Trekking and Hiking are some of the best ways to stay fit and active, whilst also getting out in Nature. Although the difference – which we will explain below – is very marginal, trekking and hiking have some distinctive features.
The best gear for trekking and/or hiking can be different, for instance. Also, sometimes the best places to go hiking differ from an ideal trekking spot.
This article will explain the difference between trekking and hiking, and tell you how to start trekking the world yourself! It will then tell you everything you need before you go on a trekking or hiking holiday, and then explain which are the best places to go trekking or hiking.
Read this guide, then go straight to our guide on how to actually summit your mountain!
- Trekking Definition
- Trekking vs Hiking
- Different Types of Trekking
- Best Trekking Gear and Equipment
- What Else Do I Need For Trekking?
- Best Trekking Destinations 2020
- The Adventure Begins
Trekking is normally defined as going on a long journey, typically on foot. This is a very simple way to look at it. The meaning, however, is much more nuanced.
Trekking isn’t just the way in which we walk to get some place. It’s also a really fun, exciting and communal activity that pretty much anybody can take part in.
It’s basically just a sport which is centred around walking, with a destination in mind, and taking in nature and your surroundings.
You may also have heard trekking referred to as hiking. We will discuss the differences between the two next.
Trekking vs Hiking
The difference between trekking and hiking, as mentioned before, is quite small. Really, it’s all about length, terrain, and location.
As for length, trekking normally involved a long walk of several days or more through rugged terrain. Hiking, on the other hand, normally refers to a day hike, most often up a mountain. Example: “we went trekking in Nepal for 2 weeks”, but we “hiked up a mountain in California last weekend”.
The terrain is another key difference between trekking and hiking. When one thinks of trekking, at least for me, it conjures up images of dusty desert paths and treacherous jungle.
This is accurate. When you go to countries like south-east Asia and India, travel companies and tour operators refer to ‘trekking’ rather than hiking most of the time.
Hiking, on the other hand, makes you think of snow capped mountains and lush, green valleys. Think more Canada, Californian National Parks and Scotland, less Nepal, India and Thailand.
This leads us on to location, another key defining characteristic of both hiking and trekking.
Basically, both the terms trekking and hiking are generally used for a similar thing that is done in different places around the globe. If you go for a long, arduous walk in the desert or jungle, then this might be considered trekking.
However, if you went up some mountains in The Rockies, Alaska, or Colorado then this might be considered hiking. This might even be considered backpacking if your trip involved sightseeing and staying in the outdoors along the way.
To be honest, though, these terms are very interchangeable. In our experience, they basically mean the same thing and it just depends who you’re talking to. So don’t get too caught up in the terminology!
Different Types of Trekking
There are many different types of trekking. Despite their unique characteristics, they all involved doing the same thing (walking!).
Even so, let’s have a look at the different kinds of trekking; their origins, and a bit about each kind.
Probably the most common and popular type of trekking, mountain trekking resides – in terms of difficulty – just under mountaineering. Mountaineering is the sport of scaling mountains.
Trekking in the mountains, on the other hand, is what is says on the label: going for a trek in a mountainous area!
These sort of trips will normally last a few days, but can sometimes take up to a month! Treks in the mountains very often form a part of an approach (the ascent to the beginning of a more technical climb).
Somewhere in between trekking and mountaineering lies the domain of scrambling. This is basically a bit of hiking with a bit of rock climbing thrown in there.
This video, shot in North Wales by UK based Youtubers Traventures, is a great example of how to get away with a bit of sketchy scrambling!
The Best Backpack for Mountain Trekking
For trips of this length and terrain, we can recommend a decent backpack from Vaude. At 30L, this backpack will see you through a long trek in the mountains. It’s affordable, and well ventilated, so should keep you comfy on the road.
Jungle trekking conjures up images of the dense, sweaty jungles of Bali, Chiang Mai, Cambodia and Malaysia. These images are basically correct.
Jungle trekking is completely different from trekking or hiking in any alpine environment. It’s hot, humid and the air just feels thicker. In many ways, its more difficult that trekking in the cold.
Jungle trekking will normally be done in shorts or, ideally, breathable pants. You will need to bring lots of water, and something to wipe the sweat off of your face!
Jungle treks are often just a 1 day activity. Otherwise, you will normally need to bring a tent or a hammock like the one below. Watch out for creepy crawlies!
We can’t recommend hammocks for jungle camping enough. They’re normally a lot more breathable than a tent, and they keep you off the ground where all the bugs live.
