When you’re talking about an outdoor adventure in a forest or mountain, you might use the words hiking and trekking interchangeably. But after taking both hikes and treks, I can assure you that these two words refer to completely different outdoor activities!
Hiking involves vigorous walking or climbing on established trails and routes. Trekking includes cross-country traveling, which usually takes place away from pre-existing trails. Hiking trails usually only take one day to complete, while treks can last several days or weeks.
In essence, a hike is a day trip up a mountain path, while a trek is more like a journey to travel through a whole forest. Although there are many similarities between hiking and trekking, the two activities require different equipment and skill sets. To help you understand the difference between the two, we’ll cover some comparisons between hiking and trekking, recommend equipment, and provide some tips for beginners.
Compare and Contrast
Before we get into the difference, it’s worth noting that hikes and treks do have many similarities. These activities both take place in outdoor environments and they are often located in scenic natural areas.
There is usually a specific destination for both hikes and treks, although the journey to get there is also part of the experience. Sightseeing is a major element of both and there are often landmarks and noteworthy spots that make the journey worth the effort.
Trails for both hikes and treks can be found all over the world and they appear in a wide range of environments. They can cover mountains, forests, deserts, or jungles, so there are no geographical limits to where they might appear.
However, despite all they have in common, hiking and trekking are different in many ways.
Hiking is considered to be a leisure activity and many hikes are comparable to nature walks. Hikes take place on well-worn and established trails. Some trails might even be paved. Most of them are marked by fence posts, signs, or other trail markers.
Although hiking is generally easier than trekking, hikers can also cover a variety of terrains or slopes, so there is a wide range of difficulty. The difficulty of any given hike will depend on the trail’s length, elevation, climate, and the hiker’s level of ability.
I’ve taken many hikes that my grandma had no issue with, as well as others that left experienced hikers gasping for breath every 5 minutes.
Hikes are designed to be fairly short and most of them can be completed in a single day. Occasionally there might be a trail that lasts overnight, in which case travelers should pack camping gear. This is where the line becomes blurred between hiking and backpacking though. For the sake of simplicity, hikes are short-term activities that only take one day to complete, while backpacking takes 2-3 days.
Hikes are a great way to connect with nature and get a bit of fresh air! This activity is a good gateway to the world of outdoor foot travel and it helps you build stamina for longer adventures in the future.
In contrast to the well-established trails and paths of hiking, trekking is an extended cross-country journey. While there may be certain routes that travelers follow, the overall terrain is much more rough and wild. You might say that trekking takes place on the road less traveled!
Trekking takes much longer than hiking and trekkers might spend days or weeks living outdoors. Because of this more isolated approach, trekkers need to carry a lot more survival gear on the trail with them. In addition to the standard hiking staples like water bottles and sunscreen, trekkers need overnight gear, extra food, and navigating tools.
Many treks include planned stops for food and sleep along the way, so you don’t always end up sleeping under the stars. Cabins and lodges are scattered along many paths and these stops can be great ways to connect with locals and learn more about the area.
Treks are much longer than hikes and require a higher level of endurance as a result. It can also be nice though because you can take them at your own pace and explore the natural area more thoroughly. The longer route and isolated setting have made many treks take on a spiritual significance. Some treks are even viewed as pilgrimages and may be seen as a right of passage.
No matter what a trek means to you, it’s important to be well prepared before setting out. A lot more can go wrong on treks because of the extended outdoor exposure, long journey, and natural hazards associated with cross-country travel.
Equipment for Hiking and Trekking
What are the things i need for a trek that i don’t need for a hike?
Now that we’ve covered the basic differences between hiking and trekking, you should be able to tell which one will work best for you. But before you can hit the trail, you need to be prepared for whatever nature throws at you! No matter what your level of experience is, you’ll need to bring along some good equipment.
To have the best possible experience, both hiking and trekking require gear like a backpack, sturdy hiking boots, maps, hiking poles, sunscreen, a first-aid kit, high-calorie snacks, and several good water bottles.
Although there is some overlap between the two, hikes and treks both require some specific gear. For more suggestions, you can also check out our list of tried and true gear.
Tips for Beginners
Both hiking and trekking can both be done by amateurs, but there are some important things to keep in mind before you start planning your big adventure.
- Start at your comfort level
Of the two activities, hiking is much easier to get started with. The pre-established trails, higher rate of traffic, and shorter routes make this a more accessible hobby to get started with. There’s no need to rush into intense hikes or treks that you’re not ready for, and it can actually be quite dangerous to do that!
- It’s okay to end early
Once we start something, we want to see it through to the end. It’s human nature and it can drive people to do amazing things! But sometimes external circumstances make it necessary to end our trip sooner than expected.
Whether it’s an unexpected storm, a bout of sickness, or just plain exhaustion, some trips need to end early. It doesn’t feel good to cut a journey short, but sometimes we have to for our own safety. There’s no shame in this, so please keep an eye on your physical state and be prepared to go home early if necessary.
- Expect the unexpected
As much as we plan for hikes and treks, unforeseen situations can strike at any time on the trail. It’s important to pack for any occasion, even if it sometimes feels like overkill. It’s much better to bring a flashlight and not need it than wish you had one when you’re lost at night.
Prepare for lots of possible dangers, even if they seem unlikely. Make sure you always tell someone where you’re going, when you’ll check in, and when you expect to be home.
- Never travel alone
It might sound nice to travel with just you and your thoughts, but hiking alone is extremely dangerous. Wild animals will be more drawn to a single target, and you won’t have any backup if you face injuries or health problems on the trail.
Plus, it’s good to have company! This is especially true if you’re going to be trekking and spending days in the wilderness. Bring someone along to help pass the time and share the experience.
- Test your equipment beforehand
You have to rely on your equipment quite a bit when you’re out in nature. You’re isolated from the comforts of home and can’t access anything you didn’t bring with you. So if something breaks or runs out, you can’t resupply until you reach civilization again!
Because of this, it’s important to use high-quality equipment and test it out before you hit the trail. Again, this is particularly important for trekkers who will be using the same equipment over the course of several days or weeks. Invest in high-quality gear so you can have the best experience possible.
Both hiking and trekking are fantastic ways to connect with nature and keep your mind and body healthy. They both require different skill sets and gear, but both activities can become a fulfilling part of your life.
At the end of the day, all you need to do is stay safe, plan ahead, and enjoy every minute of it!
To upgrade your backpacking experience check out our recommended backpacking gear. This is the gear that I use whenever I want to stay the night in the outdoors. Keep in mind, however, that these items are not necessarily all the highest-end items. My goal on this page is to recommend gear that is priced really well while still maintaining a high-quality standard. This is the stuff I use.
Hiking is one of my favorite ways to get some fresh air and explore a new area! However, it isn’t always an easy hobby and there are some risks that every hiker has to prepare for. Some dangers are out of our hands, such as bad weather or wild animals blocking the trail. But there are other mistakes that are easy to avoid if you take the right steps!
If you get bored during hikes and backpacking trips, you can add some entertainment by listening to music/podcasts, playing games on the trail, setting personal challenges, and collecting trailside items. Traveling by yourself can be boring, so find a friend or a group to go with you.