broad. You’ll find backpackers in the woods, sleeping in tents and making their way around the globe. You also have the ones who prefer to backpack in style and use motels and vehicles.

However, here are types of backpacking.

Ultralight Backpacking: Ultralight backpacking is reducing expenses as you hike for miles in a row. Ultralight backpacks are super light, and sleeping bags are foldable. You will find this kind of backpacking extreme in the way they cut weight.

They use small packs, lightweight clothes and quick-dry towels to make sure they won’t suffer after months of travel.

Flashpacking: A flashpacker is an individual used to higher living standards and will spend to travel. They visit the main tourist attractions and see what locals recommend instead of venturing into the unknown.

A backpacking trip can see backpacks crammed full of gear that is sufficient to last for ages on the road, and all that may be missing is a supply of food and water.

Can You Use a Regular Backpack for Hiking?

When hiking, backpacking or any walking on any trek that won’t take your trip into the next day, you can get away with a regular pack. At the least, you could get away carrying a sleeping bag, although normal backpacks won’t have the capability to hold these on your back.

This kind of pack probably won’t have many pockets and stands a good chance of not being waterproof.

What is the Difference Between Hiking and Backpacking Boots?

In the bare essence, you can see the differences here. Day hike boots comprise mid to high-cut models and are designed to offer comfort for day hikes or short backpacking trips on even surfaces and light loads being carried.

In comparison, you have backpacking boots, which have the best design to help you carry heavier loads on multi-day trips into the backcountry. (Learn How to Break in Hiking Boots)

Most of these backpacking boots have a high cut, wrapping above the ankles to bring support to a hiker on rough terrain and will last years of backpacking trip exploration.

Hiking boots are lighter versions of mountaineering boots and based on activity, there are types to fit all. Another difference between hiking and backpacking can be the recommended sock liner, which is often recommended for longer backpacking excursions.

What is the Difference Between Hiking and Backpacking