What Is the Difference Between Hiking and Backpacking?

By Robert Palmer

Hiking and backpacking are two popular outdoor activities that bring people together. Each requires a different level of preparation, skill, and commitment, so it is important to understand the differences between the two.


Hiking usually requires less preparation than backpacking. A day hike might just need a few snacks, water, and some extra layers of clothing for weather changes.

Backpacking trips often require more planning due to the fact that you will be carrying a larger load and potentially dealing with more extreme conditions. All the necessary supplies should be planned ahead of time such as a tent, sleeping pad, food rations, water filter/purification system, camp stove and cookware if necessary.

Skill Level

The skill level needed for hiking is generally lower than that of backpacking. Hikes often follow marked trails with no significant elevation changes or technical terrain while backpacking trips can involve off-trail travel, steep ascents/descents, rock scrambling or river crossings depending on where you are going. Additionally, backpacking requires knowledge of leave no trace principles in order to minimize impact on the environment and respect other wilderness visitors.

Commitment Level

The commitment level between hiking and backpacking varies greatly as well. A typical day hike may take up to a few hours whereas a multi-day backpacking trip could take days or even weeks depending on the length of your route and how much time you want to spend exploring different areas along the way.

Conclusion: Hiking and backpacking are both great ways to explore nature but they each come with their own unique requirements when it comes to preparation, skill level, and commitment level. Understanding these differences is key in determining which activity is right for you!