There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding whether to go camping or backpacking. From the right tent to the right clothes, what you’ll need for either one depends on your adventure goals and your budget (not to mention your itinerary).
This blog post will look at everything from the basics of each type of vacation, how they’re similar and different, how much you can expect to spend, and which one is best suited for you. We’ll explore both camping and backpacking in depth with links to resources that will help you get started if that’s something you haven’t done before.
For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll be referring to camping as specifically setting up a home base or home base camp. If you want to really explore all the options, you can read up on camping tips here.
Camping is typically done during the warmer months though it’s a great way to enjoy the outdoors in the colder months too. It involves using all kinds of things that can be found around us: the water and plumbing in our homes, our cars, and even things like used tires, which are very inexpensive. The most basic home base setups involve finding an open area with empty fields near a road or trail path.
A home base camp is usually temporary (it can usually be organized in a matter of hours) and requires to carry everything we need. We’ll prepare meals using a grill or a campfire, a shower using hot water in large pots, use toilets in the same way, and sleep in tents. During the summer months, it’s common to stay up late and sleep late as well. Camping is often more social than backpacking since you’re often cooking out and sitting around the fire after dark with your friends or family.
How much do you need to spend to go camping?
Typically, backpacking trips will entail more time spent outside (i.e., not in a tent) with more amenities like hot showers and toilets, running water access (usually camping supplies stores), and even accommodations for your (and your guest’s) dog(s). In short, a good backpacking trip costs more than a camping trip.
In terms of backpacking, most people will be looking at a good pack for the occasion that they have $1500 to spend or less. If you’re looking to go camping, you can get by on $1000 or less for a good basic tent and sleeping bag. You might need more than one tent if you have more than two people (and guests), but the most expensive option is usually a tarp (which is big, takes up a lot of space, expensive). Other items you might want to think about include an air mattress (for extra flexibility), a backpacking stove/fuel (good for longer trips), food (better for longer trips), and a first-aid kit.
What’s the difference between camping and backpacking?
For those of you who do backpack, I’m sure that you’ve seen or heard this question before. Here’s my take on the differences between backpacking and camping.
Camping is a vacation where you sleep in one place. Backpacking is a form of travel where you can move freely from one place to another with everything you need on your back.
Camping usually involves more comfort than sleeping in a tent. There are campgrounds, pavilions, showers, etc. Backpacking usually involves less comfort than camping. You don’t have to carry a chair around with you and set it up every time you want to read a book or snuggle up beside someone special though.
Camping is less expensive than backpacking. If you have to pay for a cabin or backpacker’s hostel, camping doesn’t cost you any extra money. You just have to remember to bring a tent. You don’t have to pay for food when you set up camp (though it’s probably good if you buy a little extra of whatever you want).
Camping is rated by the length of time and can last from a few hours to a few weeks. Backpacking can last for days, weeks, and months.
Camping with solar panel or generator is fun in general because there are opportunities for some creativity (if you want it). You don’t even have to cook anything. Backpacking is more challenging and requires more work, but it’s still fun most of the time.
Camping gives great bragging rights because you’re in a deep wilderness away from modern conveniences. Backpacking gives bragging rights because you’re adventuring into the unknown and experiencing all kinds of surprises (and food).
Backpacking often involves no facilities. Camping usually involves some facilities such as shower, flush toilets, and the like.
Backpacking requires more preparation than camping. On top of setting up your tent, backpacking requires that you plan your food and pack your backpack properly.
How many miles a day should I go backpacking?
This is a tough question and there’s no easy answer. The numbers you see in articles about backpacking, especially those for shorter distances, are just rough estimates.
Let’s consider two scenarios. One scenario is for a person who wants to do regular (say 15 miles) day hikes every other week. The other scenario is for a weekend backpacker who wants to go to nearby wilderness areas and spend 1-2 nights there (say 15 miles total).
In the first scenario, you should plan on spending maybe 6 hours hiking each day plus whatever time you spend at camp cooking and eating dinner.
In the second scenario, plan on spending at least 6 hours hiking per day plus whatever time you spend at camp preparing and consuming food.
The point is to plan for the time you’re spending in camp. If you’re going backpacking, plan on setting up your tent and eating dinner and drink coffee in camp. You don’t need an elaborate setup; all you really need is a flat spot with space to set up your tent. In essence, use this camping checklist and adjust it for the different parts of a weekend.
How do you set up camp while backpacking?
This is another tough question and again, there’s no easy answer. When you’re backpacking, you can’t carry a lot of equipment with you. You have to be very light on your feet. If you want to set up a tent, make sure it’s the lightest tent available.
