Backpacker or Slackpacker?

by backpackingbongos

In my minds eye I am a rugged backpacker effortlessly eating up the miles and powering up mountains to reach my distant destination.  In reality I am that slightly tired bloke sitting on a rock thinking that I really should get going and walk those miles.  In the distance I can see the mountain that I planned to climb but it looks much much bigger and steeper than I imagined it would have done from reading the map.

Reading up on other peoples backpacking exploits I have started to feel that maybe I am just a little lazy.  I read of all of those 15 mile days people do, when I often find that after about 8 miles I fancy my dinner and a bit of a snooze.  I decided not to apply for the TGO challenge this year because of the chunk of time it would take out of my holiday entitlement.  I have a deep sneaky suspicion at the back of my mind that it is also because I am just a little lazy.  What happens on day 4 of the challenge when you decide you really can’t be bothered with all that walking business and just want to burn wood on the bothy fire?  What happens when you feel like that a couple of days later as well?!

I have often read that the main reason for lightening your backpacking load is so that you can walk further and quicker.  I have to admit to lightening my load simply because it is lighter!  A lighter pack means that I fall over less.

Being in the hills and the wild places for me is one of my favourite things, its just that what I plan to do and actually end up doing are often very different.  I can remember a trip I did to the Monadhliath a few years ago that turned into a real slackpacking trip.  At the planning stage I was looking at all those empty miles and devised a long route across the hills.  In reality I got off of the train at Newtonmore and walked up Glen Banchor, when only a few miles up the valley I found a rather lovely bothy.  Ok it was still early but was a splendid place to spend the night and I was looking forward to reading my book.  The next day I managed my shortest backpacking day ever, a mammoth 2 miles to the high col above Dudh loch.  I had not planned to camp so early or at that location, it was just that it was such a cracking spot and I really fancied laying down to read my book…………….The next day I managed 5 miles and spotted another bothy, you get the picture!

In a weeks time I will be on Islay and then Jura.  I have a 3 day 30 mile backpack planned on Jura over some of the toughest remotest terrain available in the UK.  No paths, no people, just tussocks, boulders, cliffs and probably a screaming gale.  The first night will be spent at a really remote coastal bothy with the second night wild camping on a beach 10 miles away.  Well that is the plan.  Will reality see me spending day 2 looking for driftwood and shuffling around the bothy or will I be striding purposely across the tussocky moors.  Will I be a backpacker or a slackpacker?

How would you define yourself?

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12 Comments to “Backpacker or Slackpacker?”

  1. Good post. I think sometimes over the past three years I’ve pushed myself too hard. My impending Lakes trip, I’m not walking more than 10 miles on any day and have built it around places that I would like to camp. Like you, I can’t afford the time to do the TGOC at the moment.

  2. All comes down to how fit I am and how motivated I am. I like a good days walking. I also like the sound of your taking it easy style.

  3. It’s not a race or competition. It’s about spending some quality time in the hills. I’ve often camped at a bothy mid-afternoon and spent hours and numerous mugs of tea just gazing at the hills with my feet up. Those are my best memories.

  4. I agree with Steve – it’s not a race or competition. I’ve done long days and short ones; it’s the experience that counts not the miles.

  5. I enjoy all kinds: lazy days and challenging days. Sometimes in the mountains I only do around 5 miles, last year on my fast-and-light Wolds Way backpack I topped 30 miles on the second day.
    I always start out with a planned route though, but occasionally I modify it according to how I feel and how the time is going.
    Until this foot heals I think I’ll be a slackpacker though!.

  6. Robin, that is the perfect way to plan your backpacking trip. You can’t beat sleeping and waking up in that perfect spot. Hope that you have a great trip.

    Martin, I am not always lazy promise, just when I am alone. I can get the distance done with a bit of gentle prodding. I have even threatened to take up fell running!

    Steve, If the weather is foul on Islay and Jura I may just end up sitting taking in the scenery with loads of cups of coffee.

    Baz, its definately what you get out of the trip that counts. For me it is simply the experience of being in a wild place.

    Geoff, I always have a planned route to start with its just that it may be modified (sometimes even made longer!). I hope that the foot heals soon, but in the meantime enjoy being a slackpacker.

    I need to say a big hi to whoever said they were a ‘fatpacker’ on the poll!

  7. If slackpacker is a negative term then anyone that makes it coast to coast across Scotland on foot is not slack. But as other people have said there is nothing better that camping overnight when you get to the right spot no matter how far.

    One of my best trips was leave home after lunch Sat walk 5 miles, camp, 5 miles back to car and then home before 11am.

  8. The work Slackpacker is definately not meant to be a negative term. I like the word. I would define it as enjoying backpacking but by using as little effort as possibe. Just enjoying being there.

  9. sometimes I walk a large distance and sometimes its a short distance. Depends on how I am feeling. As long as you enjoy yourself thats the main thing. Quite often the best trips are the ones that change at the last minute
    just enjoy being out there in whatever guise or form 🙂

  10. I’m a backpacker. While the way is enjoyed, I also like to cover distance and see many different landscapes and areas in a day. I usually walk between 20 and 30 km a day. But I still find enough time to enjoy my surroundings, drink some coffee and make some soup.

    Going light has allowed me to walk faster and further. With a 20+ kg pack it was a pain to walk anything more than 15 km, with less than half the weight I feel good when I walk 25 km in a day and still have reserves to go further.

    To each his own, I would say. There’s no right or wrong.

  11. James, you are clearly alone when it comes to this ‘laziness’. I think my problem is that I’m always stealing the most time I can in the hills and try to do more than is necessary. Like you it tends to be when I’m backpacking with someone.

    I don’t think its laziness at all. Its about just spending your time in the hills however you fancy. I dream of just being able to wonder up to a high loch by mid afternoon and hang around the tent, either exploring or taking in the sights and sounds. I spent a night pretty much exactly as Ben described where I literally wondered up, pitched my tent, chilled out and went home the following morning – it was brilliant!

    In fact its probably becoming more and more obvious in my recent trip report that more lazing around would have made that trip even better than it was. Might not have missed the bothy if we had more time – oops!

  12. Dave don’t worry I always make sure that I enjoy myself when I am ‘out there’.

    Hendrik, I agree each to their own with there being no right or wrong. Althought I am assuming that your 30km days are on good trails? You would pretty much need to be superman to do that off trail over the Scottish mountains!

    Marcus it has to be said that the best moments of our Coast to coast walk were the lazy bits. Sitting outside bothies in the morning sunshine, long lunches by a loch etc. I think many people try and fit in as much as possible because time is so precious. You can always return to that bothy!

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