Trekking vs Hiking: Is There a Difference? You’ll Need This 2017
Do you hike? Or do you trek? Most people would say, “What’s the difference”?
By definition alone, they are two different things. But there are a few other factors that make hiking different from trekking such as the locations, the distance, the equipment used, and even the impacts on the environment.
Since I love the outdoors, I often take my boys out with me on hikes but not always on treks. Today, we’re going to put the two head to head, trekking vs hiking, so you can figure out which of the two is the adventure for you.
What Is Hiking?
In a basic way of explaining, hiking is simply an outdoor activity that involves walking in natural environments on trails that have been charted out before. Hiking is done more as a leisurely activity on easy to moderate trails.
Hiking trips usually take about 2 to 8 hours and you end in the same place that you start, meaning the trail is either a loop or you walk back from where you came from after the halfway point.
In hiking, the paths are almost always marked out for you so you can follow the markings without getting lost. Some parks will even give you maps of your trail to make sure you find your way.
But not all hikes are like this; some will have different start and end points. Although, it is more common that you will end up in the same place you started.
Some hiking trips can be overnight trips but they usually don’t go any longer than one night.
Short hiking trips can be anywhere between 2km to 40km, but long-distance hiking trips can reach distances all the way up to 500km. Some of the very, very long distance hikes even reach up to 4,000km!
What Is Trekking?
Trekking, on the other hand, is longer than hikes – up to two or more days longer and often involves camping at certain locations.
Sometimes you can choose to stay in lodges in the area but for the best trekking experience, camping the old school way in tents is the best way to go. Some treks can even last 10 days to a couple of weeks to complete!
In terms of difficulty, trekking is generally more challenging and difficult than hiking, but less difficult and also different from mountaineering – but we can save that for another time.
In trekking, you’ll also end up in a different place from where you start and the distance can range from anywhere between 40km to a few hundred, or even thousand kilometers. There are usually no designated paths on a trek, unlike with a hike.
On a trek, there will be no markings on the trail so you will have to rely on your compass or GPS. This type of navigation is the key differences between a trek and a hike.
There are long distance hikes that can go for as long as a trek, but what makes a trek different from a hike is that hikes will have markings available on a pre-charted trail, but a trek will not.
There is no trail on a trek, there are no pre-charted paths, and there are no markings. You have to find your way through navigation.
The key factor that makes trekking different from hiking is the trail and the way you navigate.
Think of it this way - on a hike, you’ll be walking on a trail that many people have already walked through. These trails have been marked out and charted so you know exactly where you are going.
But on a trek, it is as if you were dropped off somewhere with a compass and a GPS and you embark on an exploration journey with no pre-marked trails. That means, you can walk a path that no one has walked before.
The equipment to bring of course depends on certain things such as the weather and where you will hike in. But in general, you’ll need the very basic outdoor activity gear such as hiking shoes, trail food, and a first aid kit.
What makes the equipment different between trekking and hiking is that trekking will need a lot more camping gear. While some hiking trips can be overnight, you will really just need to pack gear for one night.
For trekking, on the other hand, you will need all the basic equipment that you take on a hike but you may need to bring extra equipment that will help you survive through days or weeks of walking.
Let’s compare the equipment used for both trekking and hiking!
- Hiking shoes and clothes appropriate for the terrain
- Hiking shoes and clothes appropriate for the terrain plus extra clothes depending on how many days you are trekking and what the weather is like.
- Trail food/snacks (trail mix, jerky, nuts, power bars, etc.)
- Trail food/snacks (trail mix, jerky, nuts, power bars, etc.).
- You’ll also need to bring food for a longer period of time. This can be pre-packed food, dehydrated food, or fresh food depending on your preferences.
- First aid kit (bandages, alcohol, medicines, etc.)
- First aid kit (bandages, alcohol, medicines, etc.) but you may need to bring higher quantities and a wider variety of medicines.
For overnight hikes:
- Camping gear is a must since your treks will go for days.
- You’ll need the same camping gear as the ones for hikes (tent, sleeping bag, insulation pads, etc.)
- Survival kit - since a trek is not on a pre-charted or designated trail and there won’t always be places to stop by for supplies, you’ll need a survival kit.
- These include things like a magnesium fire starter, a water purifier or collector, a portable cooker, a multi-tool knife, and an S.O.S/emergency indicator.
- Navigation gear - since there are no markings on your trek, you’ll need a compass, a map, or a GPS to help you find your way.
The environment where you take hikes and treks are similar with only some minor differences. Of course, both hiking and trekking will be in beautiful, natural environments – that’s part of why you want to go in the first place.
Hiking, however, will have trails already available, and the terrain ranges from flat to steep. But in trekking, the areas do not usually have any means of transportation available and the terrain can be more difficult and mountainous.
Like almost all outdoor activities, both hiking and trekking have some impacts on the environment. Over the years, the natural environment and the paths that people walk though can get damaged or destroyed.
Damage to the environment is often caused by gathering and burning wood from the area, leaving fecal matter, and worst of all, leaving non-biodegradable matter all over the hiking trails and base camps.
REMINDER: We only have one earth, so we need to take care of it. Remember to pick up all your non-biodegradable waste and dispose of them properly. If there are no dumpsites, keep them with you until you can find one.
Many people enjoy hiking and they often visit very popular trails so the environment gets damaged much easier because of the constant human interaction.
Trekking takes longer and stretches through a longer span of area so, in some way, it can cause a bit more damage. However, not a lot of people go on treks as compared to hikes so it is difficult to truly gauge the damage done.
As long as everyone remembers to take care of the environment they are either hiking or trekking in, we shouldn’t have to worry too much.
Trekking Vs Hiking In A Nutshell
2 – 8 hours; sometimes overnight
2 days up to a few weeks
Easy to moderate
Moderate to difficult
Flat to steep trails, pre-charted trails
Variation, often more mountainous
Pre-charted trails that are also marked
Path is not pre-charted and no markings are available
Popular areas with readily available trails
Variation, but usually with no modes of transportation available
Basic gear (hiking shoes, holes, trail food and snacks, first aid kit)
Basic gear + camping and survival gear (tents, sleeping bag, compass, GPS, portable cooker, water collector, fire starter, etc.)
What’s Your Adventure
Now that you know the basic difference between hiking and trekking, which is the adventure for you? It’s a good idea to select your adventure based on your experience level.
If you are an adventure newbie and want to start getting into it, you can start with short hikes and work your way to longer treks. You’ll find that it’s a very rewarding experience and you will reap the benefits of being with nature.
If you have any questions and want to know more, feel free to drop some questions below and I’ll happily answer them for you. Feel free to share this with all your adventure buddies as well and get ready for your next hike or trek!