What’s The Difference Between Hiking And Walking?

There are lots of outdoor hobbies to choose from and one of the most popular is hiking. However, a lot of people confuse this pastime with simply going for a walk. While walking and hiking are very similar activities, there is, in fact, a clear difference. But not many people are aware of this; so what is the difference between hiking and walking?

Hiking is a much more strenuous form of walking and typically happens in more natural environments. You’ll normally exert a lot of more physical strength and stamina when hiking whereas walking is generally much calmer and laid back.

What’s also interesting is that the terrain types between walking and hiking have some very obvious differences. When walking, you’d normally be on a flat, urban surface while hikers head out to more rugged areas. So, as you can see, these differences also mean that one may be more beneficial than the other in terms of fitness but of course, you should never bite off more than you can chew. 

In this guide, we will be looking at the difference between hiking and walking in a little more detail and discovering the benefits of both. 

Walking vs Hiking vs Trekking

So, we’ve learned a little about the difference between hiking and walking but let’s take a closer look, beginning with the walk. 

Walking is normally done on smooth surfaces and defined pathways and you won’t find a lot of obstacles to work around. For this reason, walking can usually be done without the aid of any extra equipment. A good pair of supportive shoes will be all you need. 

Moreover, walking is something that can be done by almost anybody since it does not require a lot of physical exertion. For example, a very elderly person would be able to take a short walk around the park whereas, due to physical health problems, they may find a hike more of a challenge. This means that walking is an excellent way to stay fit for those who may not be able to manage hiking.

Hiking, on the other hand, is generally much more physically challenging and is done on rougher terrain such as over countryside trails and in mountainous areas. You’ll spend much more time on a hike than a walk and you’ll normally need some type of special equipment especially on demanding trails.

While we are going to place most of our focus on walking and hiking in this article, we wanted to make a quick reference to trekking as this is another common activity of this type. The key difference here is that a trek is normally performed over several days and involves much more rugged and natural conditions than even the most demanding hikes. 

Trekking is typically done on very challenging terrain and there won’t be a lot in the way of accommodation so you’d normally have to take a tent and camp overnight. Moreover, you’ll definitely need a wide range of equipment to complete your trek safely and comfortably. One of the great things about trekking is that it allows you to explore areas that may be otherwise inaccessible so it’s excellent for real adventurers. 

What Are The Benefits Of Hiking?

As we have already established, hiking is a much more physically demanding activity than walking so you will need to have a slightly higher level of fitness to do it safely. Of course, even if your fitness levels are lower, you can start with very easy hiking trails and work up to something more difficult. The key here is not to try to do too much too soon or you’ll quickly find yourself out of action. 

According to medical experts, hiking has a whole host of health benefits. You’ll be doing your cardiovascular system a favour as hiking will boost the blood flow and decrease the risk of heart disease. You’ll also be working towards maintaining a healthy weight and for those who want to lose weight, hiking will work well as part of a healthy lifestyle. 

If you’re into discovering everything that Mother Nature has to offer, hiking is a far better choice than walking as it will allow you to get off the beaten track and explore new and remote locations. What’s more, there has been enough evidence to suggest that nature will help to maintain good mental health. According to mental health charity Mind, spending time in nature will improve your overall mood, lower stress levels and even boost your self esteem!  

What Are The Benefits Of Walking?

According to Mayo Clinic, walking is an excellent exercise for maintaining a healthy weight as well as keeping heart problems at bay. It’ll also benefit your immune system and ensure that your stress levels remain low as well as giving you a mood boost. 

If you’re looking to strengthen your body then walking is an amazing choice as it’ll work your bones and muscles without putting too much strain on them. The great thing about walking is that you can go at your own pace which is one of the reasons that it’s an accessible form of exercise for almost anyone with very basic fitness. 

The NHS tells us that walking for just ten minutes a day can go a long way in reaching your weekly exercise goals. What’s even better is that walking is free and even if you can’t go too far, there’s nothing stopping you doing laps of your garden.. If it was good enough for Captain Tom, it’s good enough for us!

Another excellent thing about walking is that you don’t need any special equipment like you might with hiking. If you’re not looking to invest a lot of money into a hobby then walking might be the right choice for you. It’s just as easy to head out for a walk in the clothes you are already wearing, so you can just drop everything and go.

What Should I Wear For Hiking?

One of the great things about hiking is that it can be done in all kinds of weather. If you’re looking for a real adventure then you might head to somewhere with snow on the ground and a chill in the air. On the other hand, many people enjoy heading out in the height of summer to explore the beauty of nature. 

In any case, you will need to make sure that you’re kitted out with the right attire. Since hiking is a much more physically demanding activity, you’re going to break a sweat so it’s important to make sure you aren’t going to overheat but are also protected from the elements. 

When it’s cold, layers are important and in the most extreme weather, you might consider wearing thermals. However, in summer, you’ll want to go for light layers that have excellent breathability. 

One of the key differences between hiking and walking is what you wear on your feet. Since hiking trails are much more rugged and demanding, often with terrain that could be slippery or even dangerous, you will need to make sure that you have appropriate hiking boots or shoes. These have excellent grip and thick rubber soles for both traction and durability. Moreover, they offer the utmost support to the feet. But when choosing hiking boots, do keep in mind that they will need to be broken in otherwise they may cause extreme discomfort and that’s the last thing you want when you’re out in the middle of nowhere.

What Should I Wear For Walking?

One of the great things about walking is that you can do it at any time of the year. There’s no reason that you cannot step out of your house and go for a stroll whether it’s glorious sunshine or snowflakes falling from the clouds. 

However, it is essential that you dress correctly. While walking isn’t the most strenuous activity, you will work up a bit of a sweat so wearing layers is key. 

During the winter months, we would suggest making sure that any outer layers offer water resistance at the very least. Waterproof clothing is a better option but not essential unless you’re going out in very heavy rain or snow. This applies to things like gloves, coats, hats etc. 

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Any inner layers need to be breathable so that air can circulate around freely which will prevent you from sweating and moisture building up inside the layers. It’s best to go for things that are made from synthetic materials as these are usually much more breathable.

Of course, you’re also going to want to make sure that you’re warm on your walk so choose clothes that offer warmth. Your regular attire will do in cold, dry weather but again, be sure to layer up!

While there is no essential need to wear special walking shoes, many people opt to do this for the superior comfort and support they offer. If you’re going on a shorter walk, you might simply wear your trainers however, we would suggest going for something that moves with the foot and offers great flexibility.

Many people choose to walk more frequently in the summer thanks to the pleasant weather. But do keep in mind that you’ll need to stay cool and, more importantly, hydrated so take a bottle of water with you. 

Where clothing is concerned, stick to lightweight, loose garments that promote excellent airflow and comfort. Moisture wicking materials are essential since you will naturally perspire more in the warm weather.

Don’t forget to stock up on suncream and make sure you’ve got a reliable sun hat and glasses to protect you from those UV rays. 

Check out our Best Lightweight Walking Boots article

Conclusion

There is an obvious difference between hiking and walking even though both activities also have a lot of similarities. Hiking is far more strenuous than walking and does require a greater level of fitness as well as some special equipment. However, walking is a much gentler activity and can be done by almost anyone. 

The terrain for the two activities is also vastly different with hiking taking place on more rugged surfaces including hills. When walking, you’ll usually be on a flat, smooth surface without too many serious inclines. 

There are, of course, benefits to both walking and hiking and there’s no denying that both are great forms of exercise. One of the most important things to remember is that these activities should be enjoyable and safe so don’t ever try to push yourself beyond your physical limits. You’ve nothing to prove to anyone as long as you’re having a great time!

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