Hiking / Trekking Overview
There are subtle differences in hiking and trekking, although they often fall under the same category and take on the same meaning. Hiking is one of the easiest athletic endeavors known to man to start. You just need the ability to walk and a place in the wilderness to walk to and you are set. Trekking is slightly more technical in its truest form. You will need gear, food, camping equipment, and sometimes a guide. Usually trekking indicates a multiple day hike.
Contrary to what you may think you won’t be scaling Mount Everest when hiking, that’s mountaineering. Hiking and trekking involves simply walking. It may be difficult and up steep paths and you may even need to climb a little, but serious mountaineering is far more technical and requires much more experience and preparation.
With hiking and trekking many will hire local guides, others will study topographical maps, and some will go with tour operators. A tour operator is not necessary, although their benefits are sometimes tremendous and well worth the price.
Hiking/Trekking - Beginners
A beginning hiker will quickly discover how easy hiking can be. The beginner may set off on a well-marked trail inside the boundaries of a national park or on a short hike through their local wilderness. They will often stick to flatter land, shorter trips, and lower altitudes. The whole world is open to the beginner. Even in the Himalayas and the Andes there are easy trails that your 87-year old grandmother could walk. The beginner might not get as far off the beaten track as the expert hiker, but they can still encounter great views, see fantastic wildlife, and get a good workout.
Going with a tour operator or local guide can be both a training method and also make the hike less stressful. When beginners completely lack the know how of hiking and trekking they will often go with a tour operator to show them the ropes, not to mention provide their gear, sometimes carry it, cook their meals, and introduce them to the local people.
Hiking/Trekking - Advanced
The advanced hiker and trekker favor the steeper ascents, higher altitudes and longer trips. These hard-core adventures are often exhausting, intense, and can quite technical. Isolated locations, often weeks away from the modern world, are home to pristine terrain, rare wildlife, and little known tribes and cultures and these are often the goal of top hiking and trekking expeditions. The farther away and the more remote the better. The advanced hiker and trekker, the hiking junkie, loves GPS, maps, compasses, gadgets, and ultra light equipment and love to bring them along if it doesn’t weigh them down.
Often advanced hikers will set out on their own without guides. The thrill of survival in the wilderness and knowing the lay of the land may be part of the thrill for some. When they do go with a tour operator, they go with the best. They want experienced guides and they want to know the specifics of altitudes, equipment, the type of food, and wildlife.