Most hikers are not trekkers. Most trekkers are not mountaineers, while most mountaineers are both hikers and trekkers. Confusing huh!

Well, not at all. On the contrary, hiking, trekking, and mountaineering have differences ranging from leisure, spirituality, self-determination, and conquering new levels in life.

The differences stretch from average to technical, depending on the outdoor activity you pick. Their distinction lies in preparation, trails, experience, expertise, route guide, number of people, gear, equipment, and of course, the reasons for doing either.

More often than not, the terms hiking and trekking will be used interchangeably on the internet, but further and more in-depth scrutiny reveals a whole new world on how apart they are. Mountain Climbing, as is often referred, needs mind, soul, and body preparation for successful completion.

Read on to understand what we mean.

Time Involved

Two to Eight hours

Have a free day and you plan on reminding yourself of the smell of the soil, grass, and fresh air? Well, hiking is what you would do at least for 2 – 8 hours and maybe push it overnight just for the thrill of sleeping outside. Or perhaps just to watch the stars? Besides, most hikers plan for a day’s activity, and sunny days are best for this. It involves prolonged walking through laid out trails.

A Day, A Week, Month

Trekking, on the other hand, runs for multiple days. Might just be for a day, several weeks or even a month depending on the goals set, terrain, weather, and the physical ability of the trekkers. It’s a journey of continuity from point A to B. Where the next day connects B to C and so on until all desired aspects are covered.

Hours to Months

Depending on the summits to reach and ridge transverse to complete, mountaineering can last from hours to months. Your expertise, technicality, and experience in climbing also play a part, not to mention the weather. Different terrains comprising water, ice, rocks, and snow make it a physically demanding exercise.

Preparation

All three require training of some sort for your comfort. Mental, physical, and emotional preparedness is no choice when involving yourself in any of the said outdoor activities.

Hiking

Hiking requires physical strength and emotional alertness to enjoy nature. A backpack is all you will need for the trip. Non-perishable foods and a drink that fit perfectly in your bag are the essentials to carry. Depending on the trail to be trodden, it requires you to carry a light load to accomplish the mission.

Trekking

Trekking and mountaineering will need you there mentally. Nature might play a hard one on you if not well prepared. Physical training is key to getting your body ready for the walking, trekking, and climbing that will be involved.

Having in mind that trekking will keep you away from home and luxury for a few days, you need to keep in mind a few things while packing. What you eat for days away, where you sleep (usually in tents), your hygiene, and protection, are some things to consider when preparing for your trekking adventure.

While trekking is mostly done in groups, each individual should pack enough supplies to avoid being inconvenienced during the trek.

Mountaineering

Climbing a mountain is no walk in the park. It involves a different set of cards. Considering the duration it takes, packing is majorly done from a given guide. Food, sleeping arrangements, again tents are ideal depending on the location you pick, gear and equipment which must be made for mountaineering, ropes, safety harnesses, and warm clothing are among the many things you will pack.

Brace yourself for some heavy carrying. Pilgrims are fond of this activity, making the physical strain which is not a problem. What they gain spiritually is the driving force. For healthy people like you and me, the conquering of different levels set and personal ascend is a thrilling experience. This, my friend, needs some training before you embark on it. 

The kind of muscle pulling involved needs you to hit the gym and run a couple of miles a day to get you in top shape for the ascend.

Both trekking and mountain climbing will require you to have a map to see where you are headed. Get an itinerary to follow through the days intended for the mission.

Gear and Equipment

Hiking

Running shoes can do the job perfectly when it comes to hiking. Some hikers will advocate for hiking boots, but it’s not necessary, and you can save yourself some money. Summer dressing is perfectly fine, no need for over the top dressing.

Not unless the fun spills over and sleeping outside suffice. Please pack a flashlight too.

Trekking

If you will be away for a couple of nights, then trekking calls for more gear. Proper footwear, boots are ideal to level you up with the terrain, warm clothes for the night, tents dependent on location, trekking poles, flashlights, some security essentials to keep away wild cats and coyotes are critical.

Mountaineering

Above all, safety and security are significant players in mountaineering. All gear and equipment should work towards your protection and meeting set goals. With different summits to reach, different weather conditions to survive through (rain, ice, wind, and heat), keeping your body at the right temperature might be a challenge with the wrong gear.

What to pack

  • Mountaineering boots
  • Mountaineering ropes and harness
  • Gloves to protect your hands
  • Helmets to protect your head from falling rocks
  • Face masks for the wind
  • Carabiners
  • Belay device
  • Crevasse rescue equipment
  • Camping equipment (tents and sleeping bags). Please confirm the region’s climate
  • Crampons
  • Ice axes

Kindly ensure to hire a guide. Someone familiar with your location of choice fits the role.

Trails and Routes

Marked Out

Hiking has marked routes through forest trails, roads, marked natural environments, and hills. Secondly, hikers have no options on what path to follow as they need to get back to the starting point. More like going in a circle through the routes laid out.

Forest hiking trail

Room to Choose

Trekkers are lucky as they can choose what trail to follow. Mountains, hills, forests, and even beaches for some are just but options they may pick from. The main point is getting to a marked out point – how you get there is up to you to decide.

If in a group, it’s best to follow a leader to get the full experience without unforeseen eventualities. Even so, you clearly wouldn’t want to get lost. Do you?

Mix of Things

Hiking and trekking bring you to mountaineering. Before, there is ground to cover. See why mountaineers are both trekkers and hikers? You will find yourself going through the forests, roads, and hills to reach the mountain climbing expedition. Mountainous regions, of course, are what you are looking for.

Reasons for the experience and your health

Leisure/Fun

Unquestionably, hikers do it for fun, physical fitness and to connect with nature. It’s an excellent extended weekend plan to reset and get fresh ideas if in a mental block. It requires physical fitness. Fortunately, that should not rule you out. If your doctor says you are fine, make that hike.

Intense

Trekking is strenuous and intense. Notably, the trails to cover vary from rocky fields, water streams, vegetation where some are thickets you have to cut through, forests and beaches if you choose so. These require physical fitness and mental preparedness.

Additionally, reasons could vary from leisure depending on the number of days. Spirituality, self-discovery, and a new beginning have some people go for trekking. All this calls for emotional awareness to finish the job.

Vigorous

Mountaineering has both hiking and trekking, including the mental strength required. As mentioned earlier, this is more of a self-discovery and becoming one with nature. Firstly, the obstacles presented give you a higher realization of your inner strength and resilience. Consequently, it’s more of a spiritual journey for many. Often planned over months to achieve success.

In Conclusion

Undoubtedly, the differences are many. The ones covered above sums up all there is to know for your next outdoor activity.

Besides, always ensure you carry all your medical supplies and any particular medicine for special conditions. Among your teammates, have at least one of them can administer the drug and can particularly offer emergency first aid. Further, prepare well beforehand and speak to all relevant authorities.

All three activities weigh your tolerance and sanity levels. Especially trekking and mountaineering. Engage your brain for maximum experience.

Importantly, inform those close to you of your intentions to participate in any of the activities. Subsequently, trekking and mountaineering might require you to travel. Obviously, have all your necessary travel documents to avoid a run-in with authorities.

Furthermore, carry your cameras for those awesome scenic photos. You sure need the memories after you get back home.

Last but not least, always, always plan ahead, familiarize yourself with the area through the internet.

So, there you have it. Enjoy your adventures!

Kelvin Mwathi