Preliminary Trip Schedule for 2021

Jeremiah Pastor “Bullfrog” AcadianX Lead Adventure Guide

This is a preliminary list of possible trips AcadianX may take on in 2021.  This list is not set in stone but just a suggestion.  These trips will only happen if there are enough dedicated people to make it happen.  Usually about 3 people.  If you are interested in taking on one of these trips or have a suggestion for a trip you would like to take, please do not hesitate to let us know.  As usual AcadianX will provide a guide and handle all the planning and logistics leaving you with nothing to stress about except getting yourself ready and showing up.

Month of Travel Location Trip Type (Route)
February Everglades NP Paddling Trip (Wilderness Waterway)
March Death Valley NP Backpacking Trip (Telescope Peak, Cottonwood/Marble Canyon Loop)
April Olympic NP Backpacking Trip (Shi Shi Beach to Cape Alava)
May Yosemite NP Backpacking Trip (High Sierra Camp Loop)
June Kings Canyon NP or Sequoia NP Backpacking Trip (Rae Lakes or High Sierra Trail)
July Rocky Mountain NP or Maroon Bells Backpacking Trip (Teton Crest Trail or Northern Traverse)
August Grand Teton NP or Glacier NP Backpacking Trip (Teton Crest Trail or Northern Traverse)
September Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Paddling Trip (Lakeshore)
October Big Bend NP Backpacking/Paddle Trip (South Rim, Marufo Vega)
November Smoky Mountains NP Backpacking Trip

Situational Awareness in the Backcountry

Jeremiah Pastor “Bullfrog” – AcadianX Lead Adventure Guide

What is Situational Awareness?

If you are around me enough you will hear me harp on situational awareness.  So, what do I mean by this?  Part of managing safety in the outdoors (or anywhere for that matter) is being constantly aware of the current conditions and changes in those conditions.  I first learned about this in the military when training as a Navy SEAL.  Based on the constant life threating nature of our business, developing a strong situational awareness mindset was paramount.  Situational awareness can be defined as the perception of environmental elements and events with respect to time or space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their future status.  Basically, it is the Sherlock Holmes trait.  Now by no means do I expect people to run around the backcountry solving crimes but putting yourself in the mindset can be an invaluable tool and best of all this mindset can be learned.

How does this Apply to the Backcountry?

In backcountry navigation, experienced navigators both respect and are wary of using GPS device or app to navigate.  It happens more than not that you see backpackers “heads down” following their tiny screens unaware of their surroundings.  When you are trying to find your way in the wilderness and you simply follow the GPS device, you end up ignoring the visual cues from the terrain around you and “situational awareness” as well as safety is diminished.  To combat this, let us look at a situational awareness strategy that you can follow while navigating in the backcountry that I found in the book “Mountaineering – The Freedom of the Hills” by the Mountaineers.

    1. Observe – Start by observing your surroundings and updating your mental map of the landscape. Where have you come from? Where are you now? Where are you going? What are the dangers?
    2. Orient – Correlate the surroundings with the physical map to see if they are in agreement. Study myriad details, including slope, sun position, ridges, and terrain features.  Then confirm your understanding using multiple tools from the navigation toolset.  Confirm the elevation with an altimeter, the cardinal directions with the compass, and your position with GPS.
    3. Decide – Where do you go from here? Decide on your next steps.
    4. Act – Hike on! And maintain your heightened sense of situational awareness by repeating the Observe-Orient-Decide-Act cycle with close observation and by continually updating your mental map while moving through the landscape.

Maintaining your situational awareness goes far beyond its use in navigation but in all aspects of your backcountry experience to include the safety of yourself and your team most of all.  If you are the team leader or the guide, your job is to constantly be situationally aware of the following:

    1. Weather – The current and pending weather.
    2. Time – The time of day and how many hours of daylight are remaining.
    3. Distance – The remaining distance to your destination.
    4. Landscape – Where you are on the map, the type of terrain, your environment, and your elevation.
    5. Team – How many people are with you and their current location.
    6. Emergency – How to contact help, where to find help, best possible evacuation route.
    7. Resources – Current status of equipment, food, people, etc.
    8. Condition – The current condition of yourself and everyone else on your team regarding their health, warmth, energy level, attitude, physical condition, etc.

