Hiking vs Trekking vs Backpacking…there can be some confusion surrounding what these terms mean, but they’re all forms of hiking, just with their own unique variations. Understanding each one is part of understanding this popular outdoor activity.
Hiking vs Trekking vs Backpacking… these are all terms used for this popular form of outdoor recreational activity. To understand the difference between them, we need to look at their history and what they mean to different people.
Trekking is an umbrella term that covers many types of hiking with the exception of those who hike primarily for leisure rather than sport. It’s typically done over shorter distances and on more moderate terrain than backpacking which involves carrying heavy loads over long distances and through difficult
Hiking is a great pastime which has been popular for hundreds of years with varying definitions around the world. The general consensus is that hiking means walking through wild landscapes on trails rather than roads (although, again, this varies from place to place). Trekking is another term used interchangeably with hiking, and is thought to have originated in the 1800s when British explorers began using it to describe their long-distance expeditions through the Himalayas. Today, trekking usually refers to mountain or hill walking over trails that are more challenging than your average hike.
Backpacking is an outdoor recreational activity that involves carrying your camping gear on your back while hiking long distances. The term “backpacking” was coined in the early 1900s by people who were taking extended trips through the backcountry. Backpacking has since become a popular way to see the world, and there are now countless routes and trails available all over the globe.
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Hiking vs Trekking vs Backpacking Comparison Chart
|Done for pleasure, connect with nature and calming mind||For fun but with a particular place, Pilgrimages often include a search for moral or spiritual significance.||Done for getting loose weight, fresh air, walking in the natural surroundings|
|Establish hiking trails & footpaths||Mountain trails, the areas without roads in the complete wilderness, cross country hiking trail||Backpack trips in wilderness|
|Have to be done over night, from 4km to 50km||Last for many days and anywhere from 50km to 24.000 km||Last from an hour to few days depend on the capacity of hikers|
|Short day night or overnight hiking experience||More than 2 days, as long as reach to the destination||More than 2 days, as long as reach to the last destination|
|Light day pack with bottle of water, spare socks, lunch. For overnight, I need to bring clothes, more food, tent and sleeping bags.||Solo treks need 50-60l backpack. Need to bring a tent, sleeping bag, food, clothes, compass, medicines, cookwares, etc. For at least a week. Good hiking boots with ankle support||Bring the food, water, map, compass, sunscreen, insect repellent, etc. Sleeping bags, clothes, tent, first aid kits, survival tools and jacket.|
|Can work for at least 5h||You have to be in good physical and mental health condition and can hike for 7 hours/ day for a few days in row.||You have to be in good physical condition and can hike for 7 hours/ day for few days in row.|
Hiking vs Trekking vs Backpacking In Details
Hiking, trekking, and backpacking are the forms of walking, and the differences are divided by the terrain type, how long, and what gear is needed.
Generally, hiking is on a trail during the day and usually comes with vertical ascent and descent.
Trekking is over multiple days and takes you through different types of terrain, pass the cities, along the road, and on nature trails, while staying overnight in the huts, tea houses, or predetermined shelters.
Backpacking is in nature only and involves carrying your sleep system for many days.
I will discuss two different styles of outdoor walking, hiking, trekking, and backpacking, for simplicity.
Of the three outdoor activities, hiking is the most favorite of many people since it is the easiest, to begin with. Although you should wear a part of specialist hiking shoes, a newbie can be done out the front door in the running shoes.
Day Hikes: Day hikes are typically short hikes that can be completed in a single day without too much trouble or exhaustion on your part. They’re often used as a way to explore an area before deciding if it would be worth spending more time exploring–it’s a good idea to take note of how tired you get before deciding whether or not this is going to work for you.
Overnight Hikes: Overnight hikes are longer trails that take place over the course of two or more days. This will typically allow for less mileage each day, but it also means you have to be self-sufficient–you’re going to have to carry everything you need on your back. With an overnight hike, you might stay in a shelter or tent depending on how far into the woods you plan to go.
Thru-Hikes: Thru-hiking is when you attempt to hike a trail in its entirety over the course of a set amount of days. A thru-hike might be completed in one go or done in sections, but it always means being self-sufficient and going through all the gear you need before starting your journey.
Trekking and backpacking are also hiking. However, these hikes are done in many days while hiking is in a day. As the hikes can vary much, guidebooks will grade hikes by difficulty. It will not be an excellent way to divide things up. There are three difficulty levels of hiking, including beginner, intermediate and advanced.
