We’re going to the Wild Coast! Next week will see Passepartout leisurely walking the Wild Coast Amble, slackpacking in style.
Today however, it has loosely come to mean hiking without a large pack, and often with some level of comfort or luxury. As well as taking care of your luggage, many companies now offer top-class cuisine and luxurious accommodation after your day of walking, carrying only your camera, some water and perhaps a gourmet snack.
The pioneering slackpackers of the Appalachian Trail have apparently caused quite some consternation in the world of walking, with questions on various internet sites posing puzzlers such as “Is slackpacking morally wrong?” There are valid arguments on both sides of the question, with some people insisting that external support for walkers leads to ecologically damaging infrastructure to be established in remote areas. True hikers also believe that the more you carry and the more distant from ‘civilization’ you become, the closer to nature and more in tune with the wilderness you will be. Others believe that hikes should not be rushed or uncomfortable: part of the slackpacker philosophy is that hikers should wander where their curiosity takes them, not necessarily towards a single destination.
On the other side of the slackpacking coin and — and developed in its defense — is fastpacking (also called powerhiking). These disciplines merge into trail running so that fastpackers (which so sounds like a dirty word if you say it fast) run along their trails as much as possible, taking as few breaks as are absolutely necessary.
Most people, even hardcore hikers, would admit that there is nothing wrong with eco-friendly, responsible slackpacking, and it can even impact the area around the trail beneficially by creating jobs, heightening awareness of a region and opening up areas of beauty to people who might not have been able to experience it. Companies such as Slackpacker SA help local businesses by utilizing regional hospitality. Especially in South Africa, a developing country which places much emphasis on tourism and community development, the trend is having a positive impact and going from strength to strength as it caters for both international tourists and South African holidaymakers excited to see more of their own country.