I've been backpacking since I was a kid. I got my first external frame pack when I was 9, but I was already very much a backpacker at that point. My dad took me to remote hot springs, mountain lakes, and many of the prominent peaks in the Wasatch range. Including one just shy of 12,000 feet. Not bad for a kid.
When I was in college I didn't get out as much as I wanted to and I started to get the itch to go camping. So I went to a campground with some friends and discovered that it wasn't camping that I was missing at all. It was backpacking. I have done plenty of both in my life and I can say with confidence that backpacking is the way to go. And I'll tell you why...
#1 Location, Location, Location.
Backpacking gives you the ability to see places that you can not in a car. Some of natures most spectacular places are impossible to get to except on foot. And sometimes even then it's difficult. Part of their pristine beauty is due to the fact that not very many people are there. It's a chance to see what nature is up to while the rest of us sit in traffic. You get to watch squirrels harvest seeds from pine cones, and see trout go crazy over a cluster of flies. There isn't the noise from a Winnebago blaring Def Leppard to scare away the deer, or an old refrigerator sticking out of the lake. It's just wilderness doing it's thing.
#2 A sense of accomplishment.
My dad was wise to take me backpacking at a young age. It is an experience with so many life lessons built into it. You learn about preparation, perseverance, patience, appreciation of nature. The list goes on and on. For me it's about accomplishing something hard. It is hard to describe the feeling of standing at the top of the highest peak around and knowing that you got there by your own efforts. It is a feeling that backing a car up to a fire pit will never give you. It's something that you earn. It's something that will change you. Once you've done it, you'll want to do it again and again.
#3 It's easier to pack and unpack.
Sure, you need to walk a few miles into the woods on your own two feet, which is effort. But I find that packing up the car with every possible item that you might want, then setting up camp when you get there, is just as much effort. Sometimes more. And I always feel like I end up spending most of my hard earned vacation time moving stuff around rather than relaxing. Backpacking is way more straight forward. Instead of trying to cram one more thing into the car, you're looking for ways to leave more out. The list of things you bring gets pretty small. When you get to camp the only thing to do is set up a tent and eat a meal. Quick and easy. This is very much a case of "less is more." When you get home all you have to do is pull your laundry back, your food bag and dry out your hydration pouch and you're done. Everything else stays in the pack for next time.
#4 Self Sufficiency.
Backpacking makes you think more about what you need. What you really need. When I'm car camping I inevitably end up over packing some things and forgetting other things all together. I'm a lot less careful. When you have to carry everything you take, it changes the game. You think about the word "need" differently. Do you need that cast iron skillet? Maybe not... When you get on the trail you know that you are carrying everything you need to stay alive in the woods for however long your trip is. It's a very empowering feeling to know that wherever you go, your home away from home is right there with you. It's a good way to encourage you to learn some new skills in order to make the most of what you are carrying, and knowledge is really the lightest piece of gear you can carry with you.
#5 Truly unplug.
One of the most important parts of a vacation is the change of pace. It's about not checking your work email and letting everything go for a little while. You've got to get that break! It's becoming increasingly difficult to get away from everything, thanks to cell phones and wifi. Backpacking forces your hand at the disconnect. Even if you want to check your email, you probably don't have cell service. And it gives you something else to think about: walking. I know it sounds lame, but it's very therapeutic. It's like meditation in motion. It lets you rest your mind for a bit. And when you do, you'll be able to see and hear things that you didn't notice before. You will start to notice things that our modern 15 second attention span didn't allow before, like how amazing it is to watch the sunlight fade out and see the milky way appear. And no, watching a time lapse video of the experience on youtube is not the same.
I founded Colter Co. based on a long time love of simple outdoor skills. The kinds of skills that make backpacking better. We want people to be able to tie down a loose rainfly when the strap breaks. Or be able to find the stars in the night sky. Or tie on an elk hair caddis when the trout are going crazy. We want people to be able to carry all this without adding weight to a pack. Most every backpacker carries a bandana. Why not carry one that does more for you?