May 11, 2022

What is the Difference Between Hiking and Backpacking?

by Kevin

The national trail system has established many trails in the United States. Currently, there are 193500 miles of trails available in the national trail system.

Most people do not know the difference between hiking and backpacking. We will discuss which of these outdoor sports is more suitable for you.

Table of Contents

What Is the Difference Between Hiking and Walking?

Hiking is different from walking because of the area you select and the difficulty level. You can hike on mountains and trails.

When you are moving using your legs on a flat surface, it is walking. Walking is a part of hiking because you go to another place using your legs.

It is easy to walk around because you do not need extra effort. You have to do hard work in hiking because most of the surfaces you walk on during the hiking are inclined.

There is a difference in the level of difficulty. It is easy to walk, while hiking is a difficult task.

Difference Between Hiking and Backpacking
What is the Difference Between Hiking and Backpacking?

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What is Hiking?

Hiking is an act of walking long distances on the trails or other inclined surfaces. The time of hiking depends on the length of the trail.

If you choose a long mountain trail, you may have to hike for days. Some are short and perfect for beginners. You can complete these hikes in a few hours.

People like to hike near mountains, beaches, and woody trails. Expert hikers can spends days on the trail. They may take their food, water, and maps with them.

Related: read our hiking archives

What is Backpacking?

Backpacking is an act of going outdoor for several days and spending time without a roof. Hiking is not different from backpacking because you use a backpack both times.

The difference between hiking and backpacking lies in the duration. One can go hiking for a few hours. You cannot do backpacking for a few hours because it will compromise the essence of the backpacking. People go hiking to relax their minds. Backpacking is for testing your limits and going out of your comfort zone.

Backpacking requires advanced hiking skills also. You can go into nature and set up your camp to stay there for many days.

Advanced equipment is also essential for backpacking. You may need more food and survival tools with the hiking equipment.

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Do I Need a Backpack for Hiking?

A backpack is an essential part of all hiking trips. The size of the backpack depends on the number of days you want to spend outside.

If you are going for a few hours, there is no need for a heavy-duty bag. It is enough to have a backpack that can hold 11 to 20 liters.

You may need a heavy-duty backpack, 35 ltr or 45 ltr, when hiking for more than one day when going on a long trail. Even when going for a short hiking trip, keeping food and navigation equipment with you is crucial.

If you are lost on the trail, these items will help you get out safely. A novice hiker cannot rely on survival skills because many deadly plants look edible.

Most backpackers do not carry food with them because no amount of food can be enough for a months-long journey.

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Osprey Talon 33 Men's Hiking Backpack, Yerba Greeb, medium/large
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DEUTER Unisex – Adult's Aircontact Lite 50+10 Trekking Backpack, Turmeric-Teal, 60 L
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DEUTER Unisex – Adult's Aircontact Lite 50+10 Trekking Backpack, Turmeric-Teal, 60 L
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What are the Different Types of Hiking?

There are four main types of hiking – day hiking, thru-hiking, base camping, and section hiking.

  • Day hiking. Day hiking is fun, and you can also hike for a few hours.
  • Thru-hiking. Thru-hiking is the longest hiking journey that is for expert hikers. A hiker may spend a year hiking a trail. You can also enjoy the day hiking when you do not need heavy gear. 
  • Base camping. Base camping is an excellent option for those who want to spend the night in camp and the day on the trail for ten days. You can set up your camp in one place for all ten days.
  • Section hiking. When you want to enjoy every part of the trail, you can use the section for hiking. It allows you to hike parts of trails at different times of the year.
Choose the right backpacking pack
Backpacking and Hiking Backpacks

Related: read our camping archives

What are the Different Types of Backpacking?

There are two main types of backpacking – ultralight backpacking and flashpacking.

  • Ultralight backpacking. Ultralight backpacking is an excellent way to lose weight and explore nature. These backpackers use a foldable sleeping bag and some dry clothes on their journey. 
  • Flashpacking. Flashpacking is a way to explore the most famous places on the earth. You can go out for months with all the gear you need to live. You need to get food along the way. Flashpacking is popular among people due to social media. Everyone wants to go to famous places and show their pictures on social media. This type of backpacking is for tourists.

Related: read our hiking archives

Can You Use a Regular Backpack for Hiking?

You can use the regular backpack for hiking if your journey is shorter than one day. A specialized backpack is crucial when you plan to hike for more than one day.

There are many reasons you cannot take a regular backpack for a long hiking journey. Most of these bags are not waterproof.

There are not enough pockets to keep all the stuff. It is hard to place the sleeping mat in the regular backpack.

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What is the Difference Between Hiking and Backpacking Boots?

Hiking boots are better at providing a comfortable hike, while backpacking boots specialize in durability.

As you do not need to use the hiking boots for many months, there is no need for the material that can withstand the effects of nature for months.

Most people do not want pain in their feet when they come from a hiking journey. The hiking boots make sure that you get the most comfortable journey. Hiking boots are med to high cut models.

When you want to go backpacking, you aim to last long outside your comfort zone. Backpacking boots are specialized for durability.

It uses high-end durable material. The backpacking boots do not come in mid-height because these boots have to cover the ankles to prevent ankle injury.

These boots support you to carry heavyweight backpacks for months. When backpacking, you should get longer socks to protect your ankles.

Hiking boots usually appear like mountaineering boots because you can adjust them to fit different-sized feet.

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Here is a Guided-List to Our Hiking Boots Articles

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Last Updated on July 28, 2022 by Roger

About the author


Kevin loves bouldering. Mainly because he can practice it alone without considering other people. Although he rediscovered this hobby in the last three years, the boulders turned out to be his most visited landmarks.

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