What Constitutes Hiking: 5 Main Characteristics Of Hiking

Differentiating between taking a simple walk, going for a hike, or doing trekking is something that many people can have problems with. One would not be wrong to say that the lines can be blurred between these three concepts. 

In today’s guide, we will define walking, hiking, and trekking to help you to better understand the differences between these three kinds of activities. But the main question is: What constitutes hiking? What are the main characteristics that define hiking as an activity?

What Is the Difference between Walking, Hiking, and Trekking?

Before explaining what constitutes hiking, walking, or trekking, we want to say that all three activities can benefit the mind and body. They allow you to clear your mind while getting some exercise. With that being said, you should expect to have quite a different experience when doing each of these activities. Here is why:

1. Walking

Walking involves the lowest level of exercise among these three types of activities. Sometimes, the purpose of walking is just getting from point A to point B, and you will be doing that in a predominantly urban setting. For that, you don’t need any special preparation or any gear. The trip is likely to be short in duration and distance, whereas there can be little to no difference in elevation.

2. Hiking

Hiking involves a higher level of physical exercise than walking. It will most likely not be performed in an urban area but rather in nature or on specific hiking trails. The purpose of a hiking trip is to enjoy the surroundings and visit some beautiful landscape, a mountain peak, or maybe a waterfall. It could be anything that is connected to nature.

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

3. Trekking

Trekking requires the highest physical and mental preparedness and specialized trekking gear. The trip is likely to be long in distance and duration, so you might need to carry a backpack with food and water. Those who go trekking usually focus on the exercise and the challenge that it poses rather than doing it to enjoy the surroundings.

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

What Constitutes Hiking: 5 Main Characteristics

Even though the concepts of hiking, trekking, and walking may seem similar to some, we would like to point out that all these types of exercise constitute different things. If you are interested in what constitutes hiking, we can help you learn more about that in the following part.

Let’s get right into the list of the five most important characteristics that constitute hiking and that everyone should be aware of before they go on their first hiking trip:

1. The Need for a Specific Setting

You need to have a specific type of setting when hiking. The trip will likely not be in an urban area but rather in a secluded spot in nature. It can be a mountain trail or a hilly area that you stroll through.

Another thing that you should know is that there is no walking on paved or asphalted grounds when you’re hiking. Nearly all hiking trails require walking on uneven dirt roads, rocky paths, or even vegetation-covered roads. If you have never done this before, you might think it will be challenging.

That is undoubtedly so, but there is also a benefit that you can get from walking on this type of ground. Namely, when hiking on uneven ground, your mind and body start working together to help you get to the end of the trail. Your mind can slowly relieve itself from the anxiety that everyday life causes. Your body can also change as it slowly starts getting leaner and develops stronger muscles in the long run.

So, as you can see, hiking can be quite an exciting activity that you should try if you want to improve both your body and mindset. With time, you will find that the activity is quite enjoyable even though it does not involve walking on regular roads or pavements.

2. The Difference in Elevation

Another important thing that constitutes hiking is the difference in elevation that you need to have as part of the actual trip. We already mentioned that most hiking trails are usually located in secluded mountain areas. You might be able to take some means of transportation to get to the actual trail, but once you get there, you have to rely on your body to get through the hike.

Hiking trails that include visiting a mountain peak are usually more demanding and have a more significant elevation difference than other trails. You might need to scramble to the peak and get back to the spot you started from, or you might take a different path when climbing down. The air will start getting thinner when climbing to a higher elevation, so you might experience pressure or a slight headache.

If you are new to hiking, you should expect to feel some pain in your legs and muscles after a hike with a significant elevation difference. Those hikes put a more considerable strain on the body. But there’s no need to worry – the pain is just a way for your body to tell you that you are going through some changes and that you are well on your way to getting some lovely, toned muscles. Nevertheless, you should always listen to your body.

3. The Distance and Duration of the Trip

It is safe to assume that you will need at least a couple of hours to finish the entire trip when it comes to hiking. There are day hikes that last only a day, but long-distance trails can take several weeks or months. Whatever type of hike you go with, make sure that you think about your level of physical and mental preparedness before you set off because that is crucial to your ability to finish that hike.

The duration of a hike can also vary depending on a person’s walking or hiking speed. However, you should know that most hiking trails are at least 4 miles long when it comes to the distance. Of course, there can be longer trails, but the shorter ones will not be considered hiking trails.

4. The Need for Planning and Specialized Gear

You cannot just set off on a hiking trip without planning it first. Even if it is a day hike, you need to think about the weather and the type of clothing you will need to get through the trip. Then, you need to consider the amount of water and food you need to take. Lastly, it would be best to consider taking a first aid kit because hiking in secluded areas can include insect bites, falls, cuts, etc.

It is recommended to have a lightweight, waterproof backpack that you can use to store all these things. A chance of clothes, a first aid kit, water, food, and a flashlight are necessary. You can also pack other things you suspect you will need for that trip.

As for specialized gear, trekking trips will call for it more than hiking trips. Still, it is safe to assume that you will need a good pair of hiking boots to walk the entire trail comfortably. Your shoes should always be worn in and waterproof. You should also have a waterproof layer of clothing with you if possible. If not, then a simple raincoat can do the trick.

As you start hiking more often, you can consider investing in better, specialized gear for hiking. Summer hiking does not require much equipment, but you will undoubtedly need some gear for winter hiking. So, hiking can be a somewhat expensive pastime, but it is worth it!

5. The Opportunity to Get Some Exercise

Do you detest going to the gym but still want to exercise? Hiking can help you out as it constitutes at least some exercise. The level of activity you get will depend on the specific trail you are hiking. Still, even the shortest and simplest hiking trail can help you get in shape.

With hiking, you are losing weight and toning your muscles simultaneously. As you start getting into a great shape, you will feel more confident and have better self-esteem. That will all lead to you being physically and mentally healthier than before, which is always a great thing.

If there is one thing you should take away from this, it is that hiking constitutes nothing but positive things for both your physical and mental wellbeing. So, we encourage you to try it for yourself and see if it can help you!

Conclusion: What Constitutes Hiking?

As you can see here, a hike takes at least a few hours, needs some planning time in advance, and takes place in nature – predominantly in mountainous or hilly areas. While the differences between hiking and walking are clear, the differences with trekking are fluid.

Last Update: 09. May 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.