Hiking, trekking, mountaineering, backpacking, are they all the same? Of course, not! While the core purpose of all these activities is to get you out and about, up the peaks and walking amongst nature, there are important distinctions.
Does it matter to know them? Let’s explore.
Hiking & Trekking
The Definition – Modern Use of Terms
Etymology: Going all the way back to 1809, when the term “hike” was actually coined. It was originally “hyke”, meaning - to walk vigorously, an English dialectal word of unknown origin.
In today’s times, hiking essentially refers to a long energetic walk in a natural environment on hiking trails or footpaths, mostly in the countryside, for a day or overnight too.
Worldwide, it is known by different names: tramping in New Zealand, bush-walking in Australia, trekking in Nepal, however, it is commonly and typically seen as joyful, easy an activity that isn’t all that taxing.
Trekking, on the other hand, is a longer, relatively arduous journey that’s to be undertaken on foot and involves walking for a number of days, usually on uncharted paths, cross-country hike trails or dirt roads in complete wilderness. It’s essentially long multi-day hikes.
The word "trek" is actually an ancient Afrikaans word meaning "migration”, since it refers to the process of leaving home for a few days with trekking gear like sleeping bags or tents.
Of the two, a hiking trail is definitely shorter than a trek. The usual length of the walk undertaken is 11 to 19 km (7 to 12 miles) that takes about half a day to cover, or 19 to 32 km (12 to 20 miles) for a full day. Having said that, a hike could presumably take you any time, from an hour or two to a couple of days.
A trek is generally about 70km (approximately 40 miles) or maybe even more, that could take an average trekker about 4-5 days to complete.
Hiking, being an outdoor recreational activity that’s typically done to reconnect with nature and refresh, doesn’t really involve a particular destination. It could just hike to a waterfall nearby or journey through a steamy jungle, to a lake for a refreshing swim!
What about trekking?
It denotes a specific destination, duration, and well, determination. It could be a two-week-long trek to Everest Base Camp or even a 6-hour climb to Mount Fuji, Japan. It’s often to a pre-determined, significant location, like a pilgrimage too.
Now, we all can agree that both hiking and trekking occur outside of the urban environment. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the walk involves strenuous paths in both.
Hiking typically takes place on designated paths and well-marked trails, while trekking requires experience to surmount the possible hurdles that await you on the rough terrains. You could be bushwhacking, walking through villages or into deep canyons and at dizzying heights with swirling winds!
One major plus point of hiking is that you won’t need to carry a tent along with you, so you can opt for a backpack carrying a water bottle, lunch, an additional pair of socks, and required gadgets.
For an overnight hike, a camping tent or sleeping bag, an extra pair of shoes, and a change of clothes should suffice.
For a trek, you would undoubtedly require a high-quality, good capacity rucksack in which you can pack your cookware, clothes and accessories, like gloves, caps or mittens, trekking shoes, medications, and a trekking stick/pole. Make sure to carry spares always.
PS: The most important essential to carry out there is positivity!
The Health Benefits
Being amidst the mountains, clambering over uneven surfaces and crossing over beautiful clear streams, it’s a wholesome experience, it heals your soul, it rejuvenates the mind. Well, there’s more to it.
While there are several discrete differences between hiking and trekking, one thing’s for sure: Both outdoor activities offer significant health benefits!
Lose That Extra Weight, Gain That Extra Strength
After carrying that rucksack all the way up and getting past all the rocky terrains, you deserve something in return! Hiking helps you burn almost 400 calories an hour and it’s like a full-body workout that tones your muscles. Clearly, hitting the gym seems so mundane now, doesn’t it? Now, obviously, overnight hikes and week-long treks will offer you more benefits, both mentally and physically and the more weight you carry, the stronger your back and core will get.
Improves Cardiovascular And Respiratory Strength
Getting away from the city also means getting a breath of fresh air. This cleanses your blood and the constant movement helps improve your blood and oxygen flow, thus improving heart efficiency and overall fitness. Journeying through rainforests or blooming wildflowers also cleans your respiratory system.
According to The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, hiking and trekking can considerably lower blood pressure by four to 10 points, and minimize the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
Instant Mood Boost And Natural Stress Relief
Being cooped up inside can build stress and anxiety levels. Regular outdoor activities are known to impact the serotonin level in the brain, the “happy hormone” that improves one’s mood instantly.
Imagine trekking through an all-enveloping forest with Rafflesia flowers, watching the sunrise and listening to the sound of the river flowing by your side; we bet this took you to a happier zone already, didn’t it? Of course, relaxing in the serenity of nature with good company is stress-relieving in itself.
Also, spending time outdoors and soaking in Vitamin D can improve your well-being too.
The Local Culture
Apart from the incredible journey through the wild, understanding the rich culture of the ethnic groups and getting a taste of the delicious local food as you traverse the unknown routes from village to village really add to this enriching experience!
Who says you can’t also be an eco-warrior as you conquer the trail?
Hiking and trekking help you appreciate your environment and its fathomless beauty, so the least we can do is take the green route up.
Here are a few things you can do to keep sustainability on track:
1. Choose your trail carefully
2. Pick environmental-friendly outdoor gear
3. Avoid carrying single-use items
4. Don’t leave a trace!
Pack Less. Experience More.
After all, it’s the journey that matters.