Trekking is often confused for a hike or a leisurely walk through the woods. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. What is trekking?
Trekking is the process of walking long distances ranging from a few days to over a week. Often traveling on paths that are not established and exploring less-traveled areas of the world. Carrying everything you need for the trip in your backpack.
Trekking is a tough journey, but many people describe it as life-changing and eye-opening. Let’s dive in deeper to see why and if it’s right for you!
What Is Trekking?
Trekking is the exploration of the unspoiled, untouched wilderness during a long walk that takes you through the vast scenery of a specified location.
Usually, the trails along which people trek are not well-defined and cut through the expanse of a mountain range, tropical island, rainforest, or another equally virgin part of mother nature. Perhaps this definition sounds eerily familiar to that of hiking or backpacking, but you will soon see that there are some key differences!
Trekking into the wilderness will not only treat you to the serenity of nature and breath-taking panoramas, but it will also put you face-to-face with physical and mental challenges that provide ample grounds for personal growth.
For one, many trails follow the most remote parts of an area, unserviceable by conventional modes of transport like vehicles. This suggests that a certain amount of preparation is necessary before you embark on a long trek…
How Does Trekking Differ From Hiking And Backpacking?
At first glance, many might conclude that trekking, hiking, or backpacking are different words for the same thing.
Granted, all three occur outdoors, and they all involve a certain amount of walking. However, some key differences make it such that trekking can be differentiated from backpacking or hiking.
These differences go far beyond semantics and describe the manner and circumstances in which the journey takes place.
While hiking involves taking a long walk along a defined trail, it typically refers to when this is done in the name of leisure. A hike usually takes a day at most and can be done with minimal preparation.
Backpacking and trekking are special classes of hiking that extend to two or more days. They are more arduous and demand more physically and mentally.
While ‘backpacking’ finds more common usage in the United States as a term for a long walk spanning more than a day, during which the traveler carries all the equipment necessary for survival in their backpack, ‘trekking’ is used more in parts of Asia to describe a journey during which the traveler may have their equipment carried for them by a porter.
Therefore, one might trek through the Himalayan Mountains, while someone else backpacks through the East Coast Trail. Both backpacking and trekking may take weeks or even months to prepare for and may last just as long.
Although the distinction exists, many travel agencies have gotten used to clients using the three terms interchangeably, so don’t expect this information to ruin your vacation!
Equipment You Will Need For Trekking
As you well know by now, you expect to be out for a couple of days if you’re going to trek. Picking the wrong gear or forgetting essential gear might not only be inconvenient, but it may also prove to be dangerous, depending on the trail you choose.
Unlike hiking, during which you can quickly stop, turn around, and be back home by sunset, trekking will require a meticulous yet simple style of packing to maximize the limited space available while ensuring you survive the few days in the wild. Generally, one should pack:
- Appropriate footwear (preferably waterproof and with ankle protection for trekking and light footwear for the campsite)
- Waterproof trousers
- Shorts or lighter trousers, skirts
- Waterproof jacket
- A warm jacket
- 2 or 3 changes of t-shirts
- Thermal gloves
- Thermal underwear
- A backpack and backpack cover
- Sunglasses with UV protection
- A flashlight with spare batteries
- A sleeping bag appropriate for the season
- A camping mattress
- A map of the trekking area and all its trails
- Water bottles (it is recommended to have two)
- A first aid kit
- Plastic bags to keep things dry inside the trekking bag
- Insect repellants
- Water purification tablets or filters
- A pocket knife
Many trails usually have guides who are equipped with additional materials like flares, radios or GPS trackers in the event of an emergency.
Additionally, many of them pass through checkpoints at which you can stop should there be a need. Should you be trekking alone, however, it would be prudent to be as well prepared as is reasonably possible.
Please understand that this is a sample list of gear. Every trek is a little different, so you will need to adjust the list based on the trek you are planning.
Steps To Prepare For A Long Trek
It takes weeks or even months to prepare for a trek. All three of the items below are extremely important, so take the time to work on all of them instead of focusing on just one or two.
