Trekking, Hiking & Mountaineering: What’s The Difference?

Whether it’s climbing a mountainous terrain or embarking on an easy, breezy trail, people think it’s essentially the same thing – hiking, trekking, and mountaineering. Most people think that these words are just synonyms of one another due to their similar characteristics. But in fact, there are distinct differences between the three.

Back to Basics

For starters, the act of hiking is to “walk or march a great distance, especially through rural areas for exercise, military training or pleasure”.

By definition, trekking is “the activity of walking long distances for pleasure”, and can also be defined as a “form of walking, with the specific purpose of exploring and enjoying the scenery”. When compared to hiking, trekking can be considered to be a more leisurely activity that is not as physically demanding.

Mountaineering, unlike trekking and hiking, is not a singular activity on its own. Essentially, it is a sport of climbing a mountain. Not a walking a trail, not climbing some stairs – but is the act of literally climbing up a mountain. It can also be described as the “set of activities that involves ascending mountains”. In a nutshell, mountaineering can involve multiple physical activities all at once – requiring extremely high technical skills.

How Do They Differ From One Another?

Besides their definitions, there are other ways in which hiking, trekking, and mountaineering vary. All three outdoor activities differ in technical difficulty, type of terrain, as well as equipment required.

When talking about the technical difficulty – it’s a no brainer which one is the most strenuous: mountaineering. For hiking and trekking, it is not necessary to have technical knowledge and are suitable activities for beginners.

Moving on to terrains, mountaineering activities usually have the highest altitudes as compared to the other two. Since the terrains are much tougher, climbers need to have a certain level of skill in activities such as rock or ice climbing. The territory of the mountains that are covered when mountaineering can also be far more vast.

For those who are not a fan of climbing up a mountain while carrying a rock behind their backs, hiking might just be the sport for you. It does not require as much equipment and one can get by with the basic essentials. But with mountaineering, it’s the exact opposite. One should never go mountaineering underprepared.

Before getting involved in any of the three outdoor sports, it is good for one to know the differences between their certain terminologies to find what floats your boat. If you’re a complete beginner who just wants to get started, perhaps trekking or hiking could be for you. But if you want to move up to the next level in your ascent, why not give mountaineering a try?

Just remember: when embarking on any adventure, jargon shouldn’t matter.

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