Hiking vs Walking: what’s the difference

I’m not going to start with a sarcastic comment: we all know what walking is because most of us have been doing it since we were small children. But there is still a huge debate fixed on hiking vs walking. For example, in the UK walking and hiking are interchangeable. In the US this isn’t the case. For some strange reason Brits call walking up big hills ‘hillwalking’. Crazy, right?

Joking aside, we’re going to look at the differences between hiking and walking.

When it comes to exploring trails in the wilderness, both hiking and walking are activities that one might try out. They both have health benefits, and there is a growing number of people who spend a few days on hiking or walking trips in the wilderness.

However, as we’ve already found, it’s easy for people to  confuse the two activities with each other. Although both have their benefits, it is crucial to know the difference if you want to prioritise one over the other on your next trip.

What is Hiking?

The dictionary definition of hiking says that it is a form of physical activity that requires a moderate skill level. It is a form of walking that involves covering longer distances, particularly on more challenging trails or paths. Hiking trips can be as short as twelve hours or go for as long as three weeks. Groups of people engage in the activity over a carefully scheduled time and date.

More than just a form or exercise, or sightseeing, hiking has become an excellent way of learning more about the cultures and customs in an unfamiliar area. Itineraries that last for weeks allow hikers to explore more locations, trying out the cuisine and meeting more people. During downtime, local sports and tourist attractions may also be incorporated into the trip.

The Different Types of Hiking

Although hiking is usually talked about as a whole, there are different types. Short trips are characterized by hikes that last for a day or less. These kinds of hikes are accompanied by a short sightseeing adventure, such as a slight detour on a summer getaway.

There are also longer hikes, also known as “treks” or “thru-hikes.” These may go for as long as two weeks and hundreds of kilometers (see our post about hiking vs trekking for a more detailed explanation). Treks also involve camping outdoors, usually in more remote locations. They can be great learning experiences, as the people in these areas can impart life lessons through their culture and practices.

The Right Clothing for Hiking

Hiking can be done at any time of the year, but the location and weather play a huge part in the required preparation and planning. For instance, snow-covered areas are challenging and the weather patterns during winter can add to the risks. Mountainous areas are usually more friendly for hikers in the summer.

When going out for a hike, it is always important to wear the appropriate clothing. These involve a durable pair of shoes or boots, or other footwear that is made especially for hiking (flips flops are bad. Don’t’ wear flip flops on the mountains). They are usually waterproof and can take the punishment dished our during long distance routes. However, it is also helpful to have a pair of sandals for downtime. In addition, we hikers must have jackets and pants that can repel the harsh weather – the snow or rain – that is an accepted part of mountain life. And take a hat as protection from both he sun and cold.

Sunscreen and sunglasses are also essential, especially during the summertime. The sun’s harsh rays can be damaging to the skin (don’t believe me? Take a look at the picture below – sunburn I experienced during my crossing of the Greenland ice cap). Remember to pack a lot of water as well; going long distances without it can lead to dehydration. Likewise, a first aid kit, flashlight, and a set of walking poles should also be part of every hiker’s backpack. During the winter, the cold winds might be a health risk. For protection, thick trousers and snug, warm shirts should be the go-to attire. Of course, a jacket should be overlayed above the shirt.

Hikers typically have thick backpacks due to the sheer amount of gear inside. Besides the bulky shoes and the walking sticks, they also have tents and other outdoor equipment. Long hikes involve sleeping outdoors, and it is always vital to have the right items to ensure safety and security at night.

For people who are new to the world of hiking, it is ideal to conduct some training before diving into the activity. Walking across hills or high places is different than the more easygoing, flat areas in the city. To build on endurance, workouts that target breathing and improve strength are ideal places to begin. Getting on the treadmill should also provide benefits, as hiking is not for those who do not like to walk long distances.

How Does Hiking Differ from Walking?

What sets hiking apart from walking is that the former tends to happen over longer distances, in areas that are remote or secluded from the public. These include the woods, mountains, and other places that are filled with trees, rocks, and other natural formations. Hiking is also carried out over several days, while walking can be done at any location. Walking is also an activity that can happen over short distances and is not as physically demanding.

To be more specific, walking is going from one place to another on foot. For people who walk as a way of passive exercise, there is no required number of kilometers to define a walk. However, some people do aim for a specific number of steps if they want to lose weight or maintain physical fitness. Since walking is a part of everyday life, those who choose to get to the office or school on foot have their fair share of daily exercise without much effort. Unlike hiking, walking also happens in more urban areas such as commercial complexes and busy cities.

Advantages of Walking

Walking can be more convenient than hiking because you can walk just about anywhere you want. It can be done spontaneously, and you do not have to pack a hefty number of supplies and equipment to carry out your goal. An itinerary is also not necessary if you know where you are going and are familiar with the area.

