Trekking vs Hiking vs Camping – How to Tell the Difference
June 26, 2019

Outdoor recreation involving the movement and enjoyment of human beings isn’t always defined as one specific activity. We can’t say that everyone who is enjoying the outdoors is simply recreating outdoors.

When it comes to defining recreational outdoor activities, three terms always pop into mind:

  • Hiking
  • Trekking
  • Camping

And to the untrained eye, they most often seem to be the same thing. However, there really is a big difference between them. Here at Restless Backpacker, we believe it’s important to know the difference to ensure that you participate in the right activity in the future.

So let’s see what are the main differences (and similarities) between hiking vs trekking vs camping.

What is Hiking?
Let’s see the basics

hiking in the usa

A well-marked hiking trail.

Hiking Definition

Hiking is a pretty common form of outdoor recreation that many people favor. If you go walking on a short trail in your favorite State or National Park, that would be considered hiking.

Hiking isn’t always done on a short trail, though and there are several different forms of hiking. Some trails may be an eighth of a mile in length and a loop while others could be hundreds to even thousands of miles in length and only out and back type trails.

Types of Hikers

  • Day hikers who hike usually only half a day to a full day.
  • Overnight hikers also called backpackers who hike and camp overnight and sometimes for several nights in a row.
  • Section hikers who hike a specific section of a long trail.
  • Thru-hikers who hike an entire trail like those who hike the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) in the United States.

Difficulty Level – Easy to Medium

Hiking is usually done with a backpack with proper hiking gear and clothing and footwear designed for outdoor use.

What Is Trekking?
Let’s see the basics

forest in usa

A wilderness area without trails, trekking through the wild.

Trekking Definition

Now trekking could be confused with something like backpacking for multiple nights or even thru-hiking.

However, I see trekking as something completely different. I see trekking as a form of transportation without using any form of modern transportation. What does it mean?

Simply put, folks who are going from point A to point B get there by foot and nothing else. Most times, there’s not even a path or a trail.

Trekking as an Alternative Transportation solution

To me, trekking would be the ultimate lifestyle change to go full outdoor recreation.

It would be like giving up your car and using your bicycle to commute. However, with trekking, you would take things even further, giving up all forms of transportation and relying on your own two feet to get you from one place to another and back home.

I feel like people who trek could very well easily be hikers and people who hike can’t very easily be trekkers.

It seems that trekking is merely a universal form of travel and probably a better way to not only stay in shape but really cut the costs of transportation by public means or private. If my area was more trail appropriate, I would consider trekking as a serious alternative to modern transportation.

Difficulty Level – Medium to Hard

Since trekking involves the notion of only relying on your feet, you need proper equipment, a good physical condition, and lots of motivation to take it up.

What Is Camping?
Let’s see the basics

camping tent

A tent setup up under a natural shelter bluff in the forest.

Camping Definition

Camping is probably the most common form of outdoor recreation and it involves spending the night in the wilderness.

More often than not, the activity takes place in a tent. Many of us look forward to the nicer months so that we can get out and start camping. I’ve done it a few times this year and I’m ready to do it some more.

Types of Camping

There are different kinds of camping and it is important to learn the differences, especially if you are new to outdoor recreation and want to further involve yourself in it.

  • Standard campground camping experience where you drive to a camping area to setup a tent, hammock or sleep in a recreational vehicle of some kind.
  • Camping associated with hiking, backpacking or trekking. This is where you get to a camping spot by foot and usually pack your tent, hammock, tarp or other sleeping enclosure with you in a backpack.

Some people also prefer to camp under the star without the use of an enclosure (i.e. a camping tent).

Difficulty Level – Medium to Hard

Camping requires proper equipment (from a tent to a sleeping bag to utensils to prepare your own food, and even special backpacks to carry all this stuff.

Moreover, camping by use of walking or hiking to your camp spot is a lot harder and usually takes a stronger and more fit person that those who drive to their camping destinations.

Hiking vs Trekking vs Camping
The Bottom Line

So, while hiking, trekking, and camping all have a commonplace in outdoor recreation, it is important to understand the differences between each one of them.

Most people are going to choose hiking and camping as their form of outdoor recreation, but we shouldn’t single out the benefits of trekking.

However, it is important to understand the difference between hiking and trekking, especially for those who are new to outdoor recreation and want to ensure that they opt for the right form of activity. Especially when choosing specific equipment or planning their vacation around this activity.


What does hiking vs trekking vs camping mean to you? Do you consider yourself a hiker, a trekker or a camper? On the topic of camping, what form of camping best describes your choice? Do you feel that all three of these outdoor recreational activities are in common with one and other?

What other activities would you feel are appropriate to be placed with these three activities?

Shawn Gossman


About the Author

"The outdoors to me is the best medicine for stress and anxiety. "

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