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Trekking vs Hiking. What Is The Difference?

The words trekking and hiking are often used interchangeably, but is that correct? If you are going for a walk in the woods, is it a hike or a trek? Is there even a difference between trekking vs. hiking? Technically, yes there is. Let’s take a look at what they are.

Definition

Top View Of Boots On The Hiking Trail With The Text: Take A Hike

Hiking: Merriam-Webster defines Hike as a long walk especially for pleasure or exercise.

Trekking: Merriam-Webster defines Trek as a trip or movement especially when involving difficulties or complex organization: an arduous journey.​

Already you can see there is a difference.​

Terrain​

Trekking People Meeting Sunrise In Mountains

Hiking: In most cases, hiking involves taking an established trail.

Trekking: Trekking usually involves moving from point A to point B and getting there by going cross country over many types of terrain.

So while hiking, you may walk up a mountain trail, but while trekking you will probably end up climbing the mountain, possibly in a place no one has ever gone before.​

Distance

Mountain Landscape With Hiking Trail

Hiking: In most cases, there is a set distance for a hike. Often a map will show you where you are going and what to expect on your journey.

Trekking: Trekking often involves changing your path to avoid obstacles and there is no set distance to your destination.

While you may take a long hike, even one that goes 10 or 15 miles, a trek is usually something that can go much further and the distance can vary due to the path that you choose to make.

Time

Couple Hikers With Map In Mountains

Hiking: There is a set time for your return when you go on a hike. Whether it's an overnight trip or a half day one, there is an expected amount of time planned for completion.

Trekking: If you are going on a trek it is probably going to be more than an overnight trip. A trek usually takes days or longer.

With a trek, the pace is slower because you will repeatedly check your map and adjust your course to make sure you are still headed in the right direction. You will also need more time due to unexpected terrain.​

Equipment

A Couple Trekking In The Mountains

Hiking: If you are going on a hike you will most likely have a backpack with bare essentials in case you are out all night. Hiking boots or hiking sandals, a trail map, maybe a compass, water, and a little bit of food. If you are hiking overnight you may include a tent, sleeping bag, and maybe even matches.

Trekking: For a trek, you will bring all the same things as a hike, but more food, a lot more! Also, a lot of people take trekking poles and other tools that may be needed. A topographical map and GPS are a huge asset on a trek. You will also probably bring a few changes of clothes. A first aid kit is a must.

You can take the same equipment on a hike that you would take on a trek. The difference is, on the trek you are more likely to need those instruments and tools.

Physical Exertion

Man Jumping Over A Gap On Mountain Hike

Hiking: Depending on the trail you choose, a hike can be anywhere from mildly difficult to relatively exhausting.

Trekking: A trek can be smooth and easy one moment and downright difficult the next. Cutting your own trail means that you never know what is around the next bend. Excellent physical condition is almost a requirement for a trek. You will likely feel sore and very tired when it comes time to bed down for the night.

While hiking an established trail can be a workout, a trek can be mentally and physically exhausting. Not having a set trail to follow and then dealing with the unknown ahead is not something for the faint at heart.​

Safety

Man Traveler Crossing Over River On Outdoor Woods

Hiking: While there is always a danger when you go off in the woods or mountains, if you are hiking on an established trail, there is a chance of help arriving when you need it. If you get lost someone will have a reasonable idea about where to find you and medical assistance is within hours away at the most.

Trekking: When trekking, there is no reasonable expectation of assistance if you get in a jam. If you injure yourself or get lost, you cannot expect someone to send out an alert or call for a search until days after your expected return. Your self-reliance skills will be your best chance of survival.

I have included a YouTube video below to further explain.​

And here is a great article on Quora that was a lot of help getting the answers. 

Conclusion

As you can see, there is a big difference between hiking and trekking. And while the words may be used interchangeably, they are not interchangeable. That’s not saying you can’t take a long hike or a short trek. But now, at least you will know the difference.

I really hope you like this article. If you did, or have any further questions, please comment below. I look forward to hearing from you. Until next time, enjoy your hike… or trek.

Julie McClain
 

Chief editor here at Outdoorzer. I'm an outdoor lover and ever since I was a little girl, I've worked hard to learn all I could from my Dad about Camping, Hiking, RVs and surviving in the woods.