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Camping vs Backpacking: What’s the Difference?

Camping vs Backpacking: What’s the Difference?

by Arshpreet Multani | March 25, 2019

Are you feeling the call of the great outdoors? Camping and backpacking provide the ideal way to get away from it all… a little time in nature can melt away the stress like nothing else. But, planning an outdoor adventure can be a little intimidating, especially if you’re new to the idea.

There’s more than one way to plan a camping trip, and which way you go really depends on what you want to get out of the experience. Simply put, camping generally means packing up all your gear in your vehicle and driving to a campsite. It makes for a very relaxing trip, and you can bring more of the comforts from home. On the other hand, backpacking is a bit more adventurous. A backpacker carries all their food and gear in a backpack and hikes to their campsite. Here’s how to decide which one is right for you.


Car camping is ideal for those who want to get out in nature but still have many of the comforts of home. It’s an excellent solution for families who will be camping with younger children. You can bring things like coolers full of cold beverages and food for the grill. Things like bicycles, fishing poles, boats, and other sources of entertainment can be loaded up in the car as well. Most campgrounds have showers and toilets, which is a huge plus for many campers. Once your home away from home is set up, you can explore your surroundings by taking day hikes, taking scenic bike rides through the campground, or hit the lake for some swimming.

One of the main downsides to car camping is that the campground is likely to be more crowded. You just can’t escape the crowds as easily in a car. Busy campgrounds are often filled with parties, loud groups, and generators. If you’re looking for more peace and quiet, choose an out of the way campground and explore those forgotten nature trails no one else knows about.

While it can be nice to have more stuff with you on your camping trip, the preparation can get a little overwhelming, and it’s tempting to overpack. Try to keep things simple so you can relax and enjoy your trip. It’s ok to indulge yourself a little by bringing a Jetboil HalfGen Base Camp Cooking System, your favorite pillow, and some special snacks, but remember that everything you pack has to be loaded and unloaded. Nobody wants to spend half their trip packing and unpacking the car!

When you are car camping, you can bring a larger tent, like this Limestone 8-Person Tent from Arrive Outdoors. This is a huge plus because the whole family can hang out inside the tent on a rainy day and play a board game. You can also take advantage of all that extra space and bring to bring a Therm-a-Rest Sleeping Pad, Black Diamond Lanterns, some Helinox Sunset Folding Chairs, and a ENO Hammock. Arrive Outdoors has all the premium gear you need to turn your campsite into your home away from home for the weekend.


Backpacking opens up a whole new world for the more adventurous camper. When you backpack all of your gear to your campsite, you can get to places that just aren’t accessible by car. Backpacking really allows you to get away from it all. In general, you’ll encounter fewer people when you backpack and the areas you pass through will be more pristine and less impacted by human interaction. Whether you backpack by yourself or with a group, you will experience a real feeling of getting back to nature.

Your campsite will probably be very primitive. They’re usually won’t be any showers or restrooms at more remote campsites. You probably won’t have cell phone access either. You should only bring what you can carry in your backpack, and that includes all of your food for the duration of the trip. If you’re not an experienced hiker, packing all year gear on your back and walking to your campsite could be a challenge. And, if you plan to bring kids along, be prepared to help them carry their gear as well as your own.

If you are planning your first backpacking adventure, keep things short. A one-night trip is best for your first time out. Be sure to take some day hikes before you go to break in your hiking boots and prepare yourself for a day of walking on the trail. Keep in mind that your trip will be much more enjoyable if you don’t overdo it.

When you pack for a backpacking trip, keeping your gear lightweight and compact without sacrificing quality is the key. Choosing the right tent and backpack will be extremely important because they are your only protection from the elements while you’re on the trail. Arrive Outdoors has a variety of premium backpacking tents and sleeping bags available for all weather conditions.

Choosing the right backpack is also important. For short trips, there’s no reason to lug around a huge pack. A Deuter Speed Lite 26L Backpack from Arrive Outdoors is perfect for an overnight backpacking trip. If you’re planning to be on the trail for more than a day or two, go for a larger pack, like the Deuter 60 + 10L SL Backpack. Bring dehydrated foods that don’t take a long time to cook. We also recommend packing only one change of clothes for hiking and one for sleeping to keep the weight of your backpack to a minimum.

Some Final Thoughts

When it comes down to making a choice about which type of camping is right for you, consider your goals for the trip. Are you looking for an adventure in the backcountry or would you rather just hang out with friends and family by the campfire? Whether you end up going backpacking or camping, the experience is sure to provide happy memories for years to come.

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