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Trekking vs Hiking: What is the difference?

  • Author: Naba Raj Amgai
  • Posted on: Mon Jul 12, 2021
Trekking vs Hikinig

Trekking and hiking are outdoor activities done on foot that get you closer to nature and are often used synonymously. These are one of the most sought-after activities for people to take a break from their busy lives. Trekking and hiking in Nepal, Bhutan, Switzerland, France, Canada, India, with their deep valleys, green hills, and mountain trails are particularly famous. Although they have their own set of commonalities when it precisely comes to trekking vs hiking these recreational activities certainly have some differences. 

Trekking, often referred to as an adventure sport, is a multi-day hike done on or off-trail, typically in the countryside, getting one with nature. 'Trekkers' are those enthusiasts who engage in such activities. Trekkers worldwide prefer trekking to remote trails, countryside, and Himalayan terrains. Treks are journeys across routes that are strenuous, long, and take more than two days. Tramping is another name given to trekking in some parts of the world.

Hiking is similarly an outdoor activity done usually on pre-established trails but relatively easier and shorter than trekking. Hiking is often done on pre-charted hiking paths in a comfortable environment. 'Hikers' are those individuals who engage in hiking. Hikes are walks across certain trails that are pleasant, less physically demanding, and generally completed overnight.


Difference Between Trekking And Hiking

Topic

Trekking

Hiking

Overview

Long intense multi-day journey on foot on trail or off-trail

Short energetic walk on foot on pre-established hiking trails

Duration

From more than two days to as long as it takes with at least 5 to 7 hours a day 

From one day to overnight with at least 5 hours a day

Distance

Generally from 50 km to 24,000 km

 

Generally from 4 km to 50 km

Trail

The pre-established trail to off beaten route

Pre-established and known hiking trails and paths

Terrain

Can have dramatic changes from hills, pastures, rugged rocky path, plains, plateaus, mountain range, to grasslands and more

The less abrupt change in terrain due to the smaller area covered

Difficulty

More physically demanding and can range from easy, moderate to difficult

Generally easier and less physically demanding

Gears and Equipment

Warm and light clothing, trekking shoes, poles, medical kit, toiletries, personal hygiene kit, duffle bag, and backpack.

Sleeping bag, cooking utensils and supplies, and tent for camping treks. Gaiters, crampons, and warmer clothes for high altitude mountainous trails

Day pack with first aid kit, water bottle, packed lunch, snacks, light clothing, hiking boots, and personal hygiene kit. Sleeping bag and tent for overnight hikes

Preparation

Prior preparation for documentation, permits, gears, and physical fitness with exercise depending upon the type of trek

Short prior preparation, a couple of days before hiking

Examples

Everest Base Camp Trek (Nepal), Annapurna Base Camp Trek (Nepal), Druk Path Trek (Bhutan), Inca Trail (Peru), and more

Adam’s Peak trail (Sri Lanka), Tiger’s Nest Monastery trail (Bhutan), Champadevi Hike (Nepal), El Caminito Del Rey (Spain), and more

 

Although used interchangeably, trekking and hiking have developed significant differences in the modern-day and age. Let's delve more into the difference between the two:

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Trekking Vs Hiking - Terrain

Trekking terrain in most cases involves hikes to areas that do not have specified paths and trails. Trekkers at times even use off-beaten cross-country paths to reach a certain destination. In addition, the terrain can be unfrequented, isolated, and rugged, making it physically demanding. Ideally, trekking terrains range from the forest, high passes, valleys, grasslands, meadows, rice fields, idyllic hamlets, icy glaciers, and more.

Hiking terrains, on the contrary, are more predictable and comfortable. These terrains are mostly precharged and have signposts for hikers which means that there are fewer chances of getting lost along the way. Hikers follow a common terrain that does not frequently change due to the small area coverage. Hiking crosses forests, meadows, grasslands, rivers, but not extreme terrains.

Trekking Vs Hiking - Distance

As the major purpose of trekking is to go beyond the clear path and in-depth exploration of the destination in mind, trekking is a long-distance activity. In general, trekking would involve covering 9 km to 14 km a day with an average of 5 to 7 hours trek. Due to the long journey, there is a possibility of changing the path as well. Hence, at times, the expected distance and duration end up being longer if an unexpected longer route is opted for during the days of the trek.

Hiking covers a shorter distance and takes up less duration than treks. In general, one must be prepared to walk for 5 hours a day. While there are long-distance hikes, they don't go beyond a day or two.