Beginner terrain: You will go on a well-established trail for most of the hike. It could be an access road or a trail wide enough for passing comfortably. The uphill is not too intense. If it does become steeper at several points, there will be steps built in the trail.
Intermediate terrain: The trail would be well defined for most walks. You also expect some sections where you will need to look for your way and pick your footing. The trail may have a steeper grade, so be ready for the challenges of going up or unstable downhill. There will be some water crossings; however, it should be easy to jump across if there is no bridge built. Besides, there might be a few logs and rocks for you to step on.
Advanced terrain: While advanced hikes are signed well, you might need to navigate the marsh, scree, dense forest, or the fields with no clear trail. Some advanced hiking will not come with a clear terrain. You might be able to navigate A-B by a map and the compass to avoid the rivers and cliffs.
Don’t forget to prepare the water, muck, or crumbly terrain. The uphill might be steep enough for you to use hands sometimes, and the downhill will be equally steep.
Hiking level of fitness
Beginner: The beginner will need the beginner level of hiking fitness. If you are getting outdoors, a hike is a great way to be active and get moving. If you are not sure of your own ability, pick out a hike that takes around an hour to finish and give you more time. If you feel like stopping to admire the view, it is ok.
The reasonably fit hikers should be able to deal with the intermediate hike. If you practice some other form of exercise such as weightlifting, team sports, or running, you might survive an intermediate hike.
If you are not sure, you should make sure to spend your time more than the book suggested. It would help if you prepared to balance the challenging sections such as logs, rocks crossing rivers, push through steep climbs or go down dodgy descents.
Intermediate hikes: need a basic level of navigation skill.
Advantage hikes: You will encounter some steep sections of trail. Make sure it fits enough for a prolonged uphill climb before setting off the advanced hike. You also should be trained with steeper intermediate hikes to ensure you are ready.
Besides, you should push through bogs, snow, sand, or dense bush. It can be taxing; you might need to be fit enough to take a prolonged amount of abuse.
Beginner: You should not wear jeans on a hike; I recommend you to wear athletic clothing which allows you to be cool and dry all day. Most beginner walks will not require hiking shoes, but at least you should wear supportive comfortable walking shoes or running shoes. No heel and no converse!
If it is not raining, your shoes will not need to be waterproof. If there is any water crossing on the trail, there will be a bridge, or you might be able to step or jump across quickly. You should bring a map.
Intermediate: The gears will depend on how long the hike will be. You must bring a sturdy raincoat, warmer clothing, a lot of food and water, a first aid kit, map, and compass.
You also can consider bringing hiking poles, an emergency shelter, and a water purification kit. Wearing trekking shoes or hiking boots. Don’t forget to bring a headlamp.
Advanced hikers: A map and compass are needed at first, along with a variety of survival gear, camping knives, tactical backpack, extra clothes, a well-stocked first aid kit, water purification, extra food, firestarters, headtorch. Moreover, rain gear such as jackets, cool hiking pants for women, and poncho should be brought. You should wear boots with a decent amount of ankle coverage. It should be enough for river crossing and protection from rocks and loose debris.
Trekking is the act of walking through mountains or other wilderness areas with a backpack on one’s back, exploring the terrain. Trekking is also called by many other names all over the world. In North America it is often called hiking, although hiking implies leisurely strolling rather than strenuous climbing. Walking up steep slopes while carrying weight should be referred to as mountaineering unless it takes place in a gymnasium using stairways. Hiking in general requires nothing more than sturdy shoes, but trekking usually requires durable boots that are ideally suited for scrambling and crossing rough terrain while supporting weighty loads. Walking sticks may be helpful too, because often paths are slippery from rain or snowmelt. Some outfitted trekkers also use crampons, ice axes, and other mountaineering gear when necessary.
Hiking is different from trekking in the amount of time for the trail. While hiking only need a single day, anything with the overnight stop in the middle will be classed as hiking or backpacking.
Trekking, you can bring a few cooking supplies, even if there are places for restocking food along the way. You should bring an emergency shelter.
Hit to hut hiking and Camino walks or teahouse treks are the most common forms of trekking. Besides, there are barebones treks.
Trekkers need to be varied in different terrain; you can be hiking a narrow backcountry trail, walking along the paved roadside; you also might spend long stretches of the trek in the wilderness. Trekkers might need to go off the trail, make the unbridged rivers crossing. You can also tolerate walking on pavement.
