What is Hiking? Equipment, Best Season, Top Spots

Clara AguirrehJune 17, 2018

Hiking is an activity of moderate difficulty, which involves walking across long distances generally on trails or paths. The duration of the activity varies between short half-day programs and longer itineraries of over 20 days. It is usually an activity that allows groups of different sizes.

Hiking and trekking are two terms sometimes used indistinctly. The difference between each of them is usually the duration of the specific activity. Hiking is associated with shorter programs, while trekking is used to describe longer programs of a week or more.

Hiking is also a great way to immerse yourself in the culture and history of a country or area. Longer programs will take you to experience local communities and taste unique local food. Hiking is where the trail meets the people, and mountain sports meet cultural adventure.

Are there different types of hiking? 

There are different types of hiking depending on the difficulty and the duration of each program.

Short hikes

Hikes can be as short as half a day or 1 day, as a great complement to a short trip, for example, and always a great way to connect with your more natural self. Hikes can also involve a series of days.

Long hikes – or treks

Some hiking (or trekking) programs involve over 12 days, covering dozens of kilometres. These programs generally include spending the night in tents, camps or mountain huts.

These tend to be opportunities to visit more remote local areas, and create a more cultural experience as well as natural.

Mount Fuji Hiking Tokio
The view from Mount Fuji after a successful hiking program. Photo: Chikako Hayashi.

What is the best time of the year to practice hiking?

Hiking is an activity available most of the year, depending on the area. Winter is not a preferred season for hiking programs, as it can be harsher and more dangerous. Most mountain areas where ski sports are practiced during the winter are suitable for hiking programs on the warmer months.

Some areas are suitable for hiking programs all year round. This is strictly specific to each location and its particular geographic and weather conditions.

4-day Nahuel Huapi Traverse, Bariloche, Argentina. Photo: Camila Chamizo.

What equipment do you need?

This will depend on the duration of the program, and especially if it is an over-night program or not. Generally you will need:

  • Two different pairs of shoes: a pair of strong and waterproof hiking shoes, and a lighter pair (sneakers or sandals)
  • Rain and windproof jacket and pants
  • Sun cream
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat or cap
  • 35 or 40 litre backpack (you usually need to carry your own equipment, unless it is a longer hike in which case there are sometimes porters)
  • Water bottle
  • Walking poles
  • Head lamp

Why do you need a mountain guide to go hiking?

Hiking is not just walking around. This is why the role of mountain guides is essential to a safe and interesting hiking experience. They will know the state of the different trails and paths, set up the best itineraries, and determine how safe each of them is. This includes knowledge about the flora and fauna in the area, how to engage with it and respect it.

Guides are in charge of planning a balanced program according to your needs and fitness level. Good hiking itineraries will contemplate strategic pauses in between hiking phases, so you can experience the program to the maximum and reach your goals, according to your experience and physical possibilities.

The professional knowledge of mountain guides includes logistic contacts to make a program smoother, more efficient and safer. Also, should there be any kind of emergency, they are prepared to assist you.

Selvaggio Blu hike - Sardinia, Italy. Hiking in the Mediterranean Sea.
Selvaggio Blu hike, in Sardinia, Italy. Photo: Francis Kesley.

10 best spots in the world to practice hiking

1| Tour de Mont Blanc, France. A classic of classics worldwide, in the beautiful French Alps.

2| Everest base camp: a truly iconic hiking experience in Nepal. Programs of between 12 and 21 days will take you all the way up to 5,350 m (17,500 ft).

3| The demanding and extra satisfying GR20 trail in Corsica, France, is sometimes considered one of the hardest treks in Europe.

4| Mont Fuji in Japan is an overwhelmingly special location very close to the busy city of Tokyo.

5| The Alta Via 1 hiking trail in the Dolomites, Italy, takes you across 100 km of unique landscapes and UNESCO World Heritage sites.

6| The Salkantay trek in the Peruvian Andes, Peru, is a sacred road that connects Cuzco to Machu Picchu, the world-known heart of the Inca civilization.

7| Bariloche, in Central Patagonia, Argentina, is a beacon of amazing hikes and trekking programs, with impressive lakes and forests. A true South American treasure.

8| Selvaggio Blue, along the eastern coast of the Italian island of Sardinia, is an intense 6-day (at least) hiking experience, with the Mediterranean sea as a backdrop.

9| The Yellowstone National Park in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, in the United States has an impressive wild life, endless forests, mountains, and hot springs.

10|  The Picos de Europa National Park in the Spanish Pyrenees offers a wide variety of hiking programs.

[BONUS] More hiking options

What are the best treks and hikes in the Himalayas?

The best 5 hikes in Iceland, amazing land of ice and fire

Hiking Mt Yatsugatake in Japan: from a business trip to a mountain

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