By doing this you are maintaining a high level of situational awareness, which in turn, will help keep you on track and your team safe, thus giving everyone the chance to have an enjoyable experience.

How to Improve your Situational Awareness?

Situational awareness is a skill and like any other skill you can train yourself to improve on it.  But there lies the trick, you must train at it.  Here are 10 generic ways to practice expanding your alertness, not only in the backcountry, but in your everyday life as well:

    1. Learn to Predict Events – The most effective aspect of Situational Awareness involves the ability to project the future actions of elements around you. After you have been able to identify elements in your environment and can comprehend the situation, it is time to take your Situational Awareness one step further. Use this information to think ahead and determine how it will affect future actions and events in the environment.
    2. Identify Elements Around You – The first step in achieving Situational Awareness is to become aware of the important elements in your environment. Start by noticing the threats to safety that surround you. Then expand your awareness to other non-threatening elements such as navigational cues. This is the most basic level of Situational Awareness where you begin to monitor, detect, and recognize multiple situational elements. These include objects, events, people, and environmental factors. Basic Situational Awareness also requires you to notice the locations, conditions, and actions of the elements around you.  This may sound overwhelming, but do not worry. These are skills you already use on a daily basis. The first step is designed to help you expand and improve your perception of what is happening around you.
    3. Trust Your Feelings – Disorder within your family or a gut feeling that things are not right can cause you to lose proper situational awareness. This clue is one of the most reliable because the body can detect stimulus long before we have consciously put it all together.
    4. Limit Situational Overload – Overload causes distraction, increased errors, and high stress. Prioritizing and delegating tasks and minimizing surrounding distractions can improve survival during times of overload.
    5. Avoid Complacency – Assuming everything is under control will affect your vigilance. You must actively keep yourself in the right mindset. When things are slow, or tasks are routine complacency usually occurs. The worst part is the slow creep of complacency is hardly ever noticed except in hindsight.  Continue to challenge yourself and those with you to be prepared for contingencies. Do a mental check every now and then.
    6. Be Aware of Time – Time is an important factor in mastering Situational Awareness. The pace of your environment is constantly being changed by the actions of individuals, task characteristics, and outside elements. When unplanned events begin to arise, be sure to make the necessary changes to your schedule and goals to help you survive.
    7. Begin to Evaluate and Understand Situations – The next step in involves understanding multiple elements through the processes of environmental pattern recognition, subtle landscape changes, interpretation, and evaluation. Use this information to determine how it will affect your goals or your safety. This will help you build a comprehensive picture of your immediate surroundings and a better understanding of Situational Awareness.
    8. Actively Prevent Fatigue – Fatigue affects your ability to watch for possible danger or difficulties. Try adjusting your work routine and imposing sleep discipline to prevent wake cycles longer than 18 hours. Make sure you get at least 5 and preferably 8 hours per day of sound sleep to minimize sleep deprivation.
    9. Continually Assess the Situation – When you are in the backcountry always be prepared for changes around you. Continually assess and reassess the situation to determine if you are giving yourself the best possible chance for success. Learn what nature, the land, and new tasks are telling you, before you find yourself in a difficult situation.
    10. Monitor Performance of Others – Be alert for changes in the performance of those around you caused by physical overload, stress, and mistakes. When changes are needed, take action by speaking up and helping out. A weak link in your team could be the difference between success or failure in the backcountry.

 

Magnetic Declination Explained

Jeremiah Pastor “The Bullfrog” – AcadianX Lead Adventure Guide

When you look at a map they are oriented as north is facing the top of the page.  The north that is in that direction is known as “true north”, which means that it points directly towards the geographic North Pole.  A compass on the other hand, actually points toward “magnetic north” which is slightly in a different direction than true north and that difference can vary depending on your geographic location.  This difference is known as magnetic declination and is usually expressed in degrees either east or west of true north.  In order to correct this, you just need to make an adjustment to the heading on your compass.

