Who are you?

I recently received an email in my in-box from an outdoor magazine inquiring if I wanted to review shoes for them. I declined as I do not need new shoes and doing anonymous reviews for a magazine with no attributions is not a good use of my time bank.


Alice in Wonderland…of course.

Having a day job means I have to be picky about how the time bank resources are spent.

And gear-for-anonymous reviews is not it.

But one sentence I’ve been mulling over is the one that asked

What kind of hiking are you doing? Backpacking, fast packing, etc.?

My reply was perhaps a tad flip, I must confess:

“The kind where I put one foot in front of the other for a few miles. ;)”

Now, I understand the thoughts behind the mania to categorize everything.

Having everything in handy-dandy categories makes it easier to quantify the goods someone is trying to sell. Easier to put in a bullet point format, listicle or similar.

But the more I think about it, the odder and odder it sounds for most people to categorize what kind of hiking they are doing.

Fastpacking? For one thing, I think fast-packing is one of those meaningless terms that sounds good on paper. And perfect for marketing. Trail running? Day hiking? Backpacking? Hell..let it be anything you want it to be…as long as it sells crap.

A trail runner on a supported “fast pack” goes ~4 MPH.  A fast hiker goes 3 MPH. An average hiker goes 2 MPH.  A shorter guy with a stocky build who is in overall good health and is an avid hiker may go 2.5 MPH…

Most “fast packers” don’t go fast….they go long.

And if you go off-trail, the “fast packing” label is even sillier.

Base pack weight defining the kind of hiker I am?  Even with my camera, my solo weight is under 10 lbs for gear.

There are myriad labels to describe backpacking style based on gear. But I think those styles are rather meaningless as anything more than a rough guide. Trip conditions need to be factored.  Asking to describe my backpacking style based on gear weight? It is just gear. If I take a larger tent when my someone joins me, do I magically become a different type of hiker if only for a weekend? The knife Grandma used really did not describe her cooking style (“Damn good” is how I would describe it..).


What kind of cooking am I doing based on this photo??? 🙂   -from Craft Hubs.

Long distance hiker perhaps?  My really long hikes are in the past. And I only picture hikes of weeks rather than months in the future. I honestly would rather do hikes of six weeks rather thsn six months. But with every single hike seemingly having a label, maybe I am a long distance hiker still? 😉  Being serious, my overall solo hiking style does not change if I am out for three days, a week, three weeks or three months.  So,  no,  how long I am out for won’t really define the type of hiker I may be. And I more interested in the wild places the trails go through rather than the trails themselves.

This same view was seen on day hikes, weekend backpacking trips and on a long hike.

Backpacker?  Hey..that is label that makes sense and has for a long time. Pack gear, walk, camp out, pack up your gear again and go walking. Repeat.   Except, well, I enjoy day hikes from time to time. And some places really are better for base camp style trips with hiking thrown in, too.   And in winter, my boots get attached to long and skinny planks for snow travel…

So..what kind of hiker am I based on this photo. Was it during fastpacking? Camping? A long day hiking? Etc. Etc. Etc.

So, to answer the question, most people are just simple outdoors people.

My feet take me forward one step at time no matter what I am doing or how few or many miles covered.

Some times I do larger mile days. Other times I’ll just sit in a camp chair and watch the sun slowly set for an hour. And sometimes the ground is covered on skis.

I, and most people, just like to be outside.

Labels be damned.

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7 years ago

When asked for a label, I call myself a “stop and smell the flowers and enjoy the view” hiker. But I very much agree with you about labels!

Andrew Skurka
Andrew Skurka
7 years ago

Frequently others try to label me similarly. Hate it. “Backpacker” is fine, thanks.

John D
7 years ago

For 48 years, I’ve been walking and cycling around with camping gear. That’s the thing about walking. It is likely to keep you healthy so you’ll be doing it for a long while and, if you are doing it for a long while, you are unlikely to stick with just one approach. There will be days for speed, days for distance, days for photography, days for birdwatching and days for companionship. The outdoors offer so much. One day we can focus on becoming part of it and the next we can take on a big challenge. About labels. Are they… Read more »

John D
7 years ago
Reply to  Paul Mags

Scotland has some cracking multi week routes, with the Cape Wrath Trail standing out as probably the best in Britain and good warm up trails lead to the start at Fort William.

7 years ago

Great, now The Who is in my head. After spending this week around Glacier National Park, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is now a large contingent of “hiker snobs”, much like wine snobs before them and the current batch of craft beer snobs… It baffles me. A group almost laughing as they saw a guys 60 lb pack. So judgemental, it almost pained me. “Look at that idiot…” was overheard. I’d just had a beer with him, asking him where he’d gone, and he told me of the amazing 20 miles and three days he’d done with his… Read more »

Dave Bugg
Dave Bugg
7 years ago

Good article. As another respondent stated, I am also baffled by the snobbishness that now seems to be so prolific among a certain demographic of backpackers. And, yes, the term “backpacker” is just fine without an infinite segmenting and sub-categorizing of those who choose to walk away from civilization, for however long a period of time they choose, whilst carrying stuff on their backs.

7 years ago

I think the best term to describe us all is that we “hike our own hike”