Trekking Vs Hiking - Physical Exertion

Trekking is unpredictable and follows some rough terrain as well. Due to the longer length of treks, it is more physically demanding than hikes. At the end of each trekking day, one might be exhausted, experience back pain and have sore feet depending upon the terrain and trekking hours. In addition to that, trekking may also involve reaching towering altitudes, which means that altitude sickness can be possible beyond 3,500m elevation. These factors only add to the challenge. There are three kinds of treks based on difficulty level:

Easy Trek

Easy Trek involved up to 6 hours of walking per day on daily easy terrain, including ample relaxation and sightseeing time. It generally does not exceed beyond 3,500m to 4,000m and is feasible for almost all age groups, not requiring high physical fitness.

Moderate Trek

Moderate Trek comprises anywhere from 6 to 8 hours of trekking per day in remote areas with rugged terrain. However, it does not exceed beyond 4,000m to 5000m of elevation. It does require an adequate level of physical fitness.

Difficult Trek

Difficult Trek involves 7 to 8 hours of walking on average each day, usually in elevation up to 5,500m. One must be physically fit and have prior hiking or short trekking experience. To prepare for trekking, one can indulge in hiking, swimming, jogging activities before the trek. For example, one of the most popular treks in Bhutan, Snowman Trek, is extremely challenging that crosses high passes in Himalayan terrain and lasts up to 30 days.

Hiking, on the other hand, is not as exhausting as trekking. As it lasts for no more than a day or two in more easygoing and familiar terrain, hikes are less physically demanding. While multi-day hikes can be tiring, there will certainly be time to relax instantly after the hike is over, unlike treks that go on for days on end. All age groups can usually do hiking, and extensive preparation is not required.

Trekking Vs Hiking - Equipment And Gears

Trekking requires you to go to all sorts of terrain, from the easiest to the toughest, walking through different climatic zones. Before trekking, properly assess the requirement for equipment and gears based upon the type of trek. An easy trek would require as much equipment as multi-day hikes. A modern to difficult trek would require heavy and more precise equipment. The equipment can range from light to warm clothes for all parts of the body, sleeping bags, rucksacks, travel bags, raincoats, medical kits, toiletries, personal hygiene, sturdy trekking boots, trekking poles, and more. Trekking in the Himalayas at altitudes higher than 4,500m to 5,500m would require warmer clothing, gaiters, crampons, and more. 

Hiking equipment and gears are much lighter than those needed during trekking. Depending upon the climate and weather, one would require lightweight hiking boots, a trail map, a small first aid kit, light clothing, a raincoat, and personal hygiene products. However, if it is a multi-day hike with camping involved, a camp and sleeping bag for an overnight stay would be needed. 

Although in terms of equipment and gears, there is a significant difference in trekking vs hiking, in both activities one must consider all the possible dangers that may fall while making preparations. Carry what is needed based on the demand of the terrain, climate, and duration. Also, as the number of gears weighs you down, you should generally carry less equipment and gears and find multiple uses for them.

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Trekking Vs Hiking - Accommodation And Food

Accommodation and food are among the most crucial aspects to consider while trekking as it involves staying at different places on different trekking days. Based on accommodation, treks are divided into the following kinds:

Tea House/Lodge Trekking

Tea house trekking is a term popular in the trekking regions of Southeast Asian countries like Nepal and Bhutan. Similarly, Lodge-to Lodge Trekking is a term used for the trails of Peru. It entails staying at a lodge or tea house for the night. These accommodations are established in the most popular trekking trails and have medium to basic facilities, depending upon the remoteness of the location. You would get basic furniture and a bed to sleep on. Food in tea houses and lodges is prepared by the cooks and delivered to you. Food in remote areas is decent, without much variety, and made from products grown locally.

Camping Trekking

As per the name, it involves spending a night in camps/tents. For this kind of classic trek, you will have to set up a camp at the end of your trekking day in a suitable location. The tent will be carried by you or your porter throughout the trek and set up for you. Sleeping bags and torches are a must for this trek. You must also manage fooding facilities after setting up the camp. Hence, you are required to carry all the necessary utensils for preparing food.

On the other hand, there is not as much emphasis on accommodation and food while hiking. As hikes are shorter, they usually complete on the same day, so you go back to where you started. For day hikes, taking packed lunch, snacks, and drinks to have on the way might be enough. However, a multi-day hike may involve camping for the night, where you set up tents and sleeping bags after reaching the desired destination. In such a case, you can take light cooking utensils and less food supply.

Trekking Vs Hiking - Preparation

Preparation for trekking would involve equipping your body depending upon the difficulty level of the trek by eating healthy food and taking up exercise. It would be best to do some research about the destination and the journey as well. You can study about the people, communities, facts about the destination, road conditions, recent news, and more. It is wise to get travel insurance, complete all the documentation, and receive permits. Furthermore, if you are heading to a higher elevation, plan for preventing Acute Mountain Sickness.

