For a layman, trekking and hiking are one and the same and often used interchangeably in conversations. Only a true adventure junkie understands the difference the two rigorous activities. Sure, both are outdoor recreational activities that involve physical movement (mostly walking), but are they really the same? The answer is a loud and emphatic no.
Hiking is a lot more leisurely and includes well-cut routes, man-made trails, and lot less struggle. Trekking, on the other hand, is strenuous, challenging not only your physical strength but also stamina and mental endurance. The biggest point of difference between the trekking and hiking is the level of intensity involved. We have compared and contrasted both these activities for a more comprehensive understanding:
What is Trekking?
Trekking is basically a more rigorous, physically demanding form of hiking that involves steeper pathways where no other mode of transport is accessible. It is longer, harder hike and definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. It is a perilous journey that only the most rugged travelers chose to venture into.
While hiking is simply walking around pretty trails, trekking is a more serious activity that has a set destination. It takes place over varied terrain; a trek can be anything from winding trails along craggy mountains, to narrow trails passing through the heart of the jungle or even along abandoned roadways and unmarked routes.
Treks don’t have established routes, it is best that you have a local guide to help you along the journey. Also, note that trekking is a multi-day activity. This means you’ll probably be camping outside underneath the stars or take shelter in neighboring huts without any of the material comforts you enjoy in your everyday life.
Treks take a toll on your physical and mental energies, it a taxing activity that tests not only your stamina but also your endurance and perseverance. Packing for a trek is a lot more complicated for you have to carry everything from medicines, first-aid kits, camping equipment, walking sticks, duct-tape, torches among the other things required for your survival.
What is Hiking?
A hike is purely recreational and hence a lot easier than trekking. It basically refers to the act of walking along a man-made trail for longer periods of time (a couple of hours). A hike usually lasts for a day, at the end of which you are back to your hotel relaxing your sore muscles and having a good night’s sleep.
Hiking is but part of your vacationing experience, one of the many things you get to do when you visit a hill-station or the woodlands. Unlike trekking, hiking doesn’t involve a lot of physical strength or mental endurance. On the contrary, hikes usually help you de-stress and curb your anxiety as you can truly enjoy nature in all her glory.
Almost anyone with a decent stamina and physical fitness can enjoy a hike. The well-established routes are frequently traveled and hence do not have a lot of obstacles. You wouldn’t generally need a guide to find your way back. However, hikes are not all fun and games.
Hiking can be as challenging and taxing as you choose it to be. The routes although familiar do involve some rigorous exercise. It is best that you are prepared for all possible weather conditions pack in a few warm clothes, medical supplies, food, and water.
By now you must have understood the difference between the two activities and also gauged which is the tougher of the two. It doesn’t take a lot of analysis to figure out that trekking involves greater risks and thrills than a hike. Hiking is great for first-time travelers who want to experience the bountiful nature at her best without having to deal with her wrath.
The pathways are well-set, easy to travel and a lot safer. Trekking, on the other hand, is when you venture out on a rugged less traveled terrain and commit to a serious journey (with a fixed destination).
Going on a trek is not everyone’s cup of tea it requires physical, mental and psychological fitness. You’ll often have to use your navigational skills and know how to use a compass or read the map to decide the best possible route for reaching your destination in the shortest time.
While a hike is relaxing, a trek pushes your mental and physical limits time and time again. Also, you need professional quality equipment, camping gear, and a survival kit when trekking along the unknown, unmarked terrain.
So, What Should I Opt For?
Both hiking and trekking have their fair share of pros and cons and discussed earlier. We won’t really endorse one in favor of the other- both the activities have their own charm. Hiking is an enjoyable, relaxing experience that rejuvenates the mind and the body.
Trekking is an exhausting but exhilarating experience where you can test your limits and even expand your endurance capacity. Treks take you a lot closer to the raw, primitive nature, while hikes highlight its beauty and benevolence.
If you want to simply recharge your batteries, get away from the monotonous routine life for a couple of days then a hike is an ideal choice for you. But if you are an adventure junkie who is looking for a physically and psychologically challenging experience then a trek is your best option.
Treks are better suited to seasoned and professional travelers who want to connect with nature on a primal level in spite of all the perils involved along the journey. On a trek, you’ll be away from the everyday comforts for days on end moving along the toughest of terrains and extreme temperatures. A hiking trip is easier and shorter.
The Bottom Line
Trekking and hiking may look like one and the same thing but a deeper analysis reveals the subtle differences between the two activities. Sure, both trekking and hiking involve going out and exploring nature. But it is the intensity and rigor that makes all the difference.