You have probably heard people use the terms trekking and hiking interchangeably. This can be quite confusing to people who are new to both recreational activities. Chances are, you have wanted to know whether differences exist between trekking vs hiking.
If you have wanted to know whether going for a walk in the woods is a trek or a hike, this article should help you. In this guide, we will explore the difference between hiking and trekking.
Trekking vs Hiking: What is the Difference?
To help you understand the difference between trekking and hiking, we will look at the definition, terrain in which the activities take place, the distance, time, equipment used, physical exertion, the safety, and the environmental impact. After going through these major areas, you should have a good idea of the differences existing between trekking and hiking.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the term hike refers to a long walk, especially for exercise or pleasure. The same dictionary defines the term trek as a movement or trip, especially when involving complex organization or difficulties. The dictionary calls trek an arduous journey.
From the definitions, one thing you can determine is that the main difference between trekking and hiking is in terms of difficulty. Basically, compared to hiking, trekking is more difficult.
In most cases, the location of the trails is a significant difference between hiking and trekking. The 2 activities often take place in varying terrains.
After putting on their hiking boots and grabbing their hiking backpacks, hikers generally follow an established trail. This suggests that hiking usually takes place in a more predictable terrain. Most of the hiking trails do feature signposts – this helps reduce the chances of getting lost.
Trekking generally involves moving from one point to the other, without following an established trail. In most instances, to get to the destination, the trekkers have to cross-country walk over a wide range of terrains.
Overall, while hiking, you may walk up a commonly used mountain trail. On the other hand, when trekking, you will probably end up creating your own trail when climbing the same mountain.
In most cases, when hiking, a set distance for a specific hike will be set. When packing their backpacks, hikers often include a map showing where they are going, the distance they will be covering, and maybe what to expect en route.
On the other hand, when you grab your trekking poles and decide to go on a trek, you won’t have a set distance to your destination. Generally, trekking will involve changing paths to avoid a wide range of obstacles.
While it is possible to take a long hike, even one that goes for 15 miles or more, treks are usually much longer. While you may have a set distance for the trek, the expected distance will probably end up changing depending on the path you decide to take. Since hiking takes place in an established trail, maintaining the exact distance is possible.
For hikers, the necessary equipment varies depending on a couple of factors. The main factors affecting the hiking equipment are the weather (whether it is cold or warm) and the time of the hike (whether you intend to hike overnight or you will be hiking during the day).
For a simple hike, hiking shoes (preferably waterproof), weather-appropriate clothing, a trail map, compass, water, food, and a first aid kit are generally enough. If you will be hiking at night, you will require a source of light and maybe a place to sleep.
Apart from what one would take on a hike, trekking usually requires a sleeping bag and tent for camping, water filters, fire lighting tools (these could be flint or matches), survival kit, insect repellent, and a trekking pole.
What one carries when hiking or trekking largely depends on personal preference. A crucial thing to keep in mind, however, is that trekking often requires more equipment compared to hiking.
For both activities, bulk and weight often limit the amount of equipment carried. The leave-no-trace policy, which applies to both outdoor recreational activities, generally requires that the carried equipment have alternative or multiple uses. Both hikers and trekkers carry equipment to aid with mitigating the dangers associated with the trekking and hiking – the dangers may include animal attacks, internal injuries (such as ankle sprains), frostbites or sunburn, hypothermia, dehydration, and getting lost.
The physical exertion experienced during hiking largely depends on the trail you choose to follow. Generally, hikes can be anywhere from relatively exhausting to mildly difficult. Before leaving home, you can predict the physical exertion to expect when hiking – this is basically because hikers follow a predetermined path.
Trekking is very unpredictable. A trek can be both easy and smooth one moment, only to turn downright difficult the next moment. Having to cut your own trekking trails means that you will not have an idea of what to expect around the next bend.
Due to its unpredictability in terms of physical exertion, excellent physical condition is one of the major requirements for almost every trek. In most instances, after spending a day trekking, you will be most likely extremely sore and very tired when you finally decide to lay down on your bed (or sleeping pad if you will be sleeping in the wilderness) for the night.
Overall, while hiking is a great workout capable of helping you burn calories, trekking is both physically and mentally exhausting. Not having a set trail that you will be following and having to deal with the unknown ahead is not easy. Unless you know you can handle both mental and physical exhaustion, hiking may be a more ideal activity.
Going out in the woods means that you will have to deal with the element of danger. This means that both hiking and trekking are not 100% safe. However, given the environment in which the 2 activities take place in, safety is a major difference between hiking and trekking.
When comparing trekking vs hiking in terms of safety, hiking is much safer. When hiking on an established path, there is a very high likelihood of help arriving much more quickly when you need it. If you get lost, someone will have a reasonable idea of where you might be – locating you won’t be much of a problem.
On the other hand, when you are trekking, if you happen to be in a jam, reasonable assistance expectation does not exist. If you happen to injure yourself or get lost, you cannot expect someone to send help – no one has a good idea of where you are. In most instances, if you get lost, people will not start looking for you until days after you were expected to return from your trekking adventure. When trekking, you will have to rely more on your own skills to survive.
While you can hike alone, especially if it is a short-day hike, trekking alone is not a good idea. When trekking, you should be in the company of other people. Trekkers have to rely on each other since getting third-party help on time is often hard.
To reduce the impact that they have on the environment, both trekkers and hikers do follow the leave no trace principles. This helps increase the chances of leaving the environment just as they had found it. However, when comparing trekking vs hiking in terms of environmental impact, trekking tends to have a more significant impact compared to hiking.
Hundreds of hikers on the same trail over the years can cause unexpected damage to the environment. The commonly observed damage includes wood depletion and damages caused by campfires, often started by night hikers. Since not all hikers are willing to take all the necessary measures to observe the no trace principles, non-biodegradable and fecal matters often contaminate the watersheds found near the hiking trails.
Trekking has the same environmental impacts as hiking. The only difference between the 2 is that treks are much longer than hikes. This often causes increased impacts on the environment.
While a hike may take only a day, a trek could take several days. During the several days, trekkers may end up disposing of more non-biodegradable waste or impacting the environment in other ways. For trekking, the major environmental impacts exist in the camping areas.
Globo Surf Overview
At this point, you already understand the difference between hiking and trekking. Of the 2, trekking is generally more demanding. Trekking takes place in challenging environments and uncharted paths – when going on a trek, you won’t have a good idea of the route you need to follow to get to your destination. Hiking features pre-charted paths, often called hiking trails.
Due to the challenging nature of trekking, being physically fit is an important requirement for the activity. Also, since trekking usually takes more than a single day, it is important that you have both enough food and equipment to help you camp comfortably in the wilderness.
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- Hiking vs. Trekking, Diffen.com