I Hate Backpacking But Will Never Stop

Backpacking isn't fun. You spend all day hiking with a heavy load on your back. Your feet hurt, the backpack hurts your shoulders, the mosquitoes bite you, the sun burns your neck, the rain always seems to drench you at the wrong time and after all of that you've got to dig a hole when you need to go to the bathroom. Jeez, that doesn't sound like any fun does it?

Backpacking Cranking out the switchbacks. Photo by Chris Martin

I'll be the first to admit that backpacking isn't always fun. It really doesn't make any sense. I've got a nice comfortable home. I've got a huge tent suitable for easy car camping trips. Why would I subject myself to the inevitable pain of backpacking?

Backpacking the JMT Photo by Andy Hawbaker

I'm not kidding, I hate backpacking but here are the reasons I'll keep doing it:  

  • You become submersed in nature — I love the outdoors. Nothing is better than watching a moose wander through a meadow, sipping cool (purified) mountain stream water, swimming in freezing high alpine lakes or watching the sun rise over the mountains. You might get lucky and catch one of these things on a stop at a local park but you're sure to have many unbelievable experiences on a multi-day backpacking or thru-hike.

  • You are removed from the daily stress of your regular life- Last summer I hiked the John Muir Trail in two weeks. For those 14 days I never thought about how soon payday was coming, what I was behind on at work or the projects I needed to get done around the house. The only thing I worried about those two weeks was how far to the next water source, could we get the miles in before the storm and was I taking enough photos. A long thru-hike removes the typical stress and helps put things into perspective.

  • You feel a sense of accomplishment- Last week I backpacked a 35-mile loop in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was tough packing those miles into three days with all of the required elevation gain but once it was done I felt great. If you set a goal to hike a trail you'll great when you accomplish it.

  • You have a great story to share- When was the last time you asked an old friend what they've been up too? Did they say nothing much? How boring. An epic backpacking trip gives you a story to tell long after you get back. In fact, I'm still telling stories of my JMT Adventure a full year after it happened.

  • You'll forget the pain- It hurts while you're hiking but the photos, videos and memories are worth it. When you think back at the adventure, you'll think of the wildlife you saw, the friendships you made and the experiences, you won't remember the pain. You might remember that it hurt but that won't outweigh the positives. It's crazy but that's the way memory works.

backpacking isn't fun Looking up at where we have to climb. Photo by Chris Martin

So, is it worth it?


Backpacking is tough. It doesn't make a lot of sense and I'll admit I hate backpacking, but I'll be ready to go again soon.

What do you think? Do you agree with any of these points? Should I stop whining or do you agree?
Andy Hawbaker
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Andy Hawbaker
Andy is a hiker, backpacker, snowboarder and outdoor fanatic. When he isn't exploring the Rocky Mountains, burning marshmallows or scratching his dog behind the ear, he shares his experiences here on the Sierra Trading Post Blog.
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