Fitness for trekking
It depends on the journey; you might plan on walking 7 miles or more daily for many days. On some treks, you might need food for many nights between restocking points, the sleeping bag to cold nights is super important as the basic shelters.
You might need to take care of water, snacks, even porters or luggage shuttles. You need clothing. As for nature trekking, you have to anticipate most trials. It is expected to be walking from 4-12h/ day.
Gear for trekking
Accommodation is essential. What sleep system will you carry? It depends on the planned lodging; you will need a sleeping bag liner or a sleeping mat and winter bag.
Besides, you should bring food; I recommend bringing a pair of energy bars and nuts or trail mix. Water is a must; always bring the backup purification. Moreover, bring a high quality tactical backpack to pack things. Since the terrain will be various, you will not want to bring some stiffness, killing your feet after hours on the pavement.
If you plan to walk in the warmer weather, the hiking shoes will provide a lot of support while allowing your feet to breathe. If you join in the cooler weather, river crossing, or loose terrain, a boot pair will help to keep debris and moisture away from your feet well.
Most outdoor shoes offer a wide range of light hiking boots and trek shoes, and you can make a choice.
Backpacking is an outdoor recreation activity in which a backpacker carries gear on their back while hiking long distances.
For backpacking, you will need to spend at least one night in the wilderness without any help. You have to bring everything you need for survival on your back. The longer backpacking hikes might include stops in the local towns for comforting restaurant dishes and resupply your essentials.
While some backpack trips will be along a fixed route, with camping spots on the way, some are all off-trail. You will improvise the camping spots near rivers or under trees. You will encounter some forestry road or stretch of pavement. However, you will be on the hiking trail or off the road the whole way. It depends on the place you have planned your journey will be.
Fitness for backpacking
You should carry a heavy load, and they need to be in good shape. Some treks or several days of difficult hikes are the best way to figure out if you are in shape for the backpacking journey.
In the first few days, you will be exhausted. When you get to pass it, you will tap into the level of fitness or trail legs. You will still be tired. However, the long days will not bother you much. The uphills are challenging, but it features less struggle.
After all, your feet get hurt, but your muscles will not be sore anymore.
See also: How to train for backpacking.
Gear for backpacking
A heavy pack will require a heavy pair of boots. Choose affordable light boots will come with thin soles, which are great for feet to carry a light load; however, the light boots will not offer the same support for heavy packers. To make sure you will have a good night’s sleep, you should have a sound sleep system that should be warm in the cold weather, protect you from mosquitoes or midges.
Besides, as trekkers, backpackers need to bring enough food for a long journey. You can bring cold and dehydrated food, and then you will only need to bring utensils for boiling water and eating. Skip the hassle of a frying pan.
Do not forget to bring clothes and an emergency kit which will be important in the wilderness. You also should bring along the well-stocked first aid kit, fol blankets, course a cell phone/radio, and fire starters. A proper backpack with harnesses constructed to carry a heavy load is essential.
Frequently Ask Questions
- Is hiking in mountainous areas?
Generally, hiking is in mountainous areas. It also depends on the weather, day or overnight hiking.
- How many times a week should I hike?
Hiking 3 times a week will help you to reduce weight efficiently. Hiking is one of the best methods to lose weight. Besides, hiking helps you burn more calories than a simple walk and makes you enjoy the nature where you are hiking.
- Why are hiking and trekking good for you?
It helps to lower the risk of heart disease, improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Besides, trekking and hiking also boost bone density because walking is a weight-bearing activity. Primarily, it was building the strength in your hamstrings, muscles in hips, and lower legs.
- Is daily hiking good for me?
As mentioned, three times/ week will be good. However, you can hike daily, especially if it is a light hike. There is nothing wrong with it, especially if you are already trained for doing this low-intensity activity. One hour of hiking to the excellent trails daily will be enough.
- What is the difference between hiking and backpacking boots?
The hiking boots range from mid to high cut style and are intended for day hikes or short backpacking with a light load. At the same time, the backpacking boots are designed for carrying heavier loads many days deep into the backcountry. Most of these boots will come with a high cut wrapping above the ankle for supper great support.
- What is the difference between the hiking and trekking shoes?
If you plan to be trekking through the ice or snow, the boots must accommodate the crampon. The hiking boots will be lighter and provide a reasonable support amount if you do not carry too much weight and will not be trekking across the harsh terrain.