What’s The Difference Between Hiking And Trekking?

Hiking and trekking are two terms that are often used interchangeably. However, if you look into their meaning, you will find that they are somewhat different. They do have some things in common, but there are quite a few notable differences you should be aware of.

Today’s guide will discuss the difference between hiking and trekking to help you better understand what separates these two terms. Both are pretty exciting and fun activities that we encourage you to try out. But before you hit the trails, let us talk about what makes the two activities different and what they have in common.

How Are Hiking and Trekking Defined in the Dictionary?

After reading the introduction, you must have understood that hiking and trekking are somehow different. This much is true, but what is it that separates the two? The easiest way to clarify this is to look into the definitions of hiking and trekking in the dictionary:

  • Definition of hiking: According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the noun hiking refers to a “long walk, especially for pleasure or exercise“.
  • Definition of trekking: As for the noun trekking, the same Merriam-Webster dictionary explains that it’s a “trip or movement, especially when involving difficulties or complex organization“. Furthermore, it states that the same term can be used as “an arduous journey” or even an “organized migration by a group of settlers“.

There might be different explanations in different dictionaries or encyclopedias regarding these two terms. Still, they all revolve around the same idea. That idea is that a hike is a more straightforward, shorter walk in nature. On the other hand, a trek is a longer, more demanding walk in the wilderness.

While this much is enough to show some of the differences between these two activities, we want to go even further to help you understand them better. So, we will tell you more about the main characteristics of both hiking and trekking in the following section.

What Are the Main Characteristics of Hiking?

Hiking has become quite popular nowadays. It’s a great way to connect with nature while getting a bit of exercise. But what constitutes hiking exactly? We want to point out three things that would help you understand what hiking is all about:

1. Established Hiking Trail

Before hiking, it’s smart to look at the designated hiking trails in the region you would like to hike. You don’t need to take off and hope for the best – for hiking, you need to find an established trail.

This is because, in nature, there can be slopes, dead ends, or even wild animals that you may come across, which can be dangerous. You should do your best to avoid such dangers, and what better way to do that than stick to your trail.

2. Shorter Duration and Distance

Hiking is usually a short walk in nature. You should expect to walk anywhere from 4 to 40 miles, depending on your level of preparation and the specific trail you choose. If you go with a long trail, you might need to consider where and how you will spend the night.

A hike will usually last a half day to two days. Anything longer than that will not be a hiking trip – it will be classified as a camping, backpacking, or trekking trip. So, expect a hiking trip to be short in duration and distance.

Further reading: What’s the difference between hiking and walking? 

3. Fun Activity

Finally, hiking is something that should be fun. The purpose of going on a hike is to have some fun as you are doing it.

Admittingly, if you are not in the best shape ever or have not been hiking for a while, you might face some difficulties getting through the trip. But overall, a positive mindset and attitude can result in an incredible journey you want to repeat as soon as possible.

What Are the Main Characteristics of Trekking?

Now that you know all about the characteristics of hiking, we want to get you acquainted with the characteristics of trekking. These will help you better understand what constitutes trekking, so let’s get right into them.

1. No Need for an Established Trail

While hiking takes place on established hiking trails, the same cannot be said for trekking. Some treks can happen on designated trails, but such trails are not always necessary. A trek can also happen on dirt roads, mountains, wilderness, and other similar places.

2. Longer Duration and Distance

A trek is much longer than a hike in duration and distance. Whereas a hike usually lasts one or two days, the trek lasts at least two days. It can be anywhere from a few days to a few months. Again, it depends on the specifics of the trip.

During the trek, you can expect to cross anywhere from 15 or 25 miles to a couple of hundred miles. Some of the most demanding treks in the world can be as long as 10,000 miles, so you should check the requirements of a specific trek before you agree to do it. However long the trek turns out to be, we don’t doubt that you will have fun during it.

