You’ve been invited to go on a hike and you’re wondering what you should bring. You want to make sure you come fully prepared, after all. Will trekking shoes make the cut? Or is there footwear specifically designed for hiking? Is there even a difference between hiking and trekking?
You’ve heard people use the terms almost interchangeably, and now you want to know what exactly people mean when they go hiking or trekking. In their essence, they generally mean the same activity—but they do have their nuances between their usage.
Here’s the breakdown on the similarities and differences between hiking and trekking:
What the Dictionary Says
First, let’s dive into the dictionary definitions. According to Dictionary.com, hiking is defined as “a long walk or march for recreational activity, military training, or the like.” while trekking is defined as “a journey or trip, especially one involving difficulty or hardship.”
The dictionary does little to differentiate between the two, except for one notable nuance—trekking is seen as a more arduous activity than hiking. The latter is viewed more as an activity done for pleasure and fun, while the former is viewed as a challenging undertaking that takes place over several days.
Of course, it’s important to put these into modern-day contexts, as words evolve with the way people use them. So let’s find out…
What People Actually Mean
Although the dictionary defines trekking as a longer and more demanding exercise, hiking has come to take on a similar meaning as well.
When someone refers to hiking, they are usually talking about a pleasant hike that can take place in just one day or two. While this may be easy for some, this may be more difficult for beginners and first-timers. In general, hikes aren’t very stressful, and often involve returning to your base or a hotel at the end of the day. Some hikes last for just a few hours, in time for you to return for lunch and an afternoon nap, or even a few days.
Meanwhile, trekking is often done in more challenging and adventurous places, like the Laugavegur Trek in Iceland or the Mount Roraima Trek in Venezuela. Treks take place over the course of several days—even months—and are often to places that aren’t very accessible.
In other words, trekking is closer to backpacking across different locations, and hiking is walking through a trail of varying terrain and returning at the end of a shorter period of time. People tend to interchange this from time to time, though, so it’s best to clarify what they’re referring to.
What Equipment is Used
To answer the question that was posed earlier, trekking shoes can be used for a hike—and vice versa! The equipment needed for both types of activities are very similar, as they both involve protecting yourself from the elements and sustaining yourself while you’re outdoors.
The difference comes down to the duration of your stay on the trail. While you can use tents for both hiking and trekking, you’ll need to make sure you bring a durable and comfortable tent when you trek since you’ll be in it for several days. Hiking tends to be a shorter undertaking, so if you’re hoping to cut costs a little bit by buying a smaller and cheaper tent, that should work just fine.
Sports gear and outerwear is usually good enough for a hike. For a trek, however, you’ll need survival gear and appropriate clothing that is multi-use, moisture-wicking, and odor-removing to keep you fresh for longer.
Regardless of whether you’re going on a hike or trek, the good news is that the two activities are so similar, you wouldn’t have to buy separate equipment. As long as your gear is specifically designed for an outdoor multi-day journey, you’ll be good to go.
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