What Is Trekking and Hiking (Trekking and Hiking Differences)

In this text I discuss what trekking and hiking are, and trekking and hiking differences, and I give my answers to a variety of questions that are related to these activities. So keep reading.

The list below contains actual questions by real people, as they are available on the Internet, I did not rephrased them in any way except sometimes for grammatical reasons. Sometimes I group similar questions and give a combined answer.

One important word in the title is ‘differences’. This is why one must start from the definitions of these terms, but it turns out that this is not so simple.

What Is Trekking and Hiking (Trekking and Hiking Differences) top picture showing my group on the tour to Monte Breva.
On my tour to Monte Breva, Italian Alps

What is called trekking? What is trekking?

According to Merriam-Webster, trekking is a “trip or movement especially when involving difficulties or complex organization, an arduous journey“.

On the other hand, Oxford Dictionary tells you that trekking is “the activity of walking long distances on foot for pleasure.”

So you have it: “arduous” and “for pleasure”, how this can go together is a bit hard to understand. It appears that both definitions cannot be correct.

Why is it called hiking? What is hiking?

From Merriam-Webster, the term hiking implies “a long walk especially for pleasure or exercise”.

On the other hand, in Wikipedia one can read that hiking “is a long, vigorous walk, usually on trails or footpaths in the countryside.” There also they write that this is “Walking for pleasure developed in Europe during the eighteenth century.”

In Britannica, you will find the statement “hiking, walking in nature as a recreational activity.”

These are reputable sources and I would not dare to try to re-define these terms. But, if you wanted to get confused, you are at the right place. As you see, for Oxford Dictionary trekking is more or less the same as hiking for Merriam-Webster. So go figure.

If you search for these terms on the Internet, you will find a plethora of definitions that are not necessarily in agreement with the definitions given above. How could they when even those respectable sources seem to be in contradiction with each other?

All in all, these definitions do not really provide an easy way to understand what is what. This is not an exact science after all. But the article in Wikipedia is quite long and you can read it in detail to understand the topic better.

In view of all this, you understand that answering the questions in the rest of the text is very difficult. The terminology is so fluid and non-exact, so take everything with a big grain of salt.

But, I am a mountaineer, and what you will read below is my approach to these terms and how I see them. I see trekking as a long and arduous journey, and in my view the word hiking can hardly be used to describe mountaineering.

Below you can see the pleasant summit of Monte Breva (3104 m) in the Italian Alps, Livigno area This is a high mountain but you can get there by a simple walk on a high elevation and without special equipment. So climbing such peaks can perhaps be called hiking. More on this hiking-mountaineering relation you can see in my separate text.

Monte Breva summit.
Monte Breva summit.

Is trekking more difficult than hiking?

Bearing in mind the confusing definitions given above, it is not.

On the other hand, if you assume that trekking is a long and arduous journey, this would mean days, while hiking can be just a day walk. If so, then yes trekking is more difficult than hiking.

But wait, let’s assume that hiking implies mountain climbing. Believe it or not, I have seen somebody speaking about “hiking Eiger” in Swiss Alps.

I could not believe my eyes. Eiger is a beautiful but deadly mountain, and it can be “hiked” only by very experienced alpinists. Nevertheless, if this is hiking, then hiking is definitely more difficult than trekking. I could trek over Greenland, but I could not hike Eiger.

So where are we now? As it turns out, it can be both ways. Oh, those definitions! It is far easier dealing with physics, I should know this is my profession.

Is trekking or hiking longer?

I guess this is one of rare questions where perhaps one could give a reasonable answer. Assuming that trekking implies a journey, which then implies days, it should be longer than hiking which can be one morning tour only.

But a “hiking” of a single but dangerous 500 meters high north side somewhere around the globe can take days. This may imply sleeping on some hanging platform that you somehow attach to the rock wall.

So, what is the difference between trekking and hiking?

I do not know, I am equally confused as you. But disregarding the definitions, I would imagine that the main difference is that the former is a journey and the latter is a shorter activity.

What are the similarities of hiking and trekking?

So, if we pretend that we know what differences are, then it should be easy to see similarities. For me, both involve walking, so the most important part of your gear should be boots or shoes.

In these activities you will probably carry a backpack, so this is yet another similarity. Several other parts of your equipment is the same (trekking poles, rain protection, sun protection).