3. The Goal Is a Particular Destination

The purpose of a trek is to have fun. It can be a cross-country trek, a mountain trek that takes you to the peak, or any other trek with a clear goal. While you will undoubtedly have fun on the trekking trip, the trip’s primary goal is not that – it’s to reach a particular destination. So, if you have a specific destination in mind that you would like to visit, check to see if any trekking trip can take you to that destination.

What Equipment Is Needed for Hiking?

The trails, distance, duration, and goal are not the only things that separate hiking trips from trekking ones. The equipment needed for both kinds of trips is also somewhat different. If that much is clear, we would want to get into the list of equipment that is necessary for most hiking trips.

1. Good Hiking Shoes

For shorter, less demanding hikes, you can take a pair of sneakers that you find comfortable. The more challenging a hike is, the bigger the need for special hiking shoes.

These shoes can be expensive, so you should consider investing in them only if you are planning on hiking often. Otherwise, you can rely on some regular running shoes that provide good ankle and arch support as well as comfort.

2. A Small Backpack

Backpacks are necessary for any trip because of the things you need to take. If you are going on a short hiking trip, be careful not to overpack or bring something you don’t need. Taking only the essentials is a good idea because you don’t need anything to weigh you down. The essentials should include food and snacks, sun protection, a first aid kit just in case, and maybe a change of clothes.

Further reading: Why a flashlight is important when hiking

3. Walking Poles

Walking poles are a smart investment because they take some pressure off your feet and distribute it to your hands. That way, you get both an upper and lower body exercise and more support while walking. The poles are great for uneven terrain hikes, so consider taking them on such trips.

4. Sun and Water Protection

For sun protection on a short hike, you can use either some sunscreen or a hat. Both are a good idea, while you can also throw a light flannel on if you need to protect your arms further. This is a must for people who have lighter skin because sunburns aren’t pleasant or healthy.

As for water protection, you should consider taking a waterproof jacket or a raincoat. The shoes you are wearing should also be waterproof. As for the clothing, we suggest taking an extra pair of leggings or trousers as well as another shirt that you can put on if you happen to come across some rain.

5. First Aid Kit

The first aid kit’s great because it can help clean any wounds, scratches, or bites you experience. There can be a lot of branches, grass, and bugs that can cause trouble on a hike. If you happen to be allergic to something, take medicine to prevent the allergic reaction and be extra careful from the moment you start the hiking journey.

6. Some Food and Water

Depending on the duration of your trip, always take enough food, snacks, and water. For summer hiking trips, taking enough water is a must. The snacks or food you pack should be rich in fats and proteins to boost your energy.

7. Shelter

If you plan to take an overnight hiking trip, you should pack a tent, sleeping pad, or sleeping bag. If you don’t have a tent, you can also try sleeping in a hammock. That can be equally comfortable but twice more exciting because it’s unusual.

For hiking trips in colder weather, consider packing a quilt or a small blanket that you can use for added warmth.

What Equipment Is Needed for Trekking?

Now that you know all about the equipment needed for a hiking trip, let’s see which parts of that equipment you can also use for a trekking trip. Here is a list of the things you must take with you on all your trekking trips:

1. Quality Hiking Boots

Unlike hiking trips that don’t always require specialized footwear, you will need a pair of quality hiking boots for your treks. The boots should support your ankles and arches; they should be waterproof or water-repellent, while the soles should be comfortable.

A word of advice is always to buy boots that fit you perfectly. If the boots are too large or too small, they will cause discomfort and even blistering. Also, wear the boots before you take them on a trip if you want to avoid having problems with them.

2. Specialized Clothing

By specialized clothing, we mean that you need some waterproof clothing that is also anti-smelling. Since trekking trips tend to last longer, you will have to reuse the clothing without being able to wash it between uses. Having anti-smelling clothing that offers multiple-use options is a great idea, so we recommend investing in that type of clothing. Socks and underwear that are suitable for treks are also smart investments.