There is a line where magnetic north and true north both point in the same direction.  This line is known as the line of zero declination and as of 2020 it currently runs from eastern Minnesota through central Louisiana and is noted in the picture below as the 0° line.

U.S. Magnetic Declination in 2020

If you are located west of the zero line, then true north will be somewhat west of magnetic north and this is known as “east declination”.  And the opposite is true if you are east of the zero line, then true north will be somewhat east of magnetic north which is known as “west declination”.

Changes in Magnetic Declination

Magnetic declination varies both from place to place and with the passage of time. As a traveler cruises the east coast of the United States, for example, the declination varies from 16 degrees west in Maine, to 6 in Florida, to 0 degrees in Louisiana, to 4 degrees east (in Texas). The declination at London, UK was one degree west (2014), reducing to zero as of early 2020.

The magnetic declination in a given area may (most likely will) change slowly over time, possibly as little as 2–2.5 degrees every hundred years or so, depending upon how far from the magnetic poles it is. For a location closer to the pole like Ivujivik, the declination may change by 1 degree every three years. This may be insignificant to most travelers but can be important if using magnetic bearings from old charts or metes (directions) in old deeds for locating places with any precision.  The map in above picture shows declination for the year 2020 for the contiguous 48 states, and it will be accurate to about half a degree for most locations for a range from 2017 to 2023.

To get the current and 5 year projected magnetic declination for an area the NOAA has a great mapping tool for finding this out. You can find it here:

Adjusting Bearings for Magnetic Declination

As stated above, dependent on which side of the zero line of declination you are on will let you know whether you need a west declination or an east declination adjustment.  If you are east of the zero line then you will have a west declination, and the opposite is true if you are west side of the zero line because you will now have east declination.  Examples of each can be seen in the picture below.

Examples of Magnetic Declination

 

East Declination – When you are west of the zero line of declination remember that your declination is east.  Your true bearing is the measurement in degrees from the line to true north to the line to your objective.  However, the compasses magnetic needle is pulled toward magnetic north, not true north.  So instead it measures the angle between the line to magnetic north and the line to your objective.  Based on the example in the figure below, this magnetic bearing is 15.6 degrees less than the true bearing in Mt. Rainier.  To get the true bearing you would just add 15.6 degrees to the magnetic bearing.

East Declination

 

West Declination – When you are east of the zero line of declination your declination is west.  Based on the example in the figure below, this magnetic bearing is 16.3 degrees more than the true bearing in Acadia NP.  To get the true bearing you would just subtract 16.3 degrees to the magnetic bearing.

West Declination

Adjustable Declination Arrow

Adjusting for declination can be simple in theory but when put to practical use in the field when it really matters can cause a lot of stress on the mind and can lead to errors in mental arithmetic leading to possible serious consequences.  An easier way to handle this is to upgrade your compass to a model that is equipped with an adjustable declination arrow instead of one with a fixed orienting arrow.  This feature allows the declination arrow to be set for any declination.  This will then allow the bearing at the index line to be set to your true bearing.

Modified Declination Arrow at Home

If your compass has fixed orienteering arrows, you can easily modify it by attaching a thin strip of tape to the bottom of the rotating housing to act as a modified declination arrow.  Trim the edge of the tape into a point and place it to where the end is pointing as in the example in the figure below.

Example of Custom Declination Arrow

Taking a Bearing in the Field with Magnetic Declination

In order to take a bearing with magnetic declination in the field you simply follow the same procedure as you would normally, but you would now align the magnetic arrow with adjustable declination arrow, or the taped arrow as opposed to the orienting arrow on your compass.

This information was taken from our training course on Backcountry Navigation.  If you would like to know more follow the link below and register for the course.  This course will teach you everything you need to know about navigating yourself through the wilderness.

AcadianXU Backpacking 101 Series – Backcountry Navigation

 

Mental Health Benefits of Hiking in Nature!

