If you are looking for reasons to dust off your backpacking gear and get back on the trail, then this post is for you. We share ten reasons why backpacking is worth it and why you need to experience it.
Backpacking is absolutely worth it if you enjoy being outdoors, exercising, and exploring. Few activities will engage so many parts of your mind, body, and soul than when you put a pack on your back and follow a new path. Backpacking is worth it precisely because it is challenging.
If you are still wondering if backpacking is worth it, then read on for ten inspirational reasons why backpacking is so worth the effort and money.
1. Backpacking Puts Us Closer to Nature
Being close to nature gives you a connection to the divine. Spending significant amounts of time surrounded by nature offers us many benefits in terms of our mental and spiritual well-being.
When you go backpacking, you experience the daily rhythms of nature in a way that you don’t when staying in a cabin or just going on a day hike. You hear the forest go to sleep. You feel cool air rush in just before sunrise. Daytime is brighter, and nighttime is darker. Nature comes alive.
This is the number one reason for most people why backpacking is worth the struggle, sore back, and blistered toe.
2. Backpacking Offers Us a Survival Challenge
Survival stories captivate our imagination. The story of a marooned sailor that carves out a living on a tropical island alone for four years intrigues us because we wonder if we would have what it takes to survive in the wild.
When you go backpacking, you are the hero of a survival story. Sure, it is a controlled, planned survival situation, but the experience is real. You feel the highs of making a fire for the first time and the lows of wondering if you have enough energy left to get to your destination.
Backpacking is a break from the routine that challenges us to go farther than we thought we could.
3. Backpacking Kills the Coward in You
For many of us, our own feelings of fear, uncertainty, and doubt keep us from trying new things and taking that first step. Will I have enough food? Can I actually walk 20 miles in a weekend? What if I misjudge my own abilities? Do I have enough equipment or the right equipment?
When you are new to backpacking, all of these negative thoughts may be running through your mind. However, after you complete that three-day trek through a pristine national park, you have faced your fears and have overcome the obstacles you had created for yourself. That experience is worth it.
4. Backpacking Builds Lasting Relationships
Relationships are strengthened through adversity. If you want a relationship with another person to grow, then backpacking is well worth it.
Backpackers spend a significant amount of time together walking, waiting, sleeping, and talking. When you are backpacking, all the other distractions are gone. It is just you and your backpacking partner. We normally fill those hours after sunset and before bedtime with streaming services and smartphone apps, but on a backpacking trip, you bond with other people.
When backpacking we have hours and hours of time available to connect with those around us.
5. Backpacking Taps Our Primal Instincts
As a species, we have a hierarchy of needs. Maslow asserted that at the bottom level we are motivated by strong physiological needs such as the need for air, water, and food. Just above those needs is a the need for safety.
In our normal, day-to-day routines, most of us never have to worry about how we will procure water or shelter. Not so in backpacking, where you place your tent has perceived, and real implications for your safety. Running out of water and hunting for a new source with a slight dehydration headache is a raw, primal experience.
Backpacking brings us back down to the basics of human existence and evokes our primal instincts.
6. Backpacking Reminds Us How Good We Have It
We don’t fully understand why backpacking is worth it until we are on the trail and deprived of so many things we take for granted. Clean water from a tap, a toilet, a hot shower, a kitchen, a chair – these things are so common that we don’t understand how useful they are.
After a five-day trek in Peru, I felt so alive when I arrived back at the hotel. Warmth, a clean set of sheets, and clean clothes felt like manna from the gods. That is a priceless feeling that you only get after an intense outdoor experience.
7. Backpacking Creates Expectations of Fulfillment
Enjoyment comes from anticipating a reward, working toward it, and attaining it. Backpacking is so worth the effort because it provides that sense of fulfillment. Finishing a four-day, 60-mile backpacking trek gives you a massive sense of accomplishment.
You may be unsure if backpacking is worth all the effort, money, and discomfort. That is exactly why it is worth it. You overcome obstacles and emerge, feeling a great sense of achievement at the end of the journey.
8. Backpacking Boosts Confidence
Backpacking is worth it because it boosts your confidence. Again, overcoming obstacles and winning provide a huge injection of positive energy and increased confidence in yourself and your future. For this reason, backpacking is a great activity for children. It is tricky to get them started because being uncomfortable is not easy for kids, especially little ones.
For a complete list of ways to motivate your children to go hiking read my blog post.
9. Backpacking Recenters Our Perspective on Life
As a species, we have created cityscapes, towns, roads, airports, train stations, and infrastructure designed to move around with relative ease, speed, and safety. We can wake up in Texas and have lunch in Hawaii without too much difficulty. Our access to ‘everywhere now’ distorts our perspective on distance and our own bodies.
Backpacking is worth it because every trail, every stream, every meadow is a lived experience that you must navigate and surpass to get to your final destination. You experience every inch of a narrow trail along a cliff’s edge. You notice every pebble and every crack.
Backpacking is worth it because it resets our perspective on distance and space. It brings us back to a world measured by footsteps and minutes or hours of walking.
10. Backpacking Causes Us to Suffer (in a good way)
Humans are anti-fragile. The more abuse we experience (within reason), the better and stronger we become. Just take our immune system, for instance. If you don’t have antibodies against a virus, you are at greater risk of serious infection. And yet, often, the only way to get those antibodies is actually to get sick from the virus.
Similarly, backpacking is worth it because it stretches and pushes us physically and mentally in new and important ways. To overcome the challenges inherent in carrying a backpack over trails for days, you do suffer. But that suffering makes us stronger.
We hope this post has inspired you and answered the question of whether backpacking is worth it! Yes, it is! Get out there and get dusty.