What is the difference between Hiking and Trekking?

Haven't bathed that morning, Alisha set out to visit her aunt living in the woods. Well, since the distance wasn’t too far apart, she decided to go without a vehicle. On getting to her destination, a thought came to her mind; did she take a hike or trekked?

Some individuals today find it difficult to differentiate when they partake in such activities without being able to strike a clear-cut difference between when they go on a hike and when they trek.

Have you ever wondered for a second what difference is between hiking and trekking? Have you ever thought about why some people say they go hiking and others say they are going on a trek? Both sound similar but are they the same? 

If you have ever contemplated about embarking on any of the activities but don’t know which you want to do, to go trekking or to go hiking or have ever thought about getting an opportunity to understand the difference between hiking and trekking entirely, then this article is for you. 

In this article, I will explain the fundamental differences between hiking and trekking. 

In addition to that, I will also explore some of the benefits of participating in both walking activities, the equipment, and items needed to take with you on such businesses.

Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will know everything about the differences between hiking and trekking and be able to distinguish between the two.

You will also be able to answer the simple yet exciting question Alisha earlier encountered and be sure that you are executing the right choice – hiking or trekking.

Are you confused?

Often, people tend to get befuddled by the actual difference of both activities. Although, in physical movement, you could hardly differentiate both events. 

Hiking and trekking happen to be quite similar activities in the sense that both involve physically moving the body to a particular destination; both hiking and trekking also happen to be outdoor activities undertaken by individuals at some point for several reasons by foot.

You can use both hiking and trekking interchangeably but there is a significant difference between both activities. To fully comprehend the differences between hiking and trekking we need to understand the underlying definition of both events.

According to the Oxford Dictionary of English, trekking could be defined as:  "a long, hard walk lasting several days or weeks, especially in the mountains", while hiking could be described as: "a long walk in the country".

In the same vein, Dictionary.com defines hiking as: "the act of walking or marching a long distance through rural areas which are done for pleasure, exercise or military training".

Understanding Hiking

Hiking is mainly done for recreational purposes, a leisure-like activity to enjoy nature and scenic attractiveness. It involves primarily a slow walk that requires less physical exertion for relatively short distances and periods while enjoying the fascinating beauty of nature and relishing the cool breeze. Also, usually a walk in an already known terrain or a trailed road with human-made signposts to serve as a guide to hikers.

In addition to the growing popularity of hiking amongst tourists, it could also be used as an exercise to shed weight, reduce blood pressure, regulate blood glucose levels and also strengthen specific muscles and hamstring. Hiking as an exercise also lowers the risk of cancer, decreases bone density, and ensures the body absorbs the right doses of some vitamins such as vitamin D.

  • When going on hiking, hikers usually go with their hiking shoes, hiking pole, compass, water, medicine, backpack, headlamps, fire-starting tool, kits for survival such as rain boot and raincoat.
  • When embarking on either hiking closed-toe shoes preferably sneakers has to be worn, high heeled shoes happen to be a terrible idea when going on a hike. You probably don’t want a shoe that will slow you down or drag you behind your hiking mates.
  • A light and comfortable shirt should also be worn instead of heavy traditional attires that may inconvenience the hiker. Insect repellants often come in handy when going on an outing. This feature is to help keep away insects or repel them from certain surfaces of hiking clothes.
  • Depending on the term of the hike, the hiker may also go with a meal, a water bottle or snack pack.

After a hike, you do not only feel the physical and mental significance of the exercise but also added emotional benefits of having spent time with friends, family and immersing yourself in nature. This fact improves the mood of an individual and gets them closer to life. 

Understanding Trekking

On the other hand, trekking is a form of walking in an area of the relatively unexplored scenery of difficulty. Trekking is more of an arduous task which can last for more extended periods of time, ranging from two days to a month or as long as you can carry on depending on the ability of the individual involved, the terrain and the location.

In trekking, much physical exertion is required concerning hiking. It poses more significant risks which are apparent threats to personal safety; this includes but not limited to hazardous terrain as most of these locations are void of signposts and few if any case they exist.

Trekkers also stand a risk of dehydration especially when walking through heights, sunburn, sprains as a result of very long walks or possibly broken bones. Harsh weather conditions could also pose a significant danger to trekkers, becoming lost as a result of lack of a tour guide or out of negligence, attacks by dangerous animals such as snakes, bears, and scorpions are also dangers to be considered while trekking.

  • Trekking, as a rule, is far more challenging and intense than hiking, most times, it is a test for physical fitness, mental doggedness, and perseverance.
  • Sometimes trekking can also denote a lack of option or means of conveying oneself to a particular destination by walking. It could be borne out of necessity when it happens to be the only option in the absence of other means of transportation.
  • Since trekking often takes place in challenging mountainous areas, trekkers usually go with some trekking equipment such as first aid kit, water filter, sun protection, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, map, compass, fire starter, food, and a tent.

