Walking and hiking are two concepts that are extremely close and some people find them rather confusing at times. Walks tend to be shorter in distance and time compared to hikes. There are some definitions in the Oxford dictionary but to provide more clarity we will look at hike vs walk in this article.
Walk – A walk can be defined as an act of wandering or an excursion on foot on smooth surfaces where there aren’t many hurdles in the way. This is normally done on a route suggested or marked out for leisure walking.
No special equipment is required other than your day pack containing essentials. There is generally accommodation available in the vicinity of the terrain that you are walking on.
Hike – A hike can be defined as a long walk traversing rough terrain. Hiking is generally done on through bush or countryside trails enabling you to enjoy nature over an extended period of time. Hikes are also done over longer distances on undulating terrain that takes longer to complete.
Trails are generally visible to follow but are not as smooth as the surfaces used in walks. Furthermore, hiking requires quite a bit more preparation and equipment than a walk. Hiking requires more effort than walking therefore you will need more experience and fitness for a hike.
What’s the Difference between Hiking and Walking
Walking can be defined as moving at a regular pace putting one foot in front of the other, lifting and setting down each foot in turn. At no stage will both feet be in the air simultaneously. Walks are generally less than 5 miles.
Hiking has the same basic definition with some additional features. It is executed on a naturally undulating surface of more than 3 miles.
So, how do you differentiate between hiking and walking?
- Walking is generally done in an urban environment on smooth artificial surfaces such as roads, fully paved surfaces, or a well-worn constructed path
- Hiking is generally done in rural or wilderness areas. It requires more preparation, equipment, and effort due to the undulating terrain and lack of smooth surfaces.
- More supplies are required for a hike due to the increased risk and time involved.
- Hiking can take a few days to complete a trail while walking is generally completed within 1 day.
Distance Required to be Considered a Hike
There are no hard and fast rules to define the distance for walks and hiking.
As a starting point, a walk must remain on even artificial surfaces and be completed within one day.
It is generally accepted that a walk can be between 2 and 5 miles or more.
However, to qualify as a hike the terrain must be undulating and of natural surfaces. It is accepted that to qualify as a hike it should be more than 3 miles. Some trails can take several days to complete with possible accommodation along the way.
Is hiking better than walking
Yes, hiking is better than walking.
Walking is an excellent form of exercise that is highly recommended to improve your health and fitness.
However, hiking is a lot more strenuous and burns more calories, targets a larger group of muscles, improves weight loss, increased mental health, and has a bigger higher effect on your overall well-being.
Essential gear to start hiking
The absolute minimum essentials required to start hiking are:
- A hiking backpack that holds 11–20 liters of gear is ideal for short hikes. Bigger backpacks are required for longer hikes that require additional food, water clothing, etc.
- Hiking boots
- Hiking Gear
- Longer hikes require items defined as the Ten Essentials.
Ten Essential Systems
The ten essentials for longer hikes are defined to enable you to survive if something goes awry during your hike.
Items included in the 10 essentials include
- GPS device
- Satellite messenger/personal locator beacon
- Route description or guidebook
Headlamp including some extra batteries
- Sun-protective clothes
- Sun hat
- SPF-rated lip balm
- First-aid kit or first-aid supplies
- Alcohol or antiseptic wipes
- Insect repellent
- Blister treatments
- Toilet paper
- Sanitation towel (if there are no toilets)
- Baby wipes
Knife or multi-tool plus a gear repair kit
Firestarter such as matches, lighter, or tinder
Shelter such as a light emergency bivvy
Extra food & Water
- Non-perishables such as energy bars, jerky, and nuts.
- Two liters of water per person per day.
- Water bottles and/or reservoir
- Water filter/purifier or chemical treatment
- Extra day’s supply of food
Extra Clothes – depending on the weather forecast for the region
- Moisture-wicking clothing
- Quick-drying clothing
- Long-sleeve shirt for protection against sun and bugs
- Lightweight fleece or jacket
- Synthetic or wool socks
- Rainwear (jacket and pants)
- Gloves or mittens
- Warm hat
Health & Hygiene
- Hand sanitizer
- Prescription medications
Both walking and hiking are fun activities that play a significant role in keeping you fit and healthy.
Although there is no clear distinction in the distance of either a walk or a hike, the terrain distinguishes between walks and hikes.
Walking requires little preparation and could be done with a bottle of water in the hand to keep you hydrated while a hike requires more preparation to cater for unplanned issues that can come up during the hike, especially on longer hikes
It is highly recommended that you share your itinerary with a friend and leave a copy under the seat of your car in case of an emergency.
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