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An Introduction to Backpacking

Backpacking refers to hiking while carrying a pack on your back. A backpack with extra gear and supplies usually implies longer trips. But what you take with you and how far you hike is really up to you. John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club, used to go for several days with nothing more than a coat and what little food he could fit in his coat pockets, and he would roam far and wide. Others take packs with them that are so heavy that they need help just putting them on, and they may not hike for more than a mile or two from the trailhead.

Since most people take a certain amount of gear with them on any hike and since they usually carry these extra items in a pack, most hiking in is also backpacking - more or less. The term backpacking has come to more generally mean any hiking that involves spending one or more nights out in the wilderness while on the trip, also know as overnighters, as opposed to day hikes where the hike begins and ends on the same day.

Day hikers generally carry a much smaller pack with only a few articles of extra clothes, a simple emergency first aid kit, some water, and perhaps some food in their pack. Overnight hikers typically carry larger packs and more gear since they may need a storm shelter of some sort and extra insulation for warmth in which to spend the night as well as a larger variety of clothes and usually more than one meal. Go to the gear lists page to see some examples of what a hiker might carry on both a day hike and an overnight hike. 

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