Regarding age, I would say anybody can take part in both of these activities.

Is trekking and climbing the same?

You have seen the definitions above. So if you take that trekking is a walk for pleasure, and if you go to a mountain like Barrhorn (3610 m) in Swiss Alps, then trekking is the same as mountain climbing. This because this is a mountaineering tour on a snow-free (in summer time) mountain, and (at least for me) this is a walk of pleasure.

However, let’s forget definitions. Trekking is not the same as (mountain) climbing.

What kind of activity is trekking?

In one word: hard. So this is about long-distance walk on a terrain that may be very variable and it involves most of muscles in your body.

Is hiking just walking?

It may be so but it may also be very different. Walking implies an urban environment and maintained paths in most cases. This may be the same in the case of hiking, but this activity may imply much more like a steep terrain, up-hill and down-hill walks, scrambling, etc.

In general, hiking may be a much harder activity than an ordinary walking.

How will you explain the importance of hiking and trekking? Why is hiking and trekking good for you? What are the benefits of trekking?

This is about moving and this implies making most of muscles in your body active. This is also work against gravity, you carry your own weight if nothing else, and this is good for your bones and muscles. This makes it a great activity for elderly people as I discussed in my another text.

What is mountain hiking called?

This is what most people describe as mountaineering. This is what I do, and for some reasons I simply cannot attribute the word hiking to it. But then again, I am not an expert in English language, just saying.

What are the different types of hiking?

  • Regarding the length and distance, this can be a day hiking, weekend hiking, overnight, hut-to-hut hiking is also very popular in the Alps.
  • In the Alps, you can have your heavy pack transported from one hut to another, and you only carry your day pack.
  • Regarding the goal, as mentioned, this can be hut to hut, from point A to point B, this can be summiting, you can make a round tour, etc.
  • Regarding participants, this can be solo or in the groups. I like going solo because this is easier for planning and speed. In a group, you have to walk as the slowest member of the group.

How do you walk hiking?

If you really think you do not know how to walk, you might want to watch this video:


But I would say we all know how to walk, after all this is what we manage at the age of 12-15 months or so. Important is, listen to your body and keep moving. You do not really need somebody to teach you how to walk.

What are the main features of trekking?

Assuming that we understand the terminology, I would say that trekking implies a knowledge of a variety of activities needed for such tours.

So, I would not describe this as ‘features of trekking’, but this activity assumes that:

  • You are in a good physical condition.
  • You know something about outdoor orientation.
  • You know what to expect from your equipment and how to use it.
  • You know also how to organize your night in a camp, how to set a tent, etc.

Can I wear hiking shoes for walking? 

Most likely so but let me explain this in detail. For some people hiking may imply mountaineering, and for this you might need boots with a good ankle support, yet this may be an overkill for walks.

But if this is strictly about hiking shoes, then the answer is definitely yes. How I know? Well, I use hiking shoes for my daily life, and this has been so for years. So this is not only about walks, it is for any daily activity.

Can I use trekking shoes for daily use?

If this is about shoes and not boots, then I would say yes you can. I just checked on Amazon with the words ‘trekking shoes‘, and what I see are some excellent shoes that I use for hiking and for daily life.

But when I search with ‘hiking shoes’, I get basically the same. All in all, both hiking and trekking shoes (assuming that they are different), can be used for daily life.

Is hiking a good exercise?

From everything that I said above, it should be obvious that the answer is yes. But let’s stop here for a moment. If you dislike it and have no pleasure in doing it, or you simply cannot do it then it is not. As an example, for me, running has been a great exercise for years, but I had to stop because of my rotten knees.

Is hiking better than running?

This depends on the definition of better. Better for what?

If you have problems with knees as I do, then running is not an option.

On the other hand, if you live in an area where you can choose between running and hiking, I mean you have hills and mountains close, then I envy you. The closest mountains to me are 1000 km away, so imagine my misery.

In terms of burning calories, from what I have collected around the situation is as follows:

  • Running burns more calories than hiking on a mild terrain. But in most cases you do not carry a pack when you run, while in hiking you probably do so, and this may increase calories spent on hiking.
  • On steep terrains you will likely burn more calories than running on a flat terrain. Does this make it better? If burning calories is your goal, then the answer is yes.