3. Larger Backpack

Trekking trips almost always require you to have more clothes, food and water, gear in general, and even more sheltering options. You will need to fit these things, so investing in a large backpack can be smart. Since you will carry a lot of weight on your back, find a backpack with back support and adjustable straps.

4. Trekking Poles

As we mentioned with the hiking poles, the trekking poles are an excellent option for uneven, rocky, or dirt terrain. This is because they offer more support, distribute the pressure between the legs and arms, and offer comfort since you can lean on them while resting.

These poles should not be expensive, so investing in them should not be a problem. There are many options to choose from, so find some quality poles made from durable material. That way, you will be able to use them for years.

5. Sun and Water Protection

Whether it’s regular sunscreen, a cap, a flannel, or something else that can protect you from the sun, we suggest you take it. If the trip is in the summer and on a trail where you are exposed to direct sunlight, you will surely need each of these things. So, don’t hesitate to pack them.

As for water protection, you will need a waterproof layer of clothing and a waterproof cover for your tent and backpack. Since trekking trips last a while, there is no telling when the weather could turn for the worse. It’s better to be prepared for anything than to deal with a rainstorm without water protection.

6. Shelter

A spacious tent with waterproofing is a must for trekking trips. In it, you can store everything you carry with you. A sleeping pad should be enough for summer trips, whereas a sleeping bag is necessary for cold-weather treks. Most tents and sleeping gear come with temperature ranges, so check to see if they suit your needs.

7. Accessories

As for accessories, they are no less important. In this category, we would place the first aid kit, sunglasses, a knife, a flashlight or headlamp, some means of navigation, and so on. It would be best to take sealed containers with food, water, and things you will use to cook the food.

What Is the Common Ground of Hiking and Trekking?

We have talked all about the difference between hiking and trekking. We also briefly mentioned that there are some similarities between them. If you are wondering about the common ground between hiking and trekking, we can give you a short overview. Here are the few things that hiking and trekking have in common.

1. They Offer Health Benefits

It’s common knowledge that activities such as hiking and trekking can offer quite a few health benefits. These activities are great for improving the work of the heart and lungs and can also help prevent heart diseases. Furthermore, they can lower blood pressure and keep it at a safe level.

If you ask us, this is enough to get someone to try hiking or trekking at least once.

2. They Help Lose Weight

Hiking and trekking can also prove helpful in shedding the extra pounds. Instead of going to the gym, you can replace that with a hiking or trekking trip that gives you the same amount of exercise, if not even more. Make sure you start with the shorter trips and work towards the more demanding journeys.

Further reading: Why does hiking burn so many calories? 

3. They Can Improve Mental Health

Hiking and trekking are great for lowering anxiety, stress, and dealing with depression. If you hike or trek regularly, you will start feeling more creative, more inspired, and more self-assured. With that, you will love yourself more and learn to love the world around you more. These things will inspire positive thoughts and help you have a more positive life.

4. They Connect You to Nature

Finally, hiking and trekking are great ways to escape the chaos of everyday life. They offer you the chance to reconnect with nature and its many beauties, so don’t miss out on that chance. Trust us when we say that it can indeed be life-changing!

Conclusion: What’s the Difference between Hiking and Trekking?

If you are a newfound hiking and trekking enthusiast, this guide can provide you with must-know information on these activities. We encourage you to read the guide and learn more about the similarities and differences between hikes and treks. Remember that while hikes are generally shorter and less demanding, treks are more challenging, longer in duration and distance, and require more specialized gear.

Whether you decide to hike or trek, we don’t doubt that you will have a splendid time doing it. These activities are enjoyable and can benefit your body and mind. So, don’t hesitate to try them out as soon as you can!

Last Update: 14. June 2022
About the Author

My name is Thomas, and I love the outdoors. I'm currently living in Germany and I would like to encourage my readers to go outside with this blog. Here you can read more about me.