Jeremiah Pastor “The Bullfrog” – AcadianX Lead Adventure Guide

“Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves,” wrote John Muir in Our National Parks. Clearly, John Muir understood the intrinsic value of spending time in nature.  So, when Muir followed up by saying, “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks,” he was clearly on to something.

Along with Muir, many of us recognize that hiking in nature is good for the body, mind, and soul. Walking through the woods while observing colorful birds and foliage, smelling the aroma of spruce and pine trees, and listening to a soothing running stream simply clear our mind and make us feel good. Lucky for us, doctors and researchers agree. Study after study shows there are many mental health benefits to spending time hiking in nature.

Hiking in Nature Reduces Rumination

Those who ruminate or focus too much on negative thoughts about themselves can exhibit anxiety, depression, and other issues, such as binge eating or post-traumatic stress disorder. In a recent study, researchers investigated whether spending time in nature affects rumination, and they found that hiking in nature decreases these obsessive, negative thoughts.

In this study, researchers compared the reported rumination of participants who hiked through an urban environment and a nature environment. They found that those who walked for 90 minutes in a natural environment, which took place in a grassland near Stanford University, reported lower levels of rumination and had reduced the neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, which is associated with mental illness. Those who walked through an urban environment didn’t enjoy these benefits.

These researchers indicate that our world is becoming more and more urban and that urbanization is linked to depression and other forms of mental illness. Visibly, simply removing us from an urban environment to spend time outdoors where there are fewer mental stressors, less noise, and fewer distractions can be advantageous for our mental health.  (Gregory N. Bratman, 2019)

Hiking While Disconnecting from Technology Boosts Creative Problem Solving

According to a study by Ruth Ann Atchley and David L. Strayer, creative problem solving can be improved by disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with nature. In this study, participants hiked while backpacking in nature for approximately four days and they were prohibited from using technology. They were asked to perform tasks requiring creativity and complex problem solving. They found that those immersed in the hiking excursions had increased performance on problem-solving tasks by 50 percent.

Researchers indicate that technology and the noise of urban areas constantly demand our attention and disturb us from focusing, which taxes our cognitive functions. Thus, when we’re feeling overwhelmed from the stressors of urban life and being plugged-in 24/7, nature hikes can be strong medicine. They reduce our mental fatigue, soothe our minds, and help us think creatively.  (Atchley RA, 2012)

Hiking Outdoors Can Improve ADHD in Children

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common disorder among children. Those with ADHD generally have trouble staying focused, are easily distracted, exhibit hyperactivity, and have difficulty controlling impulses.

Raising children with ADHD can be perplexing for parents. Nonetheless, great news has emerged from the medical and scientific world. In a study conducted by Frances E. Kuo, PhD and Andrea Faber Taylor, PhD, researchers found that exposing children with ADHD to “green outdoor activities” reduced their ADHD symptoms. Thus, according to this study, the benefits of exposure to nature can extend to anyone with inattention and impulsivity.

Doctors conclude that simple changes that involve green activities or settings can improve attention. For example, increasing exposure to a window seat with a green view, participating in an afternoon nature hike, or simply playing ball in the park can ease unwanted ADHD symptoms.  (Frances E. Kuo, 2019)

Hiking in Nature is Great Exercise, Which Boosts Brainpower

We’ve all heard the expression healthy body, healthy mind. Hiking outdoors is an excellent form of exercise and it can burn 400 to 700 calories an hour, depending on the difficulty of the hike. An added benefit is that hiking isn’t as hard on our joints as other forms of exercise, such as running. Also, it’s proven that those who exercise outside are more likely to stick to their exercise programs, which makes hiking an excellent choice for those hoping to integrate exercise into their daily lives.

The mind and body are naturally connected. Exercise helps to keep our brain cells nourished and healthy. In fact, according to researchers from the University of British Columbia, aerobic exercise might improve memory and cognitive ability. In the study, they found that aerobic exercise increased the hippocampal volume in older women. The hippocampus is a part of brain associated with spatial and episodic memory.