The Best Backpack for Jungle Trekking
For going into the jungle, we’d probably recommend something like the Recon from The North Face. It will hold all your stuff for a one or two day trek in the jungle (if you stuff your hammock/bivy in it as well).
At the Skateboarder, backpacking in US National Parks is something we really love doing. Backpacking traditionally involves hiking for several days – up to several months! – with your backpack and staying in cabins or campings along the way. It’s normally done in National Parks.
Known as ‘The Father of National Parks’, Muir wrote many novels about adventures in the wilderness, established Yosemite National Park in 1890, and has been a huge influence on American’s connection with nature and the landscape.
Backpacking is extremely good for your body, as you spent a great many hours just walking outdoors in nature and fresh air.
It’s also a great way to meet people, and have experiences that you simply can’t get at home or in the city. So why not making backpacking one of the USA’s popular trails your summer plans!
Backpacking can also be combined with a fishing trip in a kayak!
The Best Backpack for Backpacking
For backpacking, we can’t recommend Osprey enough. They’re made from super durable material, which is pretty much waterproof without any treatment or rain cover. They’re also really convenient and comfy.
Best Trekking Gear and Equipment
Now that you know a bit more about the different types of trekking and hiking, as well as the difference between them, lets move on to what you need before you start trekking.
First up is trekking gear. It’s super important to make sure you have the right equipment before you go on a trek, regardless of its length. We cover hiking boots in a separate article, so if that’s what you’re interested in, head over to our hiking boots reviews page.
If you’re trekking in seriously cold weather, sometimes a ski or snowboard jacket actually does the trick as a top layer.
Otherwise, here is a quick guide on the best trekking gear to buy or rent for your trip.
The type of gear you need totally depends on the terrain and location of your trek. Trekking poles, for instance, like the pair below, are best when used on more technical treks and hikes.
The benefit of trekking poles is that you can use your entire body to move forward, rather than just your legs. Trekking poles activate the muscles in your upper body as you push them into the ground, and help you conserve energy on long treks.
Gear also depends on the length of your trip, and where you can stay along the way. You might not need all that much camping gear for trekking in Nepal, for instance, because the treks normally have tea houses on the routes.
If there aren’t such facilities, you’re definitely going to need a good tent. We can recommend the bivy below from Rab. It’s roomy enough for 1, and super lightweight.
Obviously you’re going to need a decent backpack, and we’ve listed a few above which we think are the best backpacks for trekking, be it in Nepal or California!
Besides that, you’re going to want to pick yourself up a decent jacket. High performance jackets for men and women are available at many online retailers. Just make sure it fits you nice and snug, whilst also allowing some room for under layers.
Another thing we really advise you to invest in is a Hydration Pack. Camelbak provides, without a doubt, the best hydration systems on the market.
Something else that’s really great for trekking, hiking, backpacking, or hiking is a pocket knife or a swiss-army knife.
Knives are really useful on long treks for preparing food, hunting wild chickens, cutting away undergrowth, doing a bit of carving by the fire, or for emergency use in pretty much any survival situations.
Take a look at what we picked for the 3 best trekking and camping knives below.
Leatherman Signal™ Multi-Tool
This multi-tool is designed for long treks and serious adventures. It features a diamond coated blade sharpener, fire starter, and an emergency whistle. Once you buy this one, you won’t want to leave the house without it!
Benchmade Mini Crooked River
This knife really stands out from the rest we’ve seen. It’s manufactured in the USA, and comes in a smaller carry size with a really nice handmade feel. It’s super lightweight and feels really nice in your hand!
Helle Sigmund Knife
This is a really beautiful all purpose knife that was first designed in the 1930’s. It has a triple laminated stainless steel blade and a handle made from beech, leather and ebony.
There is much more gear one could potentially invest in for their trekking and hiking adventures. Be careful going down that rabbit hole, as you’ll soon find yourself addicted to trekking gear!
Get yourself some maps, a good water bottle, and a high-quality camera to snap some good pics on the way!
What Else Do I Need For Trekking?
We’ve had a look at the best gear and equipment you need for trekking, but what else do you need before setting out into the wilderness?
We figure that the two most important things are: supplies and good levels of fitness.
Supplies (food, water, etc.) are also really important when you’re going trekking. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stuck on a 7 hour hike with only half a litre of water, and a bag of chips.
Before you go on a trek, check out the map, and ask local guides or tourist information centres about the length of the trek, its features, and their recommended inventory.
