What's the Difference Between Hiking, trekking & Mountaineering?
We are so zen right? Our generation, we are like so chill, so down with nature etc. Okay, maybe not, we care more about having more than 80% battery when getting on public transport and getting 8 hours sleep but its still healthy and important for us all to get out in nature and try awesome activities like hiking, trekking or mountaineering. Maybe you have tried them? Maybe you think you have tried them but lingo like this is confusing so what exactly are the differences between hiking, trekking and mountaineering. How do you actually wade through the lingo and get to the meaning in the language. Discovering how wonderful it is to get out in nature and being a smart and sustainable traveler!
Some people use the words mountaineering, trekking, and hiking as though they are synonyms but in fact, they are not. While they are all outdoor activities that get your blood pumping, exploring and enjoying nature, there are some differences between them. We hope after reading this article, you will have a clear understanding of the Difference Between Hiking, Trekking, and Mountaineering, what you’d need when you participate in any of them and finally, list the pros and cons of each one of them. So lets dive in and find out what the Difference is Between Hiking, Trekking, and Mountaineering.
What is Hiking?
Hiking is by far the most leisurely activity of the three. Get started here and work up, grab your boots, your fave podcast or a buddy! It involves walking on marked trails of easy or moderate difficulty. Usually, hikes can last from anywhere from half an hour, a half day or one day. Some of the most popular hiking spots in the World include the German Alps, which is as incredibly stunning in terms of the visuals as it is varied in the terrain. Instagrammable!
Although hiking is more accessible than mountaineering and trekking, it can still prove to be a challenge to some people. Usually, hikes start and end in the same place. But some have different starting and ending points. In most cases, a hike can last anywhere between 2 and 8 hours, but you can hike for as long as you please.
• Appropriate footwear – if the hike is short then trail shoes will do. If it is long and you’ll carry a heavy load, then hiking boots are best
• Compass/GPS and a Map – these will help you find campsites and tell you where you are relative to your destination, emergency exit routes or water
• Water and a means of purifying it – water will not only keep you hydrated by also protect you from altitude sickness and hypothermia
• Extra food – the snacks you carry will help keep your energy levels high in case you get lost or when the terrain is more challenging than you thought or want to enjoy time by the river
• Rain gear and additional clothing – carry a hat and stay away from cotton clothing
• Safety items – you need things to make a fire, a whistle, and a flashlight. These are great if you will be hiking for long hours into the night
• First aid kit
• Sunglasses and sunscreen
• Daypack or a backpack
• Trash bag to keep trash you come across on the trail.
Fitness Levels Required
Hiking is not so strenuous, but even then, you need to be prepared for it. Taking a walk twice or thrice during the week will do. During these walks, try and get your heart pumping for 30 minutes. Ensure that you wear the same shoes you will wear during the hike.
Advantages of hiking
• Helps reduce the risk of heart attack and heart disease
• Reduce blood pressure
• Reduce the risk of some cancers
• Burns calories and helps in weight loss
Disadvantages of hiking
• You might experience altitude sickness if you hike on mountains
• Hiking can cause muscle soreness days after the trip
• Weather can change drastically
What is Trekking?
Trekking is right between mountaineering and hiking with regards to difficulty. If you are a Swede, lets say this is the “Lagom” choice of activity, right down the middle, the goldie locks porrige that’s just right! However, it’s a little more similar to hiking than mountaineering. The difference between hiking and trekking is that treks tend to be longer than hikes as they can last a couple of days longer.
As such, you will have to camp or make plans to stay in mountain huts or small lodges along the trekking trail. Treks start and end in different places, and the distance can range from 40 to several hundred kilometres.
Clothing or Equipment Required
When packing for a trek, you should cap the backpack weight at 33 pounds. The checklist of things that you’ll need during the trip includes everything you’ll need for a hike (mentioned above) plus several other items, including;
• A sleeping bag
• A camping mattress
• Heavyweight gloves with waterproof coating
• A down jacket or vest
• Wool pants
• Trekking boots along with spare laces
• Warm hiking socks
• Footwear to wear around the camp.
• Telescopic trekking poles (optional)
Fitness Levels Required
Although you might feel ready for a trek, we encourage you to train ahead of time. The training should start several months before the trek and focus on building your strength and working on your aerobic fitness.
Advantages of Trekking
These advantages are in addition to what hiking has to offer.
• Enjoying the air freshness of the hills and mountain trekking trails
• Building your cardiovascular strength
• Bonding and making new friends on the trails
• You enjoy stunning views (depending on the trekking trail)
Disadvantages of Trekking
• You need a heavier pack
• More risky, primarily due to wild animals
• If you trek alone, you run the risk of having no support in the event of an injury
What is Mountaineering?
Mountaineering is by far the most difficult and challenging of the three activities as it is more technical and is done at higher altitudes. Usually, you’ll scale mountains past the 5,000m mark.
Mountaineering trips take several days to complete and require a great deal of technical and physical training. You also need a lot more supportive equipment than when trekking or hiking.
Before mountaineering, you have to learn how to use the equipment before the trip. For instance, you’ll need to know how to use an ice axe or climb ice with crampons. Moreover, you will need to learn how to walk on glaciers, survive snow storms and how to rescue yourself in case you slip.
Although it’s a little bit challenging, mountaineering is exciting and comes with loads of fun.
Clothing and Equipment Required
In addition to the hiking and trekking clothing and equipment checklist, you’ll need a couple of extra items, depending on the kind of trip you choose, including:
• Crampons and plastic boots
• Mountaineering harness
• An ice axe between 60 and 75 cm long
• A climbing sling
• Climbing helmet
• Telescopic ski sticks
• Prussic loops
Fitness Levels Required
Mountaineering is a severe undertaking, and you should treat it as such. Before you engage in this outdoor activity, ensure that you can climb or hike for 5-6 hours with a 30-pound pack on your back. You should also be able to climb about 4,000 ft of vertical gain every day.
To be prepared for this, you should exercise for an hour, four times every week. On your off days, you should take long hikes (6-8 hours long).
Advantages of Mountaineering
• It is fun
• Climbing builds confidence
• You learn to appreciate nature
These are in addition to the benefits of hiking and trekking.
Disadvantages of Mountaineering
• You may develop altitude sickness
• It takes a long time to train and be fit for a trip
• It’s dangerous to do it alone
What is Scrambling?
Scrambling is a combination of sports involving climbing and walking on a mountain. It involves climbing rocks, walls, and mountains without using ropes or technical equipment. The difference between it and hiking is that you’ll have to use your hands to ascend.
So we hope that this answers some questions for you and that now, when planning a weekend adventure, a big expedition or whatever you had in mind. From hiking, trekking or mountaineering we are here to provide all the adventure inspiration. We also LOVE to hear from you so if you are trying your hand at hiking, trekking or mountaineering or indeed if you are a seasoned pro, tag us on Instagram using #DopeSnow #Ridestore to share the love. Until next time!
Hey, I’m Angelica A Pro Freerider and content producer. I love to write about adventures, inspire people to get outside and discover. Lover of big mountain snowboarding, wine and dogs!