Backpacking vs Hiking VS Trekking VS Camping – Differences & Definitions

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Last Updated on 26 July 2023 by Cycloscope

trekking/backpacking with camping gear

Backpacking VS hiking VS trekking VS camping VS mountain climbing, what is the difference between these terms?

They are all walking activities in the nature, here are the definitions!

What are the differences between hiking and trekking? How they do compare to backpacking? What is camping? What makes hiking differ from walking?

If these terminology confuses you, be not afraid, you’re not alone. These words are often used as if they are interchangeable, but they really have their own specific meanings that we’ll try to define in this blog article.

So hiking VS backpacking vs trekking vs camping, what are the differences? Let’s have a look.

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trekking vs hiking vs backpacking vs walking vs mountain climbing

What is Hiking?

The word Hiking refers to the activity of walking for pleasure, usually in a natural setting.
Urban hiking is also a thing, walking long distances within a metropolis for the pleasure of admiring it and getting to know it, it’s often referred mistakenly as urban trekking (we’ll soon see why).

Most of the time anyway, when we use the word “hiking” we are talking about walking in the nature.

If that’s just the river park behind your house, a jungle trail in Borneo, or a Japanese volcano, we are still talking about hiking as the activity you’re doing while you’re actually walking that trail.

Backpacking VS Hiking

Backpacking is a confusing term because it’s used to define two activities that are quite diferent from each other.

In most of the world the word backpacking is mostly used in it’s travel connotation.

Bakepacking Travel is a style of travel where one’s belonging are stashed in a single piece of luggage, a backpack indeed.

It also refers to a cheap way of traveling, mostly using local transports between location, and can be extended from a few weeks to several months or even years, that’s what people mean when they say, for example, “I want to go backpacking in Cambodia” (or SEA or anywhere).

Backpacking is also used to refer to hiking activities in the nature. This definition is especially common in the US.

Again here, the term backpacking comes from the practice to keep all of one’s luggage stored in a single backpack, but in this case the luggage also includes a camping tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and occasionally cooking gear, water filters and everything that might be needed to set up a camp in the wild.

In this sense, the meaning of backpacking is very similar to that of Trekking (see below) and not to that of the term hiking (that can refer as we said also to short walks).

The difference between trekking and backpacking in this sense are very ephemeral. Once could say that a trek with porters is not backpacking, as you’re not the one carrying your luggage.

In general, trekking refers to a sort of tougher backpacking expedition, as we’ll see in the next chapter, trekking vs hiking.

hiking vs walking
easy hiking, basically walking in the nature

Hiking VS Trekking

Trekking is a specific type of hiking which differs from it for the main factor of it’s length.

Trekkings are indeed almost always completed in no less than 2 days, meaning you’ll spend a night in the wild, usually camping or in a shelter.

So, if you’re walking a nice footpath along Garda Lake, you can call that hiking, but not trekking.

If you’re reaching Machu Picchu on your own, you’re sure hiking, but you can also say you’re on a trek. That’s the main difference between hiking and trekking.

Backpacking VS Camping

Camping is the word used to describe the act of sleeping outdoors in an ephemeral shelter, such as a tent, bivvy, hammock, or even right under the stars under a blanket.

The word camping comes from setting up a camp, one of the most ancestral human activities, since we originated as nomadic people.

Camping is mostly done in nature, or man-made semi-natural settings such as campsites. Urban camping is mostly done in dedicated areas in city parks, or private campsites. Illegal camping in a urban setting is called squatting.

Trekking activities almost always include wild camping, unless dedicated permanent shelters are present on the trail.

Hiking VS Mountain Climbing

Although some mountains can be climbed by just hiking them, other more challenging peaks require mountain climbing to be conquered.

Mountain climbing refers to the activity of exploring the height of a relief when there are no foot paths. It indeed often involves proper climbing, done with the aid of hands and sometimes ropes and pegs.

While hiking is literally for everyone, mountain climbing is a challenging and sometimes dangerous activity, that should be done after proper preparation, study and practice.

maybe need some mountain climbing to get up here

Final Thoughts about Trekking VS Hiking VS Backpacking VS Camping VS Mountain Climbing

So, we have tried to explain the main differences between hiking, trekking and all these other terms. We hope you’ve found the answer and definitions you were looking for.

Please contribute in the comment section if you think we missed some points, we are always open to suggestions to improve our articles and make them more informative.

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