But there is a great article in Healthline site with some numbers showing how this all depends also on the weight of the person. They conclude:

“Hiking may aid weight loss by increasing the number of calories you burn. Compared with indoor exercise, it’s associated with greater improvements in mental health….In general, hiking burns more calories than walking because it utilizes steeper paths. Yet, per half an hour, hiking burns fewer calories than running.”

What do you need for hiking?

We are again faced with the problem of definition. Let’s assume this is about an easy day tour on a hilly terrain or anything similar. In this case you might want to have the following items:

  • A pair of comfortable walking shoes or boots. Make sure that you break them in properly before this.
  • Always have at least moderately thick socks.
  • A day pack.
  • Enough water and food.
  • Something to help in case of blisters, you never know.
  • Make sure you know the weather forecast and have appropriate clothing.
  • If there is any possible chance that you get lost, always carry a torch in the pack.
  • A Swiss knife.
  • Trekking poles if you like to use them.

Now imagine this is about mountaineering and this is again a day tour. Many items from the list above should again be on your list. But consider also the following:

  • Pay much more attention to the weather conditions and dress appropriately.
  • Make sure you know the route.

What if this is an unsupported weekend tour, or a tour with sleeping one night outdoor? In this case, regardless of which of the two hiking situations mentioned above it is, you have to plan the following:

  1. A Shelter to protect you from the rain. This can be a tent or a tarp.
  2. A sleeping pad.
  3. A sleeping bag.
  4. An inflatable pillow.

With the “big three” outdoor items now in the list (1-3 above), you have to carry a larger pack. How big? This will depend on how bulky your sleeping set is.

Think about a 50 liters pack, it is best to go for a 50+10 design that you have in Deuter Futura Air Trek pack. This pack has an expandable collar (+10 liters of volume), so in the beginning you will have more food and water and this will be useful. As you spend this stuff, you can retract the collar and reduce the pack’s volume.

Other useful items for any of the possibilities mentioned above are a map or a GPS device, first-aid kit, etc.

How do you enjoy hiking?

So this is a bit strange question and you can approach it from various sides. You either enjoy such an activity or not. Let’s translate this into mountaineering as this is assumed to be a sort of hiking.

This is a hard activity, you will be sweating, you will get hungry, you might arrive to a hut where there is no shower so you will feel dirty, all such stuff.

On the other hand, look at this from the point of view of your equipment. The most important are shoes/boots. If they cause problems, you cannot possibly enjoy your adventure.

What if it starts raining, and you have no proper waterproof stuff. It can even start snowing in high mountains and this in mid summer, I have experienced this many times. So you cannot enjoy such a tour unless you are properly equipped.

So how to enjoy? Here is one possible list of suggestions:

  • Know what to expect.
  • Go prepared in terms of equipment and your physical condition.
  • Do not go on hard tours if you have not tested yourself on some lighter tours. See this what I have found recently, these guys would not bother to deal with anything easy and simple, their first tour will be nothing less than Mt. Everest:
A question in a FB group.
A question in a FB group.

Trust me, this is not the way to start this activity.

Why is hiking uphill harder?

This is because you work against gravity. Try to lift some heavy item upstairs, this is the same effect. You have to activate all body to keep moving up. Your heart will work harder, and it may become more difficult to take enough air. This results in body fatigue.

But from all this you realize that this is a great way to improve your cardiovascular health and your heart will gain strength.

How can one be creative because of hiking and trekking?

Well, I have seen some claiming that this makes you creative. I guess this is why there is such a question on the Internet.

However, after 40 years of mountaineering, I do not think that I have ever came back home with the realization of becoming a new Einstein.

So the reality is that I remained to be an ordinary theoretical physicist, the same as I was before going to the mountains.

Some claim that you get more creative because of the vitamin D that becomes better absorbed with the help of sunlight. Apparently, this improves your attention and focus, and as a result you are supposed to become more creative.

I do not buy this, and here is why. On a tour, you will do everything possible to protect you from the sun. Only a small part of the body will remain exposed to the harmful radiation.

But then again, if this is so, why torture yourself in the mountains? Go to the nearest beach and come back home as a genius.

Seriously, I do not think it is possible to prove anything in this respect. I am a physicist and like to follow logic and want to see proofs. So take it or leave it, this is up to you. If you ask me, this is just a nonsense.

What is the importance of hiking and trekking in gaining muscular strength and endurance?

