AskDefine | Define trekking

Dictionary Definition



1 a journey by ox wagon (especially an organized migration by a group of settlers)
2 any long and difficult trip


1 journey on foot, especially in the mountains; "We spent the summer trekking in the foothills of the Himalayas"
2 make a long and difficult journey; "They trekked towards the North Pole with sleds and skis" [also: trekking, trekked]trekking See trek

User Contributed Dictionary


Verb form

  1. present participle of trek

Extensive Definition

Hiking is a form of walking, undertaken with the specific purpose of exploring and enjoying the scenery. It usually takes place on trails in rural or wilderness areas.
The word 'hiking' is understood in all English-speaking countries, but there are differences in usage. In some places, off-trail hiking is called 'cross-country hiking', 'bushwalking', or 'bushbashing'. In the United Kingdom, hiking is a slightly old-fashioned word, with a flavor more of heartiness and exercise than of enjoying the outdoors; the activity described here would be called hillwalking or simply 'walking'. Australians use the term 'bushwalking' for both on- and off-trail hiking. New Zealanders use 'tramping' (particularly for overnight and longer trips), 'walking' or 'bushwalking'. Hiking in the mountainous regions of India and Nepal and in the highlands of East Africa is sometimes called 'trekking'. Overnight hiking is called 'backpacking' in some parts of the world. Hiking a long-distance trail from end to end is referred to as 'thru-hiking' in some places.

Comparison with other forms of touring

Hiking is one of the fundamental outdoor activities on which many others are based. Many beautiful places can only be reached overland by hiking, and enthusiasts regard hiking as the best way to see nature. It is seen as better than a tour in a vehicle of any kind (or on an animal; see horseback riding) because the hiker's senses are not intruded upon by distractions such as windows, engine noise, airborne dust and fellow passengers. Hiking over long distances or over difficult terrain does require some degree of physical ability and knowledge.

Ecological impact of hiking

Hikers often seek beautiful natural environments in which to hike. Ironically, these environments are often fragile: hikers may accidentally destroy the environment that they enjoy. The action of an individual may not strongly affect the environment. However, the mass effect of a large number of hikers can degrade the environment. For example, gathering wood in an alpine area to start a fire may be harmless once (except for wildfire risk). Years of gathering wood, however, can strip an alpine area of valuable nutrients.
Generally, protected areas such as parks have regulations in place to protect the environment. If hikers follow such regulations, their impact can be minimized. Such regulations include forbidding wood fires, restricting camping to established camp sites, disposing or packing out faecal matter, imposing a quota on the number of hikers per day.
Many hikers espouse the philosophy of Leave No Trace: hiking in a way such that future hikers cannot detect the presence of previous hikers. Practitioners of this philosophy obey its strictures, even in the absence of area regulations. Followers of this practice follow strict practices on dealing with food waste, food packaging, and alterations to the surrounding environment.
Human waste is often a major source of environmental impact from hiking. These wastes can contaminate the watershed and make other hikers ill. Bacterial contamination can be avoided by digging 'catholes' 10 to 25 cm (4 to 10 inches) deep, depending on local soil composition and covering after use. If these catholes are dug at least 60 m (200 feet) away from water sources and trails, the risk of contamination is minimized. Many hikers warn other hikers about the location of their catholes by marking them with sticks stuck into the ground.
Sometimes, hikers enjoy viewing rare or endangered species. However, some species (such as martens or bighorn sheep) are very sensitive to the presence of humans, especially around mating season. Hikers should learn the habits and habitats of the endangered species, in order to avoid adverse impact.
There is one situation where an individual hiker can make a large impact on an ecosystem: inadvertently starting a wildfire. For example, in 2005, a Czech backpacker burned 7% of Torres del Paine National Park in Chile by knocking over an illegal gas portable stove. Obeying area regulations and setting up cooking devices on bare ground will reduce the risk of wildfire.

