What Is Slackpacking?

"Easy" or not, it's still time on the trail

hikers walking trail
Stuart Fox/Gallo Images/Getty Images

If you're at all familiar with the term "slacker" -- that is, someone who puts forth minimal effort -- you might be tempted to assume that slackpacking means loafing along the trail and never really getting anywhere. That's not necessarily the cases.

What Is Slackpacking?

Slackpackers can move far and fast over difficult terrain because they're carrying a small pack or no pack at all, while most everybody else on the trail will be toting full-on camping gear.

You see, slackpacking is backpacking without all that awkward carrying of gear or sleeping outside.

While you're busy setting up camp in a lean-to or under the open sky? A slackpacker is jumping into a car and either driving home or driving to a hostel/hotel, all the better to enjoy the dignity and convenience of indoor plumbing and sleeping arrangements.

Even slackpackers should be prepared for trail emergencies

How Slackpacking Is Like and Dislike Section-Hiking a Thru-Hike

In this way, slackpacking is a bit like section-hiking a thru-hike -- covering as much of the trail as you want to do at any one time, then turning around and heading home. The big differences are:

  1. While many section hikers will spend at least a few nights on the trail, a slackpacker has no intention of sleeping outside at all.
  2. While a section hiker will probably go home and return later -- maybe the next summer -- to hike another part of the trail, a slackpacker might just show up the next day to keep hiking from where he left off. In fact, a slackpacker can and very well might, road access allowing, complete an entire thru-hike in this way.