Hiking vs Trekking – What is the Difference?


Hiking vs Trekking

If you like the outdoors, you have probably heard the two terms hiking and trekking.  Many people use the terms as if they are the same thing, but that is pretty different.  What is the difference between hiking and trekking?

Hiking and trekking are different activities due to the length and intensity level.  A hike is typically a few hours and travel along a pre-established path.  Trekking is a much higher intensity journey that lasts several days with a pack full of equipment.

Hiking and trekking both involve long walks out in nature, but that differ on the level of intensity and length.  This is just the beginning, and let’s dive into the details.

What is Hiking?

Hiking can range from the beginner level of a short hike on the trails in or local parks to hiking up the mount to see the beautiful view.  They normally last less than a day, and in most cases, you do not need equipment

If you take equipment, it’s typically a backpack with some water, snacks, and basic items. 

Taking a hike is good for exercise and, in most cases, perfect for a beginner.  We have been on some pretty strenuous hikes, so don’t assume that this is a “walk in the park.”  Sorry had to throw that in there.

In addition, hikes often have established paths with markers that make it much easier to navigate and know how long it will take you to get to your destination.

What is Trekking?

Going on a trek is a much different journey and should only be attempted by an expedience trekker, or you should have an expert to guide you.

Trekking will normally last several days or longer.  So you will need to have a pack full of equipment from survival gear, camping equipment, and maps, or other navigation equipment.

Sometimes you may carry all of your equipment for the trip in your backpack.  But other times, treks can be well planned, so you only have to keep a days worth of supplies in a pack.  Then every night or two, you would stop at a pre-established location to restock.

Due to the length and overall intensity, this is not a good option for beginners.

From a navigation perspective, the pre-established paths are limited and often don’t exist.  So you can’t rely on those handy signs you normally would with hiking.  This is where you need to be experienced with maps and using a compass.

We will dive deeper into what trekking is in a later article, but this should give you a high-level idea.

Where Does Backpacking Fit In?

Where does backpacking fall into this?  Backpacking normally falls in the middle of the two.  

Typically it’s a two or more day hike or a less strenuous distance than a trek.  Since it is multi-day, you will need to carry a pack with all of your equipment and clothing for the full trip.  

Overall, trip intensity can range from beginners to experts.

Hiking vs. Trekking Differences?

Here is a breakdown of the key differences between hiking and trekking.

Hiking

  • Normally 1/2 to a full day
  • Easy to Strenuous Range
  • Pre-Established Path
  • Less Equipment Needed
  • Less Expensive
  • Great For Beginners
  • Snacks and Water

Trekking

  • Two or More Days
  • More Intense
  • Fewer Established Paths
  • More Equipment
  • More Expensive
  • Should be an Experienced Hiker
  • Must Plan Ahead

Hiking vs Trekking Equipment Differences

We mentioned several times throughout this article that the equipment is different for each activity.  Here is a sample equipment list that you may see for hiking and trekking.

Please understand that this is just a sample and each trip will have different requirements that lead to different equipment needs.

Hiking

  • Map/Compass
  • Water
  • Headlamp
  • First-aid kit
  • Food for the day
  • Fire-starting tool
  • Fixed blade knife/Foldable Knife
  • Multi-tool

Trekking

  • Backpack
  • First-aid kit
  • Fire-starter
  • Water Filter
  • Backpacking Tent
  • Food
  • Bladder
  • Sun Protection
  • Headlamp
  • Multi-tool
  • Duct Tape
  • Sleeping Pad
  • Lightweight Sleeping Bag
  • Map/Compass
  • Backpacking Stove

Hiking vs. Trekking Summary

As you know, these two terms often become interchangeable.  But the reality is that they are different in several different ways.  

Which do we think is better?  Honestly, we believe both are great and have their purposes.  

If you are looking to get outside and some exercise, taking a weekend hike is perfect.

But if you have some time off and are looking for an adventure.  Trekking provides that perfect excursion.  Just make sure you are either experienced or have an expert guide.

We hope you enjoyed this article.  Below are a few more that you may like!

Need Help Preparing for a Hike or Backpacking Trip?

Check out our Hiking Equipment Guide for Beginners.  It’s a complete list of gear that every beginner should have!

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Lee G.

I love the outdoors! Everything from hiking, climbing, rappelling, and caving.

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