The difference between hiking and trekking: what to know
Concerning the mountains, the most popular activities are definitely hiking and trekking, which involve a large number of people every weekend and during holidays. Although they are used as synonyms, the words hiking and trekking have different meanings and indicate different approaches to walking in the mountains. Continue reading this article if you want to find out what the differences between hiking and trekking are.
Hiking and trekking: What do they mean?Hiking and trekking are two terms that are sometimes used synonymously but which actually indicate two different approaches to the mountains. Both of these words have to do with the activity of walking but differ in certain aspects related to the duration and the commitment required.
The distinguishing aspect of hiking is therefore the limited duration of the activity, but everyone can decide whether to undertake a more or less difficult hike depending on the technicality of the path. In fact, you can decide to tackle a demanding path with some exposed sections or opt for a more leisurely route and avoid excessive height differences.
The strength of hiking lies in the fact that it is an activity suitable for everyone; in fact, it is an excellent solution for those who want to spend a day in the mountains and offers different possibilities depending on requirements, from the easy trail to the more challenging hike.
TrekkingIn the context of the mountains, the word 'trekking' refers to an activity that involves a multi-day excursion, spending the night in a tent or a suitable structure, and that can be undertaken on foot along trails but also along unmarked paths. This term is akin to the word 'backpacking'.
As with hiking, trekking is also characterised primarily by the duration of the activity, while regarding the difficulty of the excursion, consider that backpackers often decide to tackle unmarked routes, incurring more unpredictable and challenging terrain.
A trek is a true journey and this is its greatest strength. Embarking on a trek allows you to challenge yourself but requires physical preparation and good organisation; we have discussed this in a dedicated article.
The difference between hiking and trekking: how to distinguish them?Hiking and trekking therefore refer to the same activity, i.e. walking, but are terms that describe two different approaches to it, especially when referring specifically to walking in the mountains. Below we have summarised some elements that can help distinguish hiking from trekking, highlighting differences and common points.
As can be understood from the definition of the two terms, the main difference between hiking and trekking is the duration of the activity; in fact, the former term indicates a day outing while the latter refers to an excursion lasting several days.
In terms of difficulty, there is no clear distinction between hiking and trekking trails, as hiking can include technical trails, while trekking can also be along easy, well-marked trails. When backpacking, however, certain sections may be taken off-trail and this can increase the technical difficulty of the excursion.
Type of terrainWhile hiking you are unlikely to encounter very different terrain as the excursion is limited in time.
On the contrary, while trekking you can find yourself in very different situations as the excursion extends over several days. One day you may find yourself crossing a forest path, another you may find yourself on a rocky path and yet another you may have to tackle scree and rocky terrain.
Physical preparationAlthough hiking and trekking can tackle similar paths in terms of difficulty, it is still more demanding to undertake a trek as this activity lasts for several days. For this reason, the physical preparation of those who want to undertake a backpacking excursion must be adequate and requires good endurance over long distances.
Hiking, on the other hand, is an activity that covers fewer kilometres and is therefore also suitable for the less trained, although hikes with a high altitude difference can also test endurance.
EquipmentThe different duration of hiking and trekking also means a different choice of equipment to carry. If you decide to go on a day hike, a 20-25 litre rucksack is sufficient to pack what you need during the day hike, e.g. food, water and some protective clothing in case of cold or rain.
If you want to go on a multi-day trek, on the other hand, you should have a backpack of at least 40 litres because you also need to carry spare clothes, camping equipment for meals and everything you need to spend the night, such as a sleeping bag and tent. Organising a backpack is not easy and care must be taken not to carry too many things, while keeping the weight down.
Whatever activity you choose, it is a good idea to always have a first aid kit with you, which we have talked about in a dedicated article. It can also be useful to have a GPS device with you, especially for long treks where you may find yourself on unmarked trails.
Hiking or trekking shoes: a guide to the perfect choiceAs we have just noted, hiking and trekking are two different activities and therefore require footwear with different characteristics.
First of all, it is necessary to emphasise that any type of mountain walking requires suitable footwear with structured soles and good protection. The use of sneakers or trainers is strongly discouraged and it is better to wear hiking shoes, trekking boots or other mountain boots.
Trekking BootsTrekking, or backpacking, is a multi-day activity that tackles different terrain and involves the use of backpacks, sometimes very heavy ones. The weight of the rucksack can unbalance you when walking and the uneven terrain can put a strain on your ankles, so a key feature of a trekking boot is a high cut upper, for more support to the ankle and spine.
A multi-day trek also requires good durability and rigidity of the sole, which must withstand rough terrain and prolonged use. The rigidity of the sole, however, must not compromise the comfort of the fit, so the ideal trekking boot must also have a fair amount of cushioning so that it can be worn for several hours without tiring the foot.
With regard to the upper, it is preferable to have protection in the areas most exposed to abrasion, such as the toe and heel. It is also a good idea to have a waterproof membrane, as you might get caught in the rain or walk on wet grass or damp ground when facing a multi-day trek.
Garmont developed the products in the BACKPACKING category with these specific requirements in mind. The features described above can be found in trekking boots such as the RAMBLER 2.0 GTX, which features a suede and mesh upper, and the DAKOTA LITE GTX, with a classic look and 2.4mm nubuck leather upper.
A day hike can be more or less difficult depending on the length of the trail and the type of terrain, which is why hiking shoes can be low, medium or high cut depending on the desired ankle protection.The difficulty of the trail also guides the choice of the sole of the hiking shoe. If you take easy trails, you can opt for footwear with a flexible, shock-absorbing sole, while if you want to tackle more demanding trails with rough and uneven terrain, footwear with stiffer, more resistant soles are preferable.
The same applies to the protection of the upper. If hiking on very easy trails, minimal protection is sufficient, whereas for demanding trails the upper should be protected with inserts in rubber or other material in the toe and heel areas.
Waterproofness is not a key feature in hiking shoes, especially for those who prefer summer hiking. If, on the other hand, you plan to tackle trails with wet sections or also go hiking in winter, we would recommend shoes with a GORE-TEX or G-DRY membrane for greater protection from the elements.
For those who prefer more challenging trails, the Garmont HIKING PERFORMANCE category offers stiffer and more protective footwear. In this category the VETTA TECH GTX is the most popular product, ideal for day hiking but also perfect for trails with more technical passages and via ferrata routes.
Choose Garmont hiking and trekking bootsNow that you have discovered the difference between hiking and trekking, you can choose the shoe that is best for you. The Garmont collection offers different possibilities and meets the different needs of those who love to walk in the mountains. Whichever choice you make, remember that safety in the mountains is essential and should not be underestimated, so always consider aspects such as foot protection, sole resistance and shoe support.