Many people tend to use the words hiking, trekking, and mountaineering as if they were synonyms. The fact is that they’re all similar in that you go out and walk in nature – but are some very important differences.
The best way to differentiate mountaineering, trekking, and hiking is to understand each activity’s degree of difficulty.
Hiking is basically walking along a trail often mountain slopes but also jungle trails or even cities. It essentially gets over by one day and doesn’t involve overnight stay. It generally takes place along well-known and frequent as well as marked paths.
Typically, hiking is considered to be the easiest of these three adventures. Hikers are usually lead on a well-marked trail. Although there are definitely hikes that can be described as moderate to difficult, it’s still the easiest of the three. Hiking tours are usually half-day to full-day tours. The terrain can vary from very steep to flat.
Most hiking tours are measured in round trip hours. Sometimes you loop around and other times you may return on the same path you initially took. There are a few hikes that have unique starting and finishing points. You should always verify the route before you begin a hike. Hiking tours require very little equipment compared to trekking and mountaineering. Always be sure to bring lots of water.
A trek is different from a hike on accounts of duration, distance, location and difficulty. A trek mostly takes place in natural getaways a bit away from settlements and is essentially a multiday affair. We need to carry our rations and accommodation amenities like tents and sleeping bags.
It is considered to fall between hiking and mountaineering in the degree of difficulty. Most treks are longer and more difficult than hikes, this doesn’t necessarily mean by a matter of hours. Trekking adventures can take in between 10 days and an entire month, Camping equipment is usually required, food and a much longer list of equipment.
Some trekking adventures provide the option to stay at a small lodge or mountain huts. You will be walking, camping, and even climbing for multiple days in a row.
Treks will typically start and end at different points and the distances you may travel can vary from 40 km to several hundred kilometers.
Mountaineering differs from both of it as it involves and requires much technical expertise. It’s not just walking along a trail but also involves, crossing crevasses, climbing glacial walls, climbing steep slopes , roped together and similar feats.
Mountaineering is far way the most challenging adventure tour. It is a very technical method of trekking that takes you to the highest peak(s) in the world. These mountain summits will mostly be over 3000 meters above sea level.
Most mountaineering trips are also multi-day trips and require a large amount of regimented physical and technical climbing training. The amount of equipment required is more than hiking or trekking. You must also be properly trained on the use of all the equipment as well. A perfect example is the 7 Days Rwenzori Central Circuit Trail that is done in the Rwenzori Mountains in Western Uganda.
Mountaineers have to know how climb on ice with crampons or an ice axe. Many mountains have glaciers with huge cracks and crevices that must be crossed safely, there is a higher element of danger in mountaineering. The weather is also a huge factor in these trips.
In mountaineering, there is always a death risk. In some locations, more so higher altitude, the oxygen levels can be so low that your body must be strong enough to endure hours of ascending and descending with low oxygen levels. The human body can be pushed to its absolute limits.