Etiquette of hiking

Because hiking is a recreational experience, hikers expect it to be pleasant. Sometimes hikers can interfere with each others' enjoyment, or that of other users of the land, but they can minimize this interference by following good etiquette. For example:
  • When two groups of hikers meet on a steep trail, there may be contention for use of the trail. To avoid conflict, a custom has developed in some areas whereby the group moving uphill has the right-of-way. In other situations, the larger of the two groups will usually yield to the smaller.
  • Being forced to hike much faster or slower than one's natural pace can be annoying, and difficult to maintain consistently. More seriously, walking unnaturally fast dramatically increases fatigue and exhaustion, and may cause injury. If a group splits between fast and slow hikers, the slow hikers may be left behind or become lost. A common custom is to encourage the slowest hiker to hike in the lead and have everyone match that speed. Another custom is to have experienced hiker(s) sweep up the rear on a rota, to ensure that everyone in the group is safe and nobody straggles.
  • Hikers often enjoy the silence and solitude of their surroundings. Loud sounds, such as shouting or loud conversation, disrupt this enjoyment. Some hikers purposely avoid loud sounds, out of deference to other hikers. Staying quiet will also increase the likelihood of encountering wildlife. (This is a hazard if dangerous animals are present; see Personal safety hazards.)
  • Hikers sometimes trespass onto private property from public land or rights of way (easements). Such trespass can alienate the property owners and (in countries where rights of way are not protected by law) close down hiking rights-of-way. To maximize hiking opportunities for everyone, most hikers will either stay on public land and easements, or solicit permission from property owners. Staying on well-marked trails avoids the possibility of trespass.
  • Tree branches or other vegetation often hang low across trails. A passing hiker may cause a tree branch to snap back in the face of a hiker behind. While it is courteous to warn following hikers if a branch is likely to snap back, it is every hiker's responsibility to allow enough space between himself and the hiker ahead to avoid the hazard.
  • When two groups of hikers meet, it is considered a common courtesy to exchange greetings (either verbal or physical, e.g. smiles and friendly nods). To pass another group without such acknowledgement is seen as rude.

Personal safety hazards

Hiking may produce threats to personal safety. These threats can be dangerous circumstances while hiking and/or specific accidents or ailments. Dangerous hiking circumstances include losing the way, inclement weather, hazardous terrain, or exacerbation of pre-existing medical conditions. Specific accidents include metabolic imbalances (such as dehydration or hypothermia), topical injuries (such as frostbite or sunburn), attacks by animals, or internal injuries (such as ankle sprain).
Hikers often propose a set of behavioral prescriptions to minimize these threats. A well-known example of such a set of prescription is the Ten Essentials.
  • Backpacking – also known as trekking, a multi-day, often arduous hike especially in mountainous regions
  • Ultralight backpacking
  • Thru-hiking – hiking a trail from end to end
  • Scrambling - "non-technical" rock climbing or mountaineering OR "technical" hiking
  • Hillwalking - an English form of hiking
  • Dog hiking – hiking with dogs
  • Freehiking - hiking while unclothed, also hiking off-trail
  • Waterfalling – AKA waterfall hunting and waterfall hiking is hiking with the purpose of finding and enjoying waterfalls
Related activities:
  • Fell running - An English and Welsh sport of running over rough mountainous ground, often off-trail. Known as Hill running in Scotland and Ireland. Similarities exist with Mountain running popular overseas, but also many differences.
  • Cross-country skiing - often the equivalent of hiking in snowy lands during wintertime
  • River trekking
  • Geocaching – outdoor treasure-hunting game
  • Orienteering – running sport involving navigation with a map and compass
  • Rogaining – sport of long distance cross-country navigation

External links

trekking in German: Wandern
trekking in Spanish: Senderismo
trekking in Esperanto: Marŝado
trekking in French: Randonnée
trekking in Luxembourgish: Wanderen
trekking in Marathi: ट्रेकिंग
trekking in Japanese: ハイキング
trekking in Portuguese: Pedestrianismo
trekking in Kölsch: Tallepe
trekking in Russian: Пешеходный туризм
trekking in Simple English: Hiking
trekking in Finnish: Patikointi
trekking in Swedish: Vandring
trekking in Vietnamese: Đi bộ đường dài
trekking in Chinese: 徒步
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