What is Trekking? [And 5 Benefits of Trekking]

If you’re like me, when you hear people talk about trekking, or going on a trek… your mind goes to far off places with grandiose scenery to take in.  Places like the Manaslu Circuit Trek in Nepal and the West Highland Way in Scotland.

Or, if you were to ask my kids what they envisioned trekking to be, you’d likely get a reference to Jumanji starring Dwayne Johnson and co.

I even asked a friend if they knew what trekking was recently and they asked if it had to do with binge watching Star Trek flicks.  I kid you not.  

So, in the essence of clearing the air, I’m going to educate you… and many of my own friends and family. In this article, I will:

  • Tell you what trekking really means
  • Talk about how it’s different from hiking
  • How to get started with trekking
  • Offer five benefits trekking can provide

And without further adieu….

What is Trekking?

Technically speaking, the dictionary definition of trekking is the act of going on a long arduous journey, typically on foot. South African historians define it as “to migrate or journey with one’s belongings by ox-wagon”, which really isn’t far off if you contemplate some international treks that often include animals (such as donkeys, oxen, camels) to help carry supplies.

Trekking is often associated with a long vigorous hike in the rural, rugged landscape for multiple days… in all sorts of weather conditions. It’s intent is to explore untapped resources, wildlife and places. Some people have equated trekking to a pilgrimage of sorts. 

Trekking can be done along hiking trails, but is most often not, as it is more about the experience and pushing your physical and mental limits than a traditional hike in the woods.

How is Trekking Different from Hiking?

On paper, the differences are fairly insignificant. Trekking and hiking both involve walking in nature. They can also both be done overnight with a tent. And they are both about connecting with nature and quieting the mind. That being said, there are definite distinctions within their similarities.


  • There is a particular destination in mind, much of it across open land and mountainous areas or water. The terrain can be unpredictable and more challenging
  • Lasts for multiple days, with trips as far as 50 miles or longer. Some people have trekked thousands of miles.
  • Walking a minimum of 7 hours a day, over multiple days.
  • Backpacks that can carry up to a week’s worth of supplies – including food, clothes, tents, sleeping bags, cookware, a compass and necessary medications. 
  • Hiking boots are essential.


  • Typically involves peaceful walks along marked trails, with varying terrain, for the purpose of escaping into nature for a while.
  • Trips usually last 1-2 days, max.
  • You should be able to walk about 5 hours in a day, comfortably and without pain.
  • Utilizes lightweight backpacks for day hikes – with basic supplies such as water, lunch/snacks and a change of socks or shirt. Overnight hikes require more gear – such as a tent, sleeping bag, change of clothes and more food and water. 
  • Can be done in sturdy hiking shoes or boots.

Is Trekking Right for Me? What Are the Requirements?

Adequate preparation for a trek is crucial, as it will ensure you complete the trek without any major injuries or issues. Being unprepared can lead to unnecessary problems.

Physical and mental fatigue, as well as self-doubt, can be a real concern on treks, as it can increase your chance of injury… as well as cut the adventure short.

To mentally prepare for a trek, you should start by:

  • Practicing mindfulness and mediation – it’s critical that you are in the right frame of mind for an arduous journey and believe that you can do it!
  • Set realistic goals and manage expectations.
  • Do your research – visit websites, blogs and watch videos.
  • Join message boards.

To physically prepare for a trek, you should start by:

  • Evaluating your current fitness level and consult a physician if you have any doubts.
  • Come up with a structured exercise routine. Cardiovascular exercises such as walking, running, cycling, climbing stairs and swimming will target the core muscles you’ll be using the most on your trek. Strength training is also important. You should begin to incorporate things like lunges, squats, planks, mountain climbers, pushups and crunches into your workouts. Start slowly and gradually build up your stamina and endurance.
  • Incorporate rest days each week.
  • Eat a healthy, well balanced diet to prepare and sustain your body before and during the trek.
  • Stay hydrated to avoid cramps and muscle fatigue, or injury. Avoid too much caffeine and alcohol, which can dry you out.

Let’s Do This! 5 Benefits of Trekking

Trekking has some seriously good health benefits for your body and mind. Here are 5 of the key benefits of trekking. 

1. Foster a deeper connection with nature.

Treks offer a great opportunity to catch a glimpse of unusual wildlife, plant and tree species… as well as the vastness of the mountains, valleys, peaks and canyons that surround us. This world has so much untapped beauty, and trekking is a way to cozy up with it and develop a greater appreciation and connection to it. It may even inspire you to join conservation efforts in the hopes of preserving nature’s bounty.

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Treks offer a great opportunity to catch a glimpse of unusual wildlife, plant and tree species.

2. Develop a heightened sense of cultural awareness and social skills. 

Immersing yourself in different people, cultures and places is a wonderful way for you to truly appreciate all that you have… and all that is missing from your life.  Many of us live in our comfortable and safe bubbles of familiarity, rarely taking chances to explore other possibilities or see how the other half lives. The people you can meet on these treks, and the places you’ll see, will open your eyes to a great big world that is so much more than we think. If you’re looking for accountability partners, or to make new friends, websites like Trekking Pals can help.

3. Regular treks can help prolong your life.

Research has shown that walking 10,000 steps (or 5 miles) at a pace of 2-3 mph each week can reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke and heart failure by 31%.   Additionally, exercising regularly can be a great weapon against certain cancers.

4. Increased physicality.

Walking for many hours per day, over multiple days, won’t only help you to burn calories but it will work muscles you never knew you had. You will be stronger and more toned. It is also an excellent cardiovascular routine, akin to circuit training… as you jump from and climb rocks and boulders, encounter steep inclines and varying terrains. 

5. Reduces stress, anxiety and promotes self-confidence.

Getting away from the worries of everyday life, even for just a little while, can do wonders to reduce stress and anxiety. But escaping for multiple days or weeks will almost cure it entirely… not to mention give a real boost to your self-esteem. Think about it! If you tell someone you just finished a trek to the Pyramids of Giza, chances are they will be impressed, which will make you want to pat yourself on the back. 

Final Thoughts on Trekking and Its Benefits

Think of trekking as Hiking 2.0… or hiking’s older brother (or sister). Not only is it a great form of exercise, because of the increased distance and difficulty levels… but it can be a soul searching journey if you let it.

Treks are designed to have an impact on your life, physically and mentally. They inspire and challenge you to “go the distance”. 

If you’re looking to add some excitement to your exercise routine, going on a trek should be on your radar, especially if you already hike.  Check out this article on the lifelong health and mental benefits of hiking for further inspiration.  And if you are new to hiking, don’t worry. You can still aspire to work up to that trek of a lifetime… either on your own or with a partner by your side. 

Nicole Krause has been writing both personally and professionally for over 25 years. Her work has appeared in some of the country’s top publications, major news outlets, online publications and blogs.

She is an avid runner and incorporates walking, hiking, golfing and kickboxing into her weekly workout routine to keep things fresh and maximize calorie burn. She lives in the beautiful Sourland Mountain area of New Jersey, which offers many challenging and scenic trails.

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