You can even walk from the comfort of your own home if you are just after the number of steps. Getting your fair share of exercise through walking can be done in the garden, the hallways, or even your bedroom. However, walking outside has its benefits. For instance, connecting with nature allows you to experience fresh air and see more people. However, indoor walking prevents you from being exposed to rain and other harsh weather conditions.

Walking is generally safer than hiking. Hiking involves going through unfamiliar places and encountering obstacles such as rocks and high places. If you do not have a guide with you, it is also quite easy to get lost in a hiking trail. Dehydration is also more likely to happen since water can run out over long distances.

The Advantages of Taking a Hike

Of course, hiking also has its fair share of benefits. There is a reason why more people are choosing to spend their off days or break periods in the wilderness, hiking with their friends. While walking is more convenient, the outdoor and nature-heavy aspects of hiking can be more ideal for some.

Perhaps the biggest thing that sets hiking a notch over walking is nature. On a hike, you are exposed to more diverse sceneries. Hiking provides you a way to disconnect from the fast pace of the work and the city (unless you’re still working from home thanks to the COVID tsunami), a true breath of fresh air.

Hiking also provides better exercise, since it involves uneven terrain and frequent uphill walking. This type of movement is one of the most effective exercises and burns a lot of calories. For those who want to achieve weight loss or reach an ideal state of fitness, hiking is the better option.

And while hiking involves a lot of planning, such as the itinerary, equipment purchase, and choosing the correct spots, this can also be an advantage. You learn more life skills, such as navigation and camping skills. These are all valuable things to learn, and with friends alongside you, can make for a very fulfilling experience. The fact that hikes are carefully planned events also makes them something to look forward to, almost like a tradition.

The Health Benefits of Hiking and Walking

Both walking and hiking are creative ways to lose weight and achieve a better overall state of health, especially your mental health. However, not all areas are conducive to these activities. For instance, walking is better suited to flat areas. While hiking itself is a challenge, there are still appropriate venues to conduct this activity. Choosing the wrong place can be more harmful to you in the long run and might even expose you to more harm.

Walking can be done anywhere from the beach to the cement. Asphalt and even tiles should be enough for a simple walk trip. Going around the house may even be sufficient, as long as you keep a steady pace. You do not even have to walk too far; the important thing is to make sure that the activity is done long enough.

And the beauty of even a simple walk through the park is there are so many positive gains:

  • Relaxation
  • Exercise
  • Getting away from your annoying work colleagues

Hiking is also a great form of exercise. It is a literal uphill battle-the effort needed to move in this direction generates enough activity to burn many calories. It also increases muscle endurance and strength and also decreases the level of harmful cholesterol in your body. In addition, it also regulates the levels of blood sugar and increases tolerance to glucose.

Of course, taking steps to avoid injury is important. Make sure to walk slowly to prevent falls or sprains. While on a hike, it is not advisable to jump and smaller steps are recommended. Zigzag walking patterns are also the best course of action.

Another thing about hiking is that it reconnects you with green spaces. Research shows that outdoor activities that bring people closer to nature bring out good responses in the brain. This can improve general disposition and mental health. It decreases negative emotions such as anger while increasing the level of energy that a person has. The chances of developing heart disease are also less in hikers.

In addition, mountain hikers benefit by getting a full-body workout as they go about their trip. Even so, they also have more control over the speed since there is less pressure on a hike with friends. You do not have to worry about cars or pedestrians. You can take in the breathtaking nature and enjoy the benefits to your mind.

Hiking also burns more calories due to the longer duration and distance. There are also more movements involved. Compared to walking that only burns about a hundred calories, hiking can get rid of as many as two hundred and fifty calories per hour. That is quite the difference-if the calorie count is your way of deciding which is the healthier activity, then hiking is the better option by a long shot.

The incline, as well as the weight you carry while walking through the unfamiliar path, definitely plays a part in making hiking a good choice for exercise. Of course, walking is a suitable everyday activity-you cannot really have hikes every day.

Which is More Fun?

If you ask Jake and I, it has to be hiking. Walking is good, but nothing beats the feeling of hoisting a rucksack onto your back and heading out on the trails. Other people might not agree. Your social connections also play a part, as hiking tens to be an activity that involves other people such as companions and guides. Nonetheless, they are both exciting choices for a workout.

However, if you are a fan of nature and the outdoors, hiking is the path for you. It can lead to an adventurous time, and the camping aspect also makes bonding time with friends possible. On the other hand, walking can be the best option for introverts or people who want to work out passively. It is also low effort, especially for people who have already made a habit out of it.

In summary, walking can happen anywhere – as long as it is a flat and level surface, you can do this form of exercise. Hiking involves more challenging terrain, such as hills and even mountains. You also need special equipment to ensure your safety, unlike in walking. The weather can also make hiking challenging.

When it comes to walking, you move in a more relaxed way-it is a familiar movement after all. Hiking can be more tiring and draining, but the sights and health benefits make it worth the hassle. It can also be fun to explore the wilderness in your hiking boots, all while sharing laughter with other people.

If this hasn’t answered your hiking vs walking question, we give up!

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