For good reason, there can be plenty of confusion around the difference between hiking and trekking. Add in other terms like backpacking, thru-hiking, and long-distance hiking and you’re sure to get your words jumbled! So we’d like to help clarify the terminology, especially for those of you just getting into outdoor adventure activities.
At BeWild! Adventures, we offer hiking day trips. These hikes can all be completed within a few hours or a full day, although we do have the option of extending a hike into an overnight experience. We would still call that hiking, however.
When folks talk about trekking, they typically mean a multi-day, more arduous walk that follows an extensive route. The confusion can be between thru-hiking, long-distance hiking, and trekking since these are very similar. In fact, we dare say they’re the same thing. They all mean a long walk undertaken as a challenging journey.
Let’s go through some more differences between hikes and treks so you can see for yourself which suits you best!
Hiking vs Trekking: The Trails
While, again, there is little technical difference between hiking and trekking, we will stick with the generally-accepted colloquial differences. So when we’re talking about hiking trails and trekking routes, they can be very different indeed.
When you go hiking, that typically means you’ll be following a well-marked trail through nature. Oftentimes, this will be an easily identifiable track through a wooded area, but it can certainly vary!
Some of our hiking trails in BC traverse open meadows and others cross open rock faces as we reach higher altitudes. The trails are always well-marked, however, with assistance devices like chain rails and steps as needed.
While trekking, the route typically traverses a wide variety of landscapes. Due to the longer nature of a trek versus a hike, you’re more likely to follow a route that changes over time. Some treks cover thousands of miles! This could include dirt roads, forest trails, riverside paths, and so much more.
Some treks are more remote and traverse open landscapes with no trail at all. To safely do those, you’ll need to plan carefully and ensure your navigational skills are up to par.
Hiking vs Trekking: The Gear
If you’re going hiking, you’re most likely out for just a day of being on the trails. That means your equipment should reflect that day trip and the needs of the specific hiking location.
Trekking, on the other hand, involves overnights and long journeys, so your equipment must match those needs and should reflect how remote your route will be.
If you’re going hiking, you’ll want sturdy hiking boots for rougher terrain while regular sneakers should suffice on many popular trails. Trekking definitely warrants good, sturdy hiking boots to protect your feet and your ankles along the way.
Again, depending on your trail, you might want walking poles for hiking to ensure stability and safety.
If you’re trekking, you probably want them as a support system for your long journey. Especially if you’ll be in more remote areas without easy access to assistance, having hiking poles gives you a little extra support should you suffer any small injuries.
For both hiking and trekking, you’ll want plenty of water and food as well. Even a short hike should be planned for with extra snacks!
Trekking involves cooking and planning ahead to ensure you have enough food between points where you can top up your supplies. That requires food as well as facilities to prepare it, such as a small camping stove.
Is it Hiking, Trekking, or Backpacking?
One of the biggest differences between hiking and trekking is that you’ll be sleeping along the route and therefore need a tent and sleeping gear for trekking. This adds substantial weight to your pack, so you’ll certainly want to plan ahead and also train appropriately before undertaking a big trek.
There are, however, plenty of long treks that follow popular areas so you could opt to stay in more formal accommodation instead.
Think of the Camino de Santiago through Spain or the Great Coastal Walk in Australia; both provide a variety of accommodation options along the routes so you don’t have to carry everything on your back.
Along those popular routes, there are even services available to carry your big packs to your next destination, leaving you to just carry a daypack for the hike. To some extent, this turns into a series of day-hikes along an extensive route, rather than what many would call trekking.
Meanwhile, other treks are more remote and you will need to prepare accordingly. Some folks refer to these remote treks as backpacking because you don’t have the option to not carry sleeping gear, so you are indeed packing everything you’ll need for the route on your back.
Whether you say long-distance hiking, trekking, or backpacking is up to you. There are nuances, but they essentially mean the same thing and we support everyone who wants to get outdoors more!
So which is better: Hiking or Trekking?
That’s up to you! Lots of hikers love to dream of the epic treks they’ll do someday. With countless jaw-dropping routes around the world, there’s no shortage of choices when it comes to a trekking journey.
Until then, at BeWild! Adventures, we’re quite content to enjoy our beautiful backyard with day hikes in BC. With waterfalls, alpine forests, snow-capped peaks, stunningly clear lakes, and mesmerizing beauty, hiking offers plenty for us to enjoy! Just take a look at some of the beautiful waterfall tours we offer!
Overall, hiking and trekking are the same things. They both involve getting outdoors and walking, enjoying nature and marvelling at the wonder of our own capabilities as we venture farther and challenge ourselves with each step.
We love encouraging folks to get outdoors more and to explore beautiful British Columbia on our day hikes. If you’re keen to join us, check out our summer day trips from Vancouver and let’s hit the trails!