Another really important factor in trekking is fitness. Fitness determines which treks you can do, how easy you will find them, and how much you can ultimately push yourself.
Exercises such as those provided by REI in the video above are great for getting those muscles warm for the trekking season. We recommend beginning training 6-8 weeks before a serious trekking or hiking trip.
Mix in these exercises into your week about 3 – 5 times. In those sessions, try and repeat the circuit 4 times.
Best Trekking Destinations 2020
Now that you have a good idea of what trekking is, the difference between hiking and trekking, and everything you need for your trip, lets have a look at the best trekking destinations for 2020.
Nepal is an obvious choice, and pops into everyone mind when somebody mentions trekking. Remember Everest, that huge mountain, maybe the biggest in the world? Yeah.. that one..
Trekking and Nepal and basically synonymous. Most of the countries wealth created by tourism is derived from the trekking and mountaineering industry. These 1 – 2 week long, high elevation treks are not necessarily for the fainthearted. However, with the right gear, training and preparation, we think most people can do them.
Start by flying into Kathmandu, and then you can head to Pokhara, a city on the banks of a large, ice blue lake which acts as a base for many trekking adventures in Nepal. The Annapurna circuit is a difficult, yet very popular trail.
Before you go, you’re going to want to do some research in preventing altitude sickness.
Inca Trail, Peru
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is a hiking trail in Peru, ending at Machu Picchu, an ancient Inca citadel. The height of Machu Picchu 2, 430 metres, however, the trail reaches 4, 200 metres at several points.
For this hike, you may need to get your map, guide and permits sorted beforehand, but if not, you can probably sort it all out in and around Cusco. In this city, tours operate day and night to get you everything you need to trek to Machu Picchu.
On the Macchu Picchu hike, you’re going to pass several permanent settlements with a few hundred inhabitants, as well as many ancient Inca ruins.
Make sure to try the coffee!
California National Parks
The National Parks in Calfornia are some of the best in the US. In California, you can go horse trekking, llama trekking, or even go on a wine trekking tour, sampling all of the west-coasts best wines.
For you mountain lovers out there, though, California is simply a dream come true.
Everything trekking, hiking and mountaineering begins in Yosemite. It’s the perfect place for a trekking holiday and trekking tours operate out of the valley year-round (some high altitude treks are closed in winter though).
This phenomenal National Park has been made more famous lately by climbing documentaries The Dawn Wall (2017) and Free Solo (2018). In these movies climbers Alex Honnold, Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell ascend technical routes on El Capitan (pictured above, left).
Don’t worry, you don’t have to climb that.
There are numerous activities in Yostemite, trekking being one of the most exciting. Remember to invest in a good camera, as the views here are some of the most stunning in the world.
We’d say Sequoia is a close runner-up behind Yosemite.
We’ve heard that Big Trees Trail, Crescent Meadow Loop Trail, Congress Trail, Tokopah Falls Trail, Hazelwood Nature Trail, Alta Peak Trail, and the High Sierra Trail to Bearpaw Meadow are some of the best hikes to do in Sequoia National Park this year.
This park is home to some of the worlds largest trees, and is named after the giant Sequoia tree. Walking here can be a really breathtaking experience.
Besides standing in awe of nature, in this National Park, you can stay in fancy lodges, eat nice meals and hike through forests during the day.
About 80% of this park is designated wilderness, however, so its ideal for those looking for an adventure. Camp in your tent and get lost for a few days, the ideal escape from society!
The Adventure Begins
We’ve tried to be as brief as possible, but there’s just so much to say when it comes to hiking spots and outdoor gear.
We’ve given you the low down of what the difference between hiking and trekking is, and how they are pretty much the same thing, but it just totally depends who you’re talking to!
Above you’ll find information about everything you need to bring with you on a hike and why, with detailed examples of some pieces of gear.
We’ve also described some of the worlds most renowned hiking locations, some of which, like Californian National Parks, might be right on your doorstep. Hopefully, my drooling over the scenery has encouraged you to make one of these parks the destination of your 2020 hiking holiday!
At skateboarder, we love all all types of sports, especially those that push your limits. Hiking is easily one of our best and favorite pastimes, and we would recommend it to anyone looking to get out of the house, or pick up a new sport this summer.
Let the adventure begin!
James Haden is one of the owners of the Active Thrills community, together with Nash Gibson – his co-owner. He works as a full-time copywriter for a private company and also a true adventurer. He is an avid reader, writer, traveller, and extreme sports junkie. During his free time, he researches interesting content for their blog and continuously writes for their audience.