To understand the differences between hiking and trekking, we need to first define what both of these terms mean.

Hiking is defined as walking a long distance, especially across country or in the woods. To hike is to engage in a leisure-like activity on pre-made trails and/or roads.

The definition of trekking is going on a long demanding journey, typically by foot. This is a more rigorous outdoor experience that is meant to test your ability and sanity.

So, at the most basic level, hiking is walking a long distance while trekking is a multi-day activity. You can plan a hike the day of, but you must plan for months or years for a trek.

Beyond the Basics of Hiking and Trekking

Do you want to begin a new activity, but don’t know if you want to hike or trek? Do you want to get into nature, but aren’t sure of your options? Have you always wanted to know the difference between hiking and trekking?

In this article, I am going to explain the primary differences between hiking and trekking. Not only that, but I will walk you through health benefits, equipment, and additional resources.

By the time you are through with this article, you will know everything there is to know about hiking and trekking. You will also be able to know for a fact you are making the right recreational activity choice!

What is Hiking?

According to the technical definition, hiking is a recreational activity you can plan in a short amount of time. When I think of hiking, I think of a 1-day adventure.

A hike can be anywhere from .01 miles up to whatever you are comfortable hiking in a shorter amount of time. In my opinion, once you pull out sleeping materials you are no longer in the hiking zone.

The Health Benefits of Hiking

Although not as strenuous as trekking, hiking has just as many health benefits! I hike a lot, and it is my favorite way to feel healthy. Personally, I think it is the best way to get exercise.

There are multiple benefits to turning your workout into an adventure:

  • Lowers risk of heart attack and stroke
  • Improves cardio-respiratory fitness
  • Lowers risk of high blood pressure
  • Lowers risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Lowers risk of high cholesterol
  • Lowers risk of triglycerides
  • Lowers risk of cancer
  • Increases bone density and slows the loss of bone density
  • Increases muscle
  • Strengthens your core which improves balance and posture
  • Helps control and burn weight
  • Provides daily recommended dose of Vitamin D

Learn more about the health benefits of hiking.

Not only do you feel the physical and mental benefits of a workout, there are also added mental and emotional benefits to immersing yourself in nature. Even if your hike is more like a walk, nature still reduces the risk of depression and improves mood.

For More Information About Hiking…

If you want to get excited about hiking, I think the best place to start is one of America’s beautiful National Parks. For some inspiration, check out the Lonely Planet guide to National Parks of America.

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National Parks of America: Experience America's 59 National Parks (Lonely Planet)
Lonely Planet, Amy C Balfour, Greg Benchwick, Sara Benson, Emily Matchar, Carolyn McCarthy, Becky Ohlsen, Regis St Louis, Patrick Kinsella, Stephanie Pearson - Publisher: Lonely Planet - Edition no. 1 (04/19/2016) - Hardcover: 328 pages
$11.01

What is Trekking?

Even though the definition states trekking is arduous, it does not have to be difficult. A trek can last anywhere from 2 days to 200 years. If you are on a multi-day expedition, it is considered to be a trek.

When there is one long trail to be tackled, the process is called thru-hiking. Some examples of thru-hiking trails are the Appalachian Trail (AT) and the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT).

I consider trekking to be the middle ground between hiking and mountaineering in terms of difficulty. However, I have been on hikes that were more difficult than 2-day treks.

Why Trek?

There are many reasons why I try to trek once a month. These are 3 of my motivations:

Nature is beautiful – You will never see the same scene twice in nature. That is only one reason why nature is beautiful. I also think seeing animals and plants in their natural habitats is priceless.

Forced disconnect – If I had to willingly turn off my phone for days, I could not do it. Thankfully, most treks take you far from civilization and cell towers. I have found there is nothing like a few days off the grid to recharge your energy.

The Journey – Depending on the trek, your adventure may lead you to waterfalls, vistas, or rock sculptures. Even though the destination is beautiful, I believe you truly enjoy your time you must value the journey.

For More Information about Trekking…

If you need some inspiration to get you on the trail, I recommend reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. Author Cheryl Strayed shares her life-changing story of thru-trekking the Pacific Coast Trail with no prior experience.

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Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Cheryl Strayed - Publisher: Vintage Books - Edition no. 1 (03/26/2013) - Paperback: 315 pages
$9.19

Equipment for Hiking Vs. Trekking

There are some differences in hiking versus trekking equipment. 

Hiking Equipment

  • Map/Compass
  • Water
  • Headlamp
  • First-aid kit
  • Food for the day
  • Fire-starting tool
  • Knife/multi-tool

Trekking Equipment

  • 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 and Compass
  • Backpacking Stove

The Differences Between Hiking and Trekking

Hiking Trekking
Typically half day to full day Two or more days
Hikes range from easy to strenuous Trekking is more intense
Man-made sign posts Few to no sign posts
Fewer necessities to bring along More materials necessary
Less expensive More expensive
Physically strenuous Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually challenging
Man-made roads and trails Variety of terrain and/or transportation
Great for beginners A step up in difficulty from hiking
You can pack enough water You must plan ahead for water consumption

Which one is better? Hiking or Trekking?

So, is hiking or trekking better? The answer is…it depends! Whether you will enjoy hiking or trekking more depends on your own individual circumstances.

If you are new to cardio activities, I think hiking would be the best option for you. However, if you like to hike and want to take it to the next level, try a 2-day trek!

Did you learn anything new? Which do you like better, hiking or trekking? I want to hear about your experiences! Leave me a comment below, and if you like the article, please share!

What Are Switchbacks in Hiking?

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