Which is Better: Camping or Backpacking?

camping vs backpacking
Over the past several weeks posts have been primarily focused on camping in our new Milan 26RLS Travel Trailer. Does this mean backpacking has taken a back seat? Is camping better?

Yes and no.

First let’s set some definitions, which are mine and not necessarily generally accepted.


Camping is staying in one place for several days. This can be part of a backpacking trip where you hike to a static campsite and stay there or use it as a base for day hikes.

It can be staying at an established campground with or without amenities that entails some sort of a vehicle. Established campgrounds can be virtual parking lots, such as Carpenteria State Beach in California (below).

© Copyright G. Donald Bain
© Copyright G. Donald Bain

Or it can be, as we prefer, in dispersed areas without the crowds.


Most people would say camping is staying somewhere and taking (a lot more) gear you cannot simply carry in a backpack. Some folks load up their car and haul their equipment to a campsite. Others get more sophisticated and camp in some sort of a trailer or recreational vehicle.

My camping progression started with car camping, then a small tent trailer, then a huge tent trailer, and now our travel trailer.

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Whichever method one employs, it allows the camper a certain level of comfort and luxury that cannot be had when simply backpacking.

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In my opinion backpacking is about becoming self-sufficient in the wilderness while pretty much eliminating any luxuries.

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Backpacking is about getting close to nature — that is adapting your mind and body to harmonize with the natural world, not trying to adapt the wilderness experience to some sort of home-based living standard.

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It is not about gear and luxuries, as camping often is, but about walking in the natural world on its on terms, where your survival and comfort level-set on your skill and techniques.

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The fewer luxuries you bring, the easier it is to throw off the shackles of civilization and get closer to the natural world. Not that there is anything particularly bad about the trappings and technology of the city-world, but to live one-on-one with nature in a minimalist state brings about a certain level of satisfaction and focus on the world around you.

Some gear is necessary, but it should be minimal in relationship to your environment.


Neither. Each has its place and importance in my life. Joyce isn’t going backpacking – ever. But she is happy to go camping almost every week. And camping doesn’t mean sitting inside a tent or camper all day. It is just a base of operations. Often we leave the campsite all day on hikes; returning to take a nice warm shower, enjoy a glass of wine (or two), and prepare an elegant meal. Elegant dining can happen when camping as I wrote a while back.

Backpacking provides me many, many rewards. I have been doing it for decades and hope to continue for at least a couple more.

Over the past year I have done more backpacking than camping. It just worked out that way. Plus this year our Niagara tent trailer had to sit for a while as it needed maintenance and a new refrigerator. Those tasks were put off while I was out hiking. Unfortunately our Niagara was totaled by our insurance company as the result of vandalism/theft in July and several camping trips were cancelled. Now with a new camper in tow we have around 20 planned camping days for the rest of the year and I will get few backpacking trips in too.

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