What’s The Difference Between Hiking And Walking?

Many people wonder what the difference between hiking and walking is. How are these two types of movement defined?

We will show you the difference and explain why both are astonishing good for your body and soul. I’m pretty sure after reading this article, you will feel like going out.

How Is Hiking Defined?

Some of the main characteristics of hiking are the following:

  • Duration: A typical hike lasts from several hours to a whole day, depending on the chosen route. The hike usually takes place at the weekend or during the vacation. If you are also a fan of camping, you can stretch the hike over several days and spend a few nights in nature (don’t forget to pack your flashlight!).
  • Planning: You don’t just go on a hike spontaneously. The planning of an actual hike takes time. Who comes with you? When do your companions have time? Do you need more equipment? Which food do you want to prepare for the hike? These are just some questions that need to be answered in advance.
  • Equipment: You don’t go on a hike in your everyday clothing. It would help if you had at least hiking boots and a hiking backpack to put food and water in. More equipment is optional, but there is a lot of stuff hikers take with them (more about this later).
  • Active recreation: When hiking, you enjoy nature and actively recover from the stress of everyday life. Even if hiking isn’t considered a sport, you will move a lot but in a relaxed way.
  • Fitness level: Hiking is much more exhausting than walking. Especially slopes will cost you a lot of energy. You should have a minimum level of fitness or choose a short trail. But: Even people with physical disabilities can hike: Read our article about adaptive hiking.
  • Route length: It isn’t easy to define a route length for a hike, but it’s definitely longer than a walk. It also depends on the terrain: In flatlands, you make more miles a day than in the serpentines of a mountain, for example. But to give you a number: Most hikes are between 5 and 20 miles long.
  • Terrain: Hiking takes place in nature. The terrain could be a forest, flatlands, or a mountainous area. The trail is usually natural and not paved.

How Is Walking Defined?

Now that we know what hiking is all about: What about walking?

  • Duration: A walk is short in time. It can be anything between 5 minutes and 1 or 2 hours.
  • No equipment required: You usually don’t take any equipment with you for a walk. You don’t need special shoes or a backpack.
  • No planning required: You don’t plan on going out for a walk. This happens out of routine or spontaneously. There is no need to plan a route.
  • Short distance: Most walks are just 1 or 2 miles long. On a long Sunday afternoon, maybe some people go on a walk for 4 miles. There is no rule or a fixed length of a route.
  • Fitness level: Practically anyone can go out for a walk (of course, there are exceptions).
  • Terrain: Walking almost always takes place on paved paths.
  • Goals: A walk is often combined with a special goal like buying groceries or walking the dog.

When Does a Walk Become a Hike?

There is no set rule to answer this question. But: When you are in nature, have a backpack on your back and go for more than 1 or 2 miles, chances are high that you are on a hike. If you’re in the city and look at shop windows, you’re on a walk.

Both Hiking and Walking Have Benefits for You

Walking and hiking both have similar benefits for your health. They…

  • Increase your stamina
  • Strengthen your cardiovascular system
  • Give you positive energy
  • Burn some calories
  • Reduce stress
  • Boost your immune system
  • … and so on

Just see walking and hiking as a complete package for your body and soul. Both types of movement positively influence all parts of your health.

What Equipment Do You Need for Hiking?

Do you plan to go on a hike? Then it would help if you considered getting at least some of the following equipment:

  • Hiking boots: Hiking boots are essential when going on a hike, especially in mountainous terrain. They stabilize you, and they prevent you from twisting. When buying hiking boots, you should not save money for worse quality.
  • Weatherproof clothing: Your clothes should fit the weather. While this isn’t a big deal in the summer, you should be prepared against rain and coldness in autumn and winter. Very important are a rain cape, gloves, a beanie, or anything similar that prevents your head from losing body heat.
  • Hiking backpack: If you go on a hike for a whole day, you need to take some stuff with you, such as food and water. Of course, the hiking backpack should be of high quality. The backpack should fit snugly and not restrict your freedom of movement. If it feels uncomfortable, you will regret not buying a better one.
  • Navigation: It is advisable to take orientation aids such as a compass or a map with you. If your chosen hiking trail is far from civilization, you should really rely on navigation aids without a battery that can go flat.
  • Sunglasses: There is nothing more annoying than having the sun in your eye all day long. Therefore take sunglasses with you.
  • Water/food: Be aware of how long the hike will take and take accordingly to this plenty of water and food with you (further reading: 10 best snacks for hiking in hot weather).
  • First aid kit: Accidents happen – especially in nature. Take a first aid kit with you – just in case.

What Types of Hiking Trails Exist?

There are short hiking trails and long-distance hiking trails which can be several hundred miles long. Most hikers choose certain stages of these long-distance hiking trails and complete them within a day. Hikers rarely run the entire route because this would involve camping and more free time.

A special kind of hiking trail is the circular hiking trail. Here the start and stop points are the same.

Around most hiking trails near civilization, you will find refreshment stops and overnight accommodations. But in most cases, it’s cheaper and healthier to bring your own snacks.

Last Update: 23. March 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.