We've often heard the terms hiking and trekking used interchangeably. We all know they're both outdoor recreational activities. But are they really the same?

Hiking is an outdoor activity of walking in beautiful natural environments on pre-charted paths called hiking trails. There are day hikes and overnight hikes.

Trekking is a long journey be undertaken on foot in areas where there are usually no means of transport available. Trekking is not necessarily mountaineering; it is walking for a number of days, usually on uncharted paths, in challenging environments which are likely to be hilly or mountainous.

Comparison chart

Hiking versus Trekking comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartHikingTrekking
Environmental impact Hikers over many years in an area can destroy the natural environment they walk in through wood gathering, fires, fecal matter, leaving non-biodegradable matter. As treks take longer than hikes, the environmental impact can be greater.
Locations Usually in beautiful natural environments, nature trails, hills. In areas where there is no means of transport and areas of great natural beauty. Usually in mountainous areas.
Equipment Depends on the weather, day or over-night hiking. Shoes applicable to the hiking terrain, water, compass, sometimes a hiking pole. Backpack with survival kit, food and medicine for overnight hiking. Survival kit, camping gear, boots, compass, clothing applicable to changes in temperature especially if in mountainous areas.
Overview An outdoor activity of walking in natural environments often on pre charted paths called hiking trails. A long journey on non-designated paths which could last several days and could be challenging. It is more intense and energetic than hiking.
Worldwide differences Hiking is called by different names around the world: tramping in New Zealand, bush-walking in Australia, trekking in Nepal. Trekking is also known as backpacking but should not be confused with mountaineering
Holidays Day hiking or walking holidays are popular in Europe, New Zealand, Chile, Costa Rica, Hawaii and North America. Trekking is popular in the Himalayan foothills in Nepal, India and Bhutan. The Andes in South America is also popular trekking Mecca.


Depending on the weather and if the hike is for a day, a few hours or overnight, the equipment one carries varies. For a simple hike, good hiking shoes (preferably water proof), weather-appropriate clothing (hat, sunscreen, waterproof jacket), a trail map, compass, sunscreen, water, food and basic medical kit can be carried. The weight and bulk limit the amount of equipment that one can carry. The Leave No Trace policy also requires that equipment have multiple or alternative uses. Apart from what one would take on a day hike, overnight hikes and treks require a backpack, tent and sleeping bag for camping, fire lighting tools either flint or matches, food, water, survival kit, water purifying tablets, a compass, flashlight, map, insect repellent, A trekking pole or hiking pole which look like ski poles can be used in challenging treks can also be used. Equipment carried is to mitigate the dangers associated with hiking and trekking such as getting lost, dehydration or hypothermia, sunburn or frostbite, animal attacks, internal injuries like ankle sprains.

Trekking requires all of the above and a good supply of food.

Terminology Around the World

Hiking is known by many names over the world. What is known as hiking in the U.S and Britain is called tramping in New Zealand, and bush-walking in Australia. Bushwhacking is a term used specifically for hiking through dense forest where vegetation needs to be whacked for slashed with a machete in order to advance. Thru-hiking is a term associated with long end-to-end hiking (hiking a trail completely in sequence in its entirety) on a trail specifically, the Appalachian Trail.

Location of Trails

People usually go hiking in places of natural beauty. Hiking trails usually guide people through these areas which may be signposted so people do not lose their way. Whereas while trekking, the path is usually not marked and may not be previously charted. Trekking can take place in areas of great natural beauty but unlike hiking, not exclusively so. Trekking can also be a means of necessity in places where there is no vehicular transport. Hiking is a popular holiday experience especially in Europe, New Zealand, Chile, Costa Rica and Hawaii. Trekking is popular is the Himalayan foothills in Nepal, Bhutan and India and in the Andes in South America.

Environmental Impact

Hikers and trekkers follow a Leave No Trace policy to reduce the impact of their presence on the natural environment. A number of hikers over years on the same trail can cause unexpected damage on the environment such as wood depletion, wood fires. Fecal matter and non-biodegradable materials can contaminate the watershed. Some hikers have complained that pole use leaves a visible impact on the surrounding trail, poking visible holes in the ground and damaging adjacent vegetation. The most common complaint is that the carbide tips leave visible white scratches on rock, and make scraping sounds.


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