Types of hiking: the tiny list of hiking defintions

There are only 3 types of hiking! I realise this statement may have some of you foaming at the mouth. After all, some people consider solo hiking to be a separate form of hiking, but it’s not. As you’ll soon see the three forms of hiking on this page wrap nicely around pretty much any other hiking activity anyone can imagine.

Before we move on, this guide is part of our beginner’s guide to hiking which covers all you need to know as a first time hiker.

So, let’s get at it.

The first and most obvious form of hiking is…

Day Hiking

Note: day hiking does not mean you travel during only daylight hours.

What is day hiking?

Day hiking is defined as: travelling from point of origin to final destination in the course of one day, and no more. The distance travelled is irrelevant. Covering 3 miles, or 40, in a maxium window of 24 hours is classed as a day hike.

Another point to note is this: the amount of equipment you carry does not affect the definition of a day hike. Some days I’ll hike 15 miles with nothing more than a water bottle on my belt and some food in my pockets. Other days I’ll cover a shorter distance with a small rucksack on my back.

Hiking is hiking, regardless of the distance you cover… well, a 500m amble to the pick up some milk from teh shops is hardly a hike, but I think you know what I mean. Besides, if you need to navigate to your local store there is something very wrong in the world!

Summit Hiking

Also known as mountain hiking, or hillwalking in the UK.

What is summit hiking?

Summit hiking is defined as travelling to a peak, or high point. This summit could be a hill or a mountain, hence the use of teh term hillwalking in the UK. Like day hiking, the distance travelled is not relevent but hiking to hight spots can take more 24 hours to complete.

Unlike day hiking, scrambling up peaks requires some specialist equipment most of which you’re likely to carry in a rucksack. You won’t get away with only carrying sandwiches and water bottle when you’re spending long hours hiking into altitude. Check out our packing list for UK hillwalks for more dteails.

Hiking to summits is not an activity for the faint of heart. Many of the best hiking routes cover extremes of altitude, hazardous trails, and arduous terrain. The key to completing a successful summit hike is to plan every detail of the journey and make safety procedures paramount.

Long distance hiking

Long distance hiking is also known as thru-hiking (or through hiking) or section hiking. In the UK we stick to a simpler definition: long distance walking (and we have an association – LWDA).

What is long distance hiking?

Long distance hiking is defined as hiking for long distances! There is no formal definition for a long distance hike, so here’s mine: following a route or trail that covers at least 100 miles distance and a week to walk. An extension of this type of hike are the ultra-distance hikes which are hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles long.

The type of terrain covered on a really long hike can, and often does, vary. Your route may start on flat, even trails meandering through woodland and then lead you high into the hills and mountains. For this reason, you need to consider all the equipment and clothing you’ll need for the duration of your journey. If you hike doesn’t take you near towns or other forms of habitation where you buy food and fuel, your rucksack is going to be heavy!

You can ease this load by plotting a route through, or near, urban areas where supplies can be sourced. For some hikers, this removes the purity of their journey but it makes sense if you don’t want to carry a rucksack the weight of house.

Hiking Q&A

Now that we’ve wrapped up the types of hike, it’s time to answer some of the more common questions asked about hiking.

What’s the difference between hiking and walking?

The key difference between hiking and walking is the distance you cover. Anything below 3 miles is classed as a walk. Weather conditions, equipment carried and routes taken do not affect the definition.

How far can the average person hiker per day?

Assuming average fitness and weight, the average distance a hiker should be able to travel in a day is 20 miles. This distance assumes a pace of 2.5 miles per hour (Naismith’s rule) over an 8 hour period of time.

Is hiking good for weight loss?

Hiking will accelerate weight loss, but not by a significant amount. Moving along uneven surfaces, across soft ground, and up steep inclines increases the amount of calories burned and is more effective than walking on paths and well groomed tracks.

It is possible to the increase the amount of weight lost by upping the intensity of your hike. A great example of a form of high intensity training is the art of rucking, for which we have a training plan.

Is walking 8 hours a day too much?

No, not if you’re of average fitness, carrying no injuries and have prepared well for your walk, or hike. Many of my long distance hikes and expedition require me to be on the move for 10+hours per day. The key is to ensure you have sufficient food, water and rest.

What are the basic hiiking skills?

The three most essential and basic skills a hiker should master are: navigation, first aid and fitness.

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