If you go for a day tour in the mountains, and you are not trained, the following 2-3 days you will feel pain in every muscle in your body. This is what I always experience. But after several days I am fine, and I do the remaining tours with very little pain in muscles.

What this initial pain tells me is that I have activated every part of my body. Repeating this on the following tours, my body becomes stronger, so I cannot imagine a better whole-body exercise.

How difficult is the trekking?

This will depend on the type of terrain, on elevation, on the weight of your pack. But assuming this is about walking for many hours and day after day, you will be tired no matter the environment.

So it is hard and it can be extremely difficult. You have to learn to ignore pain to keep going.

What are the disadvantages of hiking?

I am not sure that I understand this question. There are no disadvantages if you like what you are doing and you do this for pleasure. But if this is about possible problems related to this activity, they are numerous.

You can get disoriented and lost. I know somebody who was forced to spend a night without any equipment on a lava field on Hawaii. He could not find the way and it became dark. So the most reasonable thing to do was to sit down and wait till the morning.

If you are in areas with wild animals, then you know what can happen.

If you are on high elevations, you can get altitude sickness. This thing is totally unpredictable and it can ruin your plans. I had it at 2000 meters, and on some other occasions I did not have it at 4000 meters, this is what I am saying, no rule. Do not even think that exercises will prepare you for it.

Is it OK to hike in running shoes? Can you use sneakers for hiking?

Absolutely, if this is about a mild terrain with nice walking paths and you have such comfortable shoes, use them. The same holds for sneakers.

The problem is when people go on a hard tour with sneakers. I have seen such on my tours in the Dolomites. You do not do mountaineering tours in sneakers.

What kind of shoes to wear for trekking?

There is no general rule or type. This depends on the tour. If you are crossing Greenland, you will not use the same boots (not shoes) as for a Gobi desert trek.

Reinhold Messner invented trekking shoes?

I wonder if you know, but Reinhold Messner claims that he invented trekking shoes. He explains this in the video below. When you watch it, you will realize he is talking about approach shoes.

These are used on approach sections to high mountains. In his case this is about Nepal. Have a look:

My feeling is that many would disagree with what Messner claims. In fact, the region in Italy where Messner was born is the best known in the world for its bootmakers.

Just to mention a few of famous brands from there like Asolo, La Sportiva, Lowa, Mammut, Zamberlan, Alpina. They make all sort of boots and shoes for trails, and some of them were established long before Messner was born.

Why do hikers get fat?

So this is a real question, but it assumes that hikers indeed get fat. I am far from certain that this is so.

My guess is that, if this indeed happens, this may be because of high calorie foods and sugar. In some cases you might experience a weight gain which is not necessarily a fat but an increase in muscle mass.

But you might want to read my separate text about the question of how hiking help burn fat.

Does hiking make your legs bigger?

My guess is that the person who asked this was thinking about legs becoming more muscular. I do not think so. But the effects of hiking you can feel best after your first tour in a season, I already mentioned this above.

So after such a first tour, I feel that there is no single muscle in my body that is not painful. The reason is that I am on a very rough terrain, so even if I have practiced on a treadmill, nothing can prepare me to what the nature let me experience.

The bottom line is, hiking will move all your muscles and make them stronger, and this can only be beneficial to your body. But will your muscles really become bigger, I cannot say anything about this.

Is hiking good for legs?

In view of the answer I gave above, the answer is yes. But this will depend also on the quality of your hiking boots or shoes. Legs include feet as well, so bear this in mind. I have a great experience with Salomon boots. They make them in a variety of shapes and types.

But for much harder mountaineering tours, think about brands like Scarpa and La Sportiva. I have them both, let me know if you need some advises here.

On the other hand, legs include knees as well. I have problems with knees, so I had to stop running, but I am ale to manage with this issue in my mountaineering. But this can be a big problem for some people, in particular if they are overweight.

Does hiking burn fat?

This may be so, this activity is a cardio. If this is about mountain tours, then this is a really hard activity and it may help in burning body fat. I have noticed that after a few hard tours I am sometimes lighter.

So it seems logical to assume that hiking burn fat. In this document you can read a bit more. I plan to write a separate text on this issue.

Will hiking tone my legs?

To tell you frankly, I have never thought about this and this is not something I would care about.

But from what I can read around, apparently it is downhill walk that will tone muscles best. This is about glutes and quads that work to stabilize your knees and hips and this happens through periodic contractions. The result is a toning effect on these muscles.