Preparation for hiking is rather easier than trekking. A day or two before the hike, you can hire/buy and test your gears and equipment. As you will require some snacks and drinks, prepare enough food to suffice for the duration of the hike. Also, check out the map to plan out how long it would require you to reach the destination with breaks in between. You should also share your plans with friends or family if you are hiking alone.

Benefits Of Trekking And Hiking

Benefits Of Trekking

Despite the in-depth detail on trekking vs hiking, one thing is common - both these activities are equally good for you. They are not just fun but are also beneficial for your body and mind. Following are the benefits of trekking and hiking:

Physical Fitness

These outdoor activities involve intense walking, which burns calories and reduces fat, thus making you fit. As estimated in research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an average person burns 370 calories per hour while engaging in energetic hiking. It improves the flexibility and strength of your glutes, muscles, hamstring, quadriceps, and more. 

Lowers risk of having diseases

Increasing your mobility and keeping yourself fit would directly reduce your risk of falling ill. Many research suggests that these activities can improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels and lower the risk of having heart disease.

Reduces stress

Trekking and Hiking are not just important for keeping your body fit but also helps to keep the mind fit. It is a great stress buster that drags you away from the mental fatigue of using technology all day. Researchers have also found that quality time spent outdoors tends to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.

Keeps the mind sharp

Apart from keeping you stress-free, these activities improve your coordination and sharpen your mind. Exploring new things and navigating through an unpredictable environment can all lead to a sharper mind.

Enhances creativity

Usually, you can find creative inspirations in natural spaces. Studies and tests have found a positive correlation between these activities and creativity. Going out in natural settings will help us connect with ideas in our minds and explore alternatives. The uncertain environment encountered during these activities provokes you to make sudden adjustments as per the situation's demand. It improves your level of quick thinking and problem-solving.

Build relationships with nature

Walking in a lush green forest with the dirt underneath your feet and clouds hovering above keeps you one with nature. It helps you understand the essence of nature and its conservation. You would think more about reducing your carbon footprint if you witness nature's true beauty. Hence, it also promotes you to create less environmental impact.

Build relationships with people

Trekking and Hiking with people around you can help you strengthen your relationship with them. It provides a sense of safety and connection with people who are along with you. On the contrary, even if you travel solo, you will build new contacts and relations with strangers you meet on the way. Some people have made enduring special friendships and families by meeting strangers on their trekking and hiking journeys.

Conclusion

Trekking and Hiking are both stimulating activities that are similar with slight variations. When it comes to trekking vs hiking in western countries like the Nordic, UK, and USA, there is little to no difference.

Moreover, in those countries, the word ‘hiking’ is used commonly for both activities, with rare use of the word ‘trekking’. Contrarily, in South East Asian countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, both the words are used differently depending upon the distance, duration, and terrain. Other words are also used in alteration around the world to describe such activities.

Regardless of the terms used around the world, practicing any of these activities will unlock new perspectives. Trekking and hiking are the most sought-after activities by nature and adventure enthusiasts of all ages around the world. They promote mental and physical well-being while exploring and connecting with nature.



  • Author: Naba Raj Amgai
  • Posted on: Monday Jul 12, 2021

Recent Comments

Trekking vs Hikinig
Preston Patton | Wed Jul 28, 2021
Many Many thanks for this comprehensive blog. Learned lotta things from this blog.
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Naba Raj

About Author - Naba Raj Amgai

Naba Raj Amgai, stepped into the world of travel and tourism in 1996. He is Founder and Managing Director of Third Rock Adventures.

Beginning his journey in the tourism industry as a humble Porter Guide to founding hospitality establishments and an adventure travel company, he has come a long way.

In a career spanning more than two decades, he has achieved more than anybody dreams of achieving. Along with his professional achievements, his selfless contribution towards his community and society has won him a lot of accolades and praises.

Having dedicated more than two decades in the tourism and hospitality sector, he has amassed a wealth of experience.

After passing high school, he began helping out some trekking guides and was soon recruited as a porter guide at a reputed trekking agency. Within a short time, he was individually guiding clients across the well-known trails of the Himalayas.

He went on to lead tour groups on multi-country tours to Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and India. Being a part of mountain climbing expeditions familiarised him with expedition logistics and operations. Later on, he went to become the Executive Director and took over the reins of Operations, Sales and Marketing departments. Spending several years in the tourism field has made Naba Raj Amgai a destination expert.

Travelling is his passion and he has been to many countries across the world – USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, Holland, Germany, Austria and many parts of Asia.

His journeys to different parts of the world have enriched his travel experience and knowledge. This experience has been instrumental in planning and organizing successful trips for several clients.

As of today many reputed travel companies, hotels and restaurants are under his leadership. A dynamic and proactive leader, he continues to inspire and motivate people from all walks of life.

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