Do You Need a Backpack to be a Backpacker?

Backpacking is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as ‘travelling or hiking carrying one’s belongings in a rucksack’. The backpack or rucksack is definitely a big part in the visualisation of a stereotypical idea of a backpacker. What I have been thinking lately though is: can you be a backpacker without actually having a backpack?

Another popular association with the world of backpacking is budget travel and staying in the cheapest form of accommodation, which usually means hostels.

If somebody goes travelling with all of their belongings in a trolley case, can they still be labelled as a backpacker?

Not that you would want to drag this on a hike through the jungle. But, it is not like people carry all of their belongings on treks anyway.

Even those that travel with a backpack usually seem to have a smaller day bag to use, leaving the bulky one back at the hostel or in storage.

So where did the term backpacking actually come from?

The roots of backpacking can be traced back to the 60s and 70s when travellers would follow the ‘hippy trail’ along the Silk Road – an ancient transcontinental trade route used to transport silks from China and other items such as spices from India and silver from Iran.

The Silk Road consists of trade routes that go all the way back to the days of the Roman Empire, connecting East, West and Central Asia with Europe and Africa.

Of course, another modern term is flashpacker – referring to those who travel with lap tops and other digital equipment.

What do you think is a real definition of a backpacker and do you think you need a backpack in order to be known as a backpacker, or is it more to do with the way somebody travels?