How long can you hike in a day?

This all depends on what you mean by hiking. There are so many factors that play a role that it is impossible to give a simple answer. Here is why.

  • This depends on the route, there is a huge difference between a flat terrain and a steep mountain slope.
  • Elevation is also a crucial factor. If you are at 3000 meters above sea level, every step up is hard. At this elevation you have around 62% of oxygen in the air as compared to the value in the valley from where you have started.
  • It depends on the pack which you carry. A heavy load will slow you down drastically.
  • The same is with your body weight, if you are too heavy, your progress will be slow.

My hardest “hike” was my tour to Weissmes (4023 m) because of the following: i) I did not sleep, this was an overnight tour, and ii) I did it directly from the valley. So the start was in Saas Almagell (1670 m), and this means the height difference of around 2340 meters. I did it in 8 hours and then descended back to the car parking.

I guess you see the point. This is just 2.3 km in 8 hours, almost a speed of a snail. On a flat terrain and at a low elevation, you can hike such a distance in 15-20 minutes with a small pack

What is the best outfit to wear when hiking?

Because hiking may imply a variety of things, there is no simple answer.

If this is about light tours on a mild and low terrain, you will use all the same stuff you use for your usual walks. In a sunny environment make sure you have a hat or a cap.

But for any other, the first rule is use synthetic. It dries fast and you have less chances to develop hypothermia. You will not smell great, but who cares.

At higher elevations, make sure you have multiple layers, not on your body but in the pack. Be ready for sudden change in weather conditions, think about 4 seasons in one single day. This is not a joke.

The picture below shows me on a summer day at an elevation of 3000 meters in the Italian Alps. We had sunny moments, rain, snow, hail. This all in 5 hours or so.

Me in the Alps.
Me in the Alps.

What is the synonym of hiking?

According to Merriam-Webster, the synonym of hiking depends on how you understand the meaning of this word in the first place.

So if this is to move from a lower to a higher place or position, the synonyms are: boosting, craning, elevating, heaving, hefting, heightening, hoisting, jacking (up), lifting, perking (up), picking up, raising, taking up, upholding, uplifting, upping, upraising.

Quite an incredible list.

But if this is about travel by foot for exercise or pleasure, then the synonyms are as follows: ambling, perambulating, rambling, sauntering, strolling, tramping, tromping.

How do you breathe when walking uphill?

This is a very important question and the simple answer is: hard.

But this all depends on the elevation, your pack weight, your physical conditions, your mental situation. To say a word or two about each of these factors.

  • I mentioned about reduced oxygen. It is surprising how quickly you realize that it is lower than in the valley below, and how much it affects your progress. You will feel it already above 2000 meters. I think it is important to have a constant pace and rhythm. Do not push.
  • You will feel the pack weight as well. This is why it is essential that it rests on your hips and not on the shoulders. The shoulder straps are there only to keep the pack upright. The weight should ideally be all on your hips, and I repeat all. Otherwise you will have pressure on your shoulders and you will not be able to inhale air deeply.   
  • Physical conditions may imply that you do not have some lung and throat infections, and you can breathe on your nose.
  • Mental situation means that you should stay calm and relaxed. This will allow you to breathe more deeply. This is why you should plan your trip, and know the weather conditions. If you try to get to the summit as soon as possible because of the storm that is coming, and you are at the same time worried about possible lighting, you will not be calm and you will not breathe correctly.

From my experience, trekking poles help. I rest on them, usually lean my upper body on the top of handles and try to get extra air into lungs. Then I continue and do this again when I feel I need this.

Why is hiking better than trekking?

My answer is: who told you so? This is individual, you do these activities on purpose, you have some goal. Besides, what makes the difference, how different these activities are? You have seen the definitions above.


So this is all I wanted to discuss here about trekking and hiking and about possible trekking and hiking differences. Do let me know if you think I have missed some important issues, or I said something totally incorrect, there is a comment box below. Bookmark this site and keep as a reference, you will always have new informative texts added here.

 
Me on Jalovec.Hi, I am Jovo, the founder of this OutdoorsFAQs site and several other outdoor sites. I have been mountaineering for almost 40 years already, and I have created this site to use as a reference for various questions that I receive in my sites. Being a theoretical physicist by profession, I tend to base my answers on facts and on my own personal experience.

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