Most backpackers just sleep in their sleeping bags under the stars or inside of a waterproof bivouac sack shelter (a large plastic cover that protects your sleeping bag from the rain). There are other backpackers who like to learn primitive skills so they set up tents using materials that nature provides around them (like trees).
There are many ways to set up camp when backpacking and it depends upon your preferences and personal skills. The most important part of setting up camp is to plan. Plan on the weather and the terrain.
How do you prepare food while backpacking?
When you’re backpacking, you have to carry everything with you or at least make sure that there’s at least one thing that’s light enough for you to carry. Eating a hot meal will probably not work out because it would be too heavy for you (and might be difficult when hiking through uneven terrain).
Backpackers usually prepare their meals each day at camp. There are two options: Either bringing food with you or preparing food once a day (and keeping the leftovers for another time).
Camp cooking equipment can sometimes be as heavy as your backpack (or even heavier). That’s why you need to plan on only bringing the lighter items. A simple camp stove, a pot for boiling water, and a knife should do the job if you only need to prepare one meal per day.
If you plan on bringing food with you, it’s best if you pack it in plastic bags in case it rains. If your backpack gets wet, at least your food won’t get soaked too. It’s also a good idea to keep food in waterproof containers or even just wrap each item with some strong plastic wrap.
Does backpacking mean camping?
No! The most common mistake rookies make when they first start out is to assume that they need to camp all the time. And since it’s very difficult and challenging, some of these people do their best at backpacking only to realize that it’s not really challenging or fun. So what’s the point?
If you want something easy, go hiking. But if you want something exciting, go backpacking!
The good thing about backpacking is that it’s not a one-dimensional pursuit. There are many ways to backpack and there are many other activities associated with camping. These include hanging out at camp, hiking, making s’mores (butterfly-style), singing songs around a fire; etc.
Camping Vs. Backpacking: Which Adventure is Right for You?
Camping is the simpler of the two. Camping means that you don’t have to carry anything with you during your adventure and you can just see nature at its pristine state without all the man-made stuff that we have nowadays.
Camping also provides a certain degree of comfort where there are many luxuries such as a warm bed, clean water, and lots of food that’s already prepared (and it’s ready to eat).
Backpacking means that you should be more adventurous. You have to carry everything with you, including your food and water! Basically, you get to experience nature’s true beauty without any help from man-made items.
So which one is right for you? You’ll have to play around with your preferences and see how the two adventures will fit into your life.
Risks of Backpacking
Travelling in mountainous areas can cause a lot of danger to hikers. You must be very careful when travelling alone in such locations because you don’t want to get lost or have your stuff stolen.
Another risk of backpacking is getting eaten by a bear. I’ve seen a couple of documentaries on National Geographic that showed how people were caught by bears and the outcomes weren’t pretty at all.
It’s also important to note that there are dangers associated with both camping and backpacking: mosquitoes, rain, freezing cold, etc.
The Risks Of Camping Vs. Backpacking
The risks of camping are similar to backpacking’s risks. The only difference is that you don’t have to carry your stuff with you. You can just be a couch potato and chill out the whole time on your camping trip! No worries about accidentally dropping your popcorn in the campfire while trying to make s’mores.
Camping requires minimal effort since everything is already there for you! Just bring your tent and sleeping bag and you’re good to go. There’s also the luxury of clean water that can be retrieved from a nearby stream or well-maintained water source/facility.
In addition to the risks of camping, you also have to carry all your stuff with you while hiking. It’s hard going through rough, steep terrain while carrying a heavy backpack; and even worse if there are bears around. You have to make sure that you’re always within an hour’s reach from a shelter or campsite.
If the weather turns bad during your hike, you have to turn back immediately; otherwise, it could become life-threatening for you. You also need to make sure that where you set up your shelter is safe from natural dangers like avalanches and earthquakes (not if experienced enough).
When all else fails, stay put. There is always that moment in a survival situation when you know you have to leave your shelter and find safety. But there is no guarantee that you will make it either. If you are alone, the decision of where to go might be made for you, so it is a tough one. And if it happens during the day when the sun can be seen, it gets even trickier. The best thing to do then is to find shelter in someplace that seems safe — even if there’s another side of a mountain or other dangerous terrain nearby — and stay there until the danger goes away.
But camping is not always a safe choice. The following are examples of horrible things that can happen when you camp:
- Falling rocks
- Poisonous animals/plants
- Getting lost and running out of food and water
- Hypothermia (if it’s too cold for a long time).
- Flash floods