You may have heard of glamping: the less basic, more glamorous version of camping. It's a common concept these days, especially when it comes the festival scene. But have you heard of something called 'glampacking'? The implications of the word (a mash-up of 'glamour' and 'backpacking') are obvious. But how exactly does one spot a glampacker? Are you one? There are a few main ways to tell the difference between a backpacker and a glampacker, so here's the lowdown.
The budget: backpacker style
'Budget' is the mantra of the true backpacker. Backpacking essentially means seeing as much of the world as possible, whilst spending as little as you can. Though a backpacker will set out with some money behind them, it's not uncommon for them to run out (or run dangerously low) during their trip. Far from this signaling the end of their travels, backpackers often take on jobs or volunteer work in exchange for a small amount of money or simply food and board, in order to continue traveling.
The budget: glampacker style
Glampackers generally set out on their trip with all the money they will need. The glampacker budget is higher than that of a backpacker, allowing the glampacker to live in relative comfort whilst traveling. Glampackers are likely to have saved up for their trip before taking a career break, or perhaps are lucky enough to have been funded by their family. Either way, money is rarely a concern.
The packing list: backpacker style
Backpacking is generally seen as the epitome of 'back to basics' travel. The name is a giveaway: it's traveling with just a (usually quite large) backpack. Minimalism is key here, so a backpacker will pack only the things they need on a daily basis. Enough to get by if you sink-wash your underwear and socks every few days. But the great thing about the backpacker's backpack is that its contents, whilst limited, are by no means fixed.
Since it's difficult to pack everything you need for changing climates and different activities into one backpack, backpackers are great at swapping and sharing. A thick jumper here, a pair of flip flops there. Some left-behind toiletries or a no-longer-needed camping mat. If you've ever set out on your travels with a single backpack, and returned with that same backpack stuffed with things other than what you left with, you're definitely a backpacker.
The packing list: glampacker style
Glampackers tend to lean towards the 'packing for every eventuality' style of packing. They don't skimp on the packing space, even if it means bringing a full-size suitcase along. Since glampackers tend to have the extra cash to pay for checked hold luggage on flights, they can be a little more lavish when it comes to what they bring.
The contents of a glampacker's luggage is likely to include a bigger range of 'non-essential' items. This can range from a selection of 'going out' clothes (smart shirts or dresses) and grooming items like hair straighteners or smart shoes. A glampacker may also arrive home with things in their suitcase other than what they originally packed, but there are usually things they've brought, rather than borrowed or swapped.
Getting around: backpacker style
Getting around can be part of the fun when it comes to backpacking. The backpacker rarely books onward travel very far in advance, as their itinerary is often unfixed and evolving. Price is usually a priority over the time it takes to get somewhere; it's not unusual for a backpacker to pay €5 to spend 20 hours on a bus. Backpackers also tend to take advantage of car share websites which allow them to pay a small price to ride in the car of somebody else (usually a local) already making the journey. Hitchhiking is another popular technique, depending on the country.
Getting around: glampacker style
The glampacker is much more likely to have their travel booked ahead of time. Glampackers have the budget to travel comfortably, and will avoid the dangers of hitchhiking and car shares. You'll frequently find glampackers on trains, which tend to be faster and more expensive than busses. They're also more likely to be a sucker for taxis and Uber rides, something a backpacker would almost never have the budget for.
Accommodation: backpacker style
For backpackers, accommodation often comes second on the priority list, after reaching the location itself. Getting somewhere is everything; finding somewhere to sleep is a bonus. So whilst the main habitat of the backpacker is the cheap hostel dormitory, it's not uncommon to see one sleeping in an airport or train station. 'Free' is the golden word when it comes to accommodation, so backpackers often seek accommodation through couch surfing websites, or by hitting up friends-of-a-friend-of-a-friend for some floor space wherever they end up. Home-stays are also a popular option, where a backpacker can stay with a local family, often in exchange for childcare or language tuition.
Accommodation: glampacker style
Glampackers are more likely to have planned their accommodation ahead, and the accommodation is generally of higher quality. This doesn't necessarily mean 5 star hotels, but the focus is definitely on hotels rather than hostels. A glampacker prefers the comfort and security of the private, en-suite room, even if they do end up in a (nice) hostel. AirBnB is another favorite, through which the glampacker will secure the short term rent of an apartment in the city they're visiting. For the glampacker, comfort it key.
Whilst the word 'glampacker' is often used with derision, the truth is, there's no right or wrong when it comes to traveling the world. The definitions of 'glampacker' and 'backpacker' are fluid, like any category we try to fit human beings into, and you're likely to be somewhere between the two. The important thing is to get out there and experience what to world has to offer in a way which will be comfortable and enjoyable for you. Embrace your travel style, and enjoy it!