The first step in preparing is giving yourself enough time to be physically conditioned for the load you’re going to be placing on your body. It may be useful to start working on strength and endurance so that gradually, the body begins to adapt to handling higher yields of strain. It is at about this time that you should start to scout the trail you are going to trek.
Many experienced travelers admit extending their training beyond the gym. Magdalena, a Polish traveler whose primary profession has her sitting at a desk for 8 to 10 hours a day, says that in the months leading up to a trek, she practices walking on similar terrain, possibly in nearby mountains. This gives her an opportunity to test out equipment like shoes and walking poles.
She carries around a backpack more often, eats healthy, and, for good measure, she uses the stairs a great deal more. It was after such a regimen that she completed her latest trek across the Spanish Island, Tenerife.
Path Planning and Research
Doing your research into the terrain will leave you well-informed as to the kind of shoes to wear, the necessity of extra warm clothing, and any additional equipment that may be useful for climbing (for example).
As you train, work on your lower body strength. It will come in handy when you have to lug a backpack the whole day or when you have to traverse steep terrain. In the months or weeks leading up to your trek, squats, lunges, and leg presses should be your best friends!
Remember the long list of equipment cited as being necessary for your trek? It is recommendable, during preparation, to make a physical list of this equipment and cross it off as you acquire it.
Lists bring order to chaos, and the last thing you want is to realize when it’s too late, that you’re missing a few things. Such a mistake, as highlighted earlier, maybe both inconvenient and dangerous. Speaking of safety during the journey, every trekker lives by one or more of the guidelines we are going to discuss next.
Trekking: The Do’s And Don’ts
For a wholesome experience during your trekking adventure, it is appropriate to abide by a few rules. These are for your good and that of the natural environment you seek to indulge. If you are out trekking:
Dos and Don’ts
DO: Bring reusable items. Single-use items like Styrofoam cups and disposable plates tend to accumulate as pollution that threatens ecosystems in the natural environment. Also, ensure your toiletries are eco-friendly, specifically when choosing sunscreen or toothpaste.
DON’T: Become a source of pollution. That includes leaving behind the non-reusable items you do bring, as well as polluting water sources by urinating or bathing in them. Bathing areas should conveniently be located at a distance from water sources to prevent pollution.
DO: Carry your backpack. This goes back to the definition of trekking given earlier on that suggests that a porter may carry your bag for you. There is a sense of fulfillment that comes from carrying their equipment and shouldering the burden of the journey. Don’t miss out on it!
DON’T: Let your experience destroy the local wildlife’s peace. Being unnecessarily noisy tends to alter birds’ and animals’ behavior as they tend away from the noise. Also, on that note, it is recommendable to stick to the marked trails. Some animals become aggressive when startled, and the last thing you want to do is stumble on their paths!
DO: Pack smart. Rationing your food depending on how long you expect to be trekking will ensure you are well-fed throughout the journey.
DON’T: Consume carelessly. Under-eating or not drinking enough may leave you running on fumes before you go very far, while over-eating or over-drinking may put you at the peril of fatigue or indigestion. The central principle is that your nutritional requirements must be met. Trekking is about making the most of the little you can bring with you on the journey, so bring along enough to meet your nutritional requirement or, even better, invest in the local cuisine.
The core principle, when it comes to trekking, is to enjoy the natural environment without disturbing it. Many extend this curtesy as far as cleaning the trails as they walk along them to ensure that future travelers can enjoy the scenery unabated by litter.
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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Trekking In A Nutshell…
Trekking will involve going on a multiple-day journey on foot to experience the wilderness or otherwise natural environment.
This fundamentally differs from hiking, which is a day-long leisure affair, and backpacking which is more of a North American do-it-yourself affair. With the right amount of planning, you can have all the equipment necessary to ensure your enjoyment and safety during the journey and, with enough guidance, you can enjoy the wilderness without disturbing the local wildlife or the environment.
Below is an excellent example of a trek through the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal.