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Hiking, Walking or Backpacking Definition

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Hiking Definition Intro

Hiking, Walking or Backpacking - Hiker at the top of a mountain carrying hiking equipment.

This short article about Hiking Walking or Backpacking aims to clarify the terms, hiking, walking, backpacking and other related terms.

First we briefly outline hiking as a tourism activity. We then describe the need for hiking equipment whilst in the great outdoors.

Next we ask if hiking and walking are the same type of activity. Finally, we outline other general and specific terminology that is used around the globe.

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A beautiful mountain scene from a mountain peak.

Hiking and Tourism

The hike is a primary outdoor activity and is the foundation of other tourist activities.

Many enthusiasts regard a hike as the only means by which to truly experience mother nature.

A hike may be the only way to reach many beautiful places overland.

Many view a hike as superior to a coach or car tour as:

  • Your vision is not interfered with by windows;
  • Your ears are not offended by engine noise;
  • You are not choked by airborne dust; and
  • You don’t have other holiday-makers irritating or annoying you.

Both physical ability and knowledge of the route and its dangers are required for a hike over great distances or over challenging terrain but it can be a fantastic learning experience.

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A view from above day hikers travelling down a mountain trail.

Mankind and Hiking Equipment

Mankind seems to have the inbuilt characteristic of aspiring to ascend to great heights and investigate. Mankind desires to expand the boundaries of human stamina, This has resulted in some wonderful discoveries.

The hike can be a hazardous activity. No matter if you are a seasoned mountaineer, a long distance backpacker or just a day hiker, you need appropriate hiking equipment to participate safely in this activity.

It can be a traumatic and dangerous time when you are miles away from help or refuge and have an emergency situation you are not equipped for.

Taking or using appropriate hiking equipment on a hike is a good idea. Hiking without the appropriate equipment may turn out to be a less than happy experience, for example, if you are:

  • In the middle of nowhere and have nothing to eat;
  • Suffering from blisters due to poor footwear; or
  • Caught in an unanticipated storm.

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Backpacking with hiking equipment for an overnight stay.

Is a Walk also a Hike?

Taking a walk in the natural environment, usually on paths, tracks or trails, is a very popular activity. This is usually described by the term “walking” in the UK. Other English speaking countries such as the USA may use the term “hiking” which is considered a little old-fashioned in the UK.

In the UK, a stroll in the countryside may also be called a ramble. The term “hillwalking” may be used to describe a walk in mountainous areas.

In the USA, hiking is used to describe cross-country walks of a longer duration than a simple walk, and also over terrain where boots are necessary.

Because of these cross border differences, from the hiking equipment perspective, (HES) view these two terms as interchangeable.

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Other General Terminology

A “hike” or “walk” completed in a single day and not involving overnight camping would be called a “day hike” or “day walk”.

A popular activity is “backpacking” which usually takes place in the wilderness. Backpacking involves a hike with overnight camping, and the carrying of equipment in a backpack for the whole journey.

Another term in use is “ultralight backpacking” which is backpacking whilst carrying minimal lightweight hiking equipment.

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Bushwhacking through dense undergrowth.

Other Specific Terminology

The term “bushwhacking” means a challenging walk through dense forest, undergrowth, or bushes, where forward progress requires the moving of the undergrowth to one side. When the undergrowth is so impenetrable that human passage is obstructed, a machete is used to clear a pathway.

The term “bushwalking” is used by Australians to refer to hikes which are both on-trail and off-trail.

Terms used by New Zealanders are “tramping” (particularly for overnight and longer trips), walking or bushwalking.

The term “trekking” refers to a multi-day hike in mountainous areas of India, Nepal, North America, South America, and the highlands of East Africa.

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Hiking Definition Summary

Hiking or walking is a popular tourism activity and hiking (walking) equipment is often needed to ensure you have a more pleasant experience in the great outdoors.

As you will have read, there are a number of terms in use throughout the world relating to travel on foot.

Because of cross border differences, we explained why we view hiking and walking as the same activity.

We hope Hiking Equipment – Hiking Walking or Backpacking? has helped clarify terminology for you!

More On Hiking

1. At 8 minutes 41 seconds this video is quite long but it contains a great information for those people thinking about getting involved in hiking:

Hiking 101 – Part 1

This is a great video about hiking and how to get started. Steve Moses and I talk about a great orange county based hiking group that organizes all kinds of hikes!

2. If you have time, take a look at this 4 minute 50 seconds video described as the World’s most dangerous hike! Not that we are suggesting you do it:

Is Hiking Equipment Needed For This Hike?

Judge for yourself but this video takes you to China to find the source of one of the web’s most amazing photos, and see if Mount Hua is indeed the world’s most dangerous hike. I think it is more like mountaineering than hiking!

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