Trekking, therefore, could be regarded as more of a rigorous and more intense exercise that could also possess excellent health benefits such as cardiovascular fitness and strengthening of muscles.

It happens to be more expensive about hike. This is because trekkers have to carefully make arrangements for their strenuous walk majorly through a variety of environments and terrains. You can spend more money on meals, backpacking tent, headlamp, supplements such as magnesium, etc. 

Tips to consider

Don’t wake up from sleep one day and decide to embark on a walk without considering the following tips! Else, you might be caught up in the same dilemma like Alisha. 

  • When embarking on either hiking or trekking, it is always advisable to wear trail shoes rather than athletic shoes. This fact is because they tend to provide traction and stability for the feet.
  • You should also consider the financial implications on before embarking on either hiking or trekking because trekking is more expensive than hiking.
  • Your level of physical strength and mental endurance has to be put in endurance as trekking involves a much more extended walk which requires patience.
  • As a tourist in another country, the availability of a useful tour guide with good knowledge of the terrain and culture of the locals should also be put in consideration as this would help to direct you in territories where there are no trails or signposts. An excellent tour guide could also help you understand better the cultural heritage of the location.
  • Don’t forget to go with a high-quality camera like DSLRs. You can lose moments, but pictures always bring back good memories. So before embarking on either activity ensure you go with a camera as this would come in handy in capturing breathtaking and enthralling moments which probably you can’t recollect. 

Hiking vs. Trekking  

The main difference between the two is that hiking is mostly a relaxation movement which finishes by strolling on well-made trails and human-made streets. However, trekking is more rigorous, a more challenging activity and an additionally tricky action. It tests one's physical capability, endurance, and even their mental and psychological limit and capacity.

If you are going on a multi-day outing, then you are on trekking and if any less time than that means you are on hiking expedition.

Many people use hiking and trekking synonymously, but there are distinctions between both activities.

While hiking and trekking are similar in that both events seek to explore the beautiful panoramas or sceneries, both activities also tend to bring individuals closer to nature, the culture, tradition, and religion of a particular location of interest. Despite the seemingly endless similarities between these two activities, fundamental differences, however, do exist between them such as the intensity, the duration, terrain, etc.

  • Trekking involves walking in remote and difficult terrains which often are without trails; hiking, on the other hand, is more inclined to a recreational activity which is usually partaken on an individual basis or with family and friends.
  • Of both activities, hiking is a casual way to get exercise and be immersed in nature while trekking is an adventurous and mental toughness test. Hiking in some cases can be dangerous due to the isolative nature of some areas, lack of adequate preparation and fatigue.
  • Hiking in itself involves a lesser degree of risk as compared to trekking. Hiking can, therefore, be seen as the first step of difficulty when engaging in walks as it involves walking in well-marked trails with relatively moderate difficulty.

Raymond Inmon previously said “If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk”. Although both activities are entirely different, they provide similar benefits which will be discussed briefly below.

Exploring the Open

When individuals, mainly tourists engage in either hiking or trekking, they examine the great scenes of natures, the mountains, the woods, the fresh cool breeze and others thus providing an enthralling experience of serenity.

Availing oneself the privilege to see plants and animals live peacefully in their natural habitat. Nature becomes much closer to them as the many splendors, and facets of nature unravel before them as they walk.

Closer Relationship with Loved Ones

Either hiking or trekking can be embarked on by an individual, but it can also be done along with friends and family thereby creating a much more significant bond of affection amongst them. It affords individuals the much-needed quality time to be spent with their dear and loved ones. All in all, hiking and trekking both improve your emotional health.

Health Benefits

Individuals can undertake hiking and trekking as a means of exercise. This point helps reduce stress, and you can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. As discussed earlier in this article, both hiking and trekking play pivotal roles in the keeping the body fit and free from certain conditions.

Life Long Memories

Ever dreamt of coming across those magnificent, immovable mountains, plains, rivers, sun rays of dusk, wonderful waterfalls, the cold caress of the snow scented breeze, all these dreams could be made a reality when you embark on an adventure.

Hiking and trekking, both, bring lifelong memories of our splendid encounter with nature, friends and loved ones. 

New Cultural Acquaintance

Hiking or trekking through a relatively unknown location or terrain gives one the rare opportunity to more about the culture and tradition of that particular area. They get to share experiences with others in their desired location of hike or trek thereby gaining more insight into the constitutional norms and religion of that particular people.

So, having known the differences between both activities, one might also ask, which is better for hiking and trekking? Did Alisha trek or hiked?

I believe you must now have been in an excellent position to help Alisha fully understand the particular recreational activity she partook in. As it is said that a journey of a thousand mile begins with one step, so whether you trek or you hike, it all depends on you as an individual to decide.

Either way, "In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks" – John Muir. 

Babette Lugo
 

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