Not only does exercise improve cognitive ability and possibly prevent cognitive decline as shown by the study, it can also reduce stress and anxiety, boost self-esteem, and release endorphins (feel-good hormones). It’s astonishing that a physical activity as simple and low-cost as hiking can provide so many mental health benefits.  (Lisanne F ten Brinke, 2019)

Hiking is Now Prescribed by Doctors

Has your doctor ever told you to “take a hike?” This isn’t a phrase that we typically want to hear, especially from our doctors, but they actually have our wellbeing in mind. Progressive doctors are now aware that people who spend time in nature enjoy less stress and better physical health.

According to WebMD, more and more doctors are writing “nature prescriptions” or recommending “ecotherapy” to reduce anxiety, improve stress levels, and to curb depression. Plus, nature prescriptions are becoming more accepted by traditional health care providers as more research shows the benefits of exercising and spending time in nature.

The state of California is traditionally one of the more progressive states in the area of alternative health. As an example, the Institute at the Golden Gate has been leading the charge to promote ecotherapy through its “Healthy Parks Healthy People (HPHP)” initiative. In this program, community organizations work with health professionals to improve the health of their parks, and to promote the use of parks as a passageway to health for the people who use them.  (Sorgen, 2019)

Hiking Makes You Happier

Research shows that using hiking as an additional therapy can help people with severe depression feel less hopeless, depressed and suicidal. It may even inspire those suffering from it to lead a more active lifestyle.

For those who don’t suffer from depression, hiking still offers mental benefits. “Being out in nature, away from the business of our daily lives and technology, can allow people to connect with themselves and nature in a way that brings about peace and a sense of well-being,” states Leigh Jackson-Magennis, REI Outdoor Programs and Outreach New England Market Manager.  (Sturm J, 2012) (Neunhäuserer D, 2019)

Hiking Heals

Some research suggests that the physical benefits of hiking extend far beyond cardiovascular health, and may even go as far as to help cancer patients recover. In a study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine researchers measured oxidative stress (thought to play a role in the onset, progression and recurrence of cancer) rates of women with breast cancer and men with prostate cancer before and after hiking. The study found that long distance hiking trips may improve the antioxidative capacity, which helps fight off disease, in the blood of oncological patients. Another study showed that breast cancer survivors who exercised regularly — many in the form of hiking — believed that physical activity complemented their recovery from cancer treatment.  (Knop, 2019)

Hiking May Help PTSD in Veterans

A new University of Washington study aims to test the benefits of wilderness hiking among veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. This comes as REI pledges $1 million to fund a new health and nature initiative at the university’s College of the Environment. In an article published by REI it outlines research efforts to advance understanding of how time spent in nature improves well-being, REI is pledging $1 million to support the launch of a new initiative within the University of Washington’s EarthLab that will study the link between human health and time spent outdoors.

The new initiative, Nature for Health, builds on existing bodies of work and has grown out of years of collaboration and conversation among university researchers and leaders in the outdoor, nonprofit and governmental communities. Within the health and nature initiative, veterans will be key partners.  (O’Brien, 2019)

References

    1. Atchley RA, S. D. (2012, 07). Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning through Immersion in Natural Settings. Retrieved from PLoS ONE: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0051474
    2. Frances E. Kuo, P. a. (2019, 07 15). A Potential Natural Treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Evidence From a National Study. Retrieved from US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1448497/
    3. Gregory N. Bratman, J. P. (2019, 07 15). Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation. Retrieved from Preceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: https://www.pnas.org/content/112/28/8567
    4. Knop, K. (2019, 07 15). Sport and oxidative stress in oncological patients. Retrieved from US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22095321
    5. Lisanne F ten Brinke, N. B.-K.-A. (2019, 07 15). Aerobic exercise increases hippocampal volume in older women with probable mild cognitive impairment: a 6-month randomised controlled trial. Retrieved from British Journal of Sports Medicine: https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/49/4/248.abstract?sid=ecff0a48-d4fd-4a9d-b34a-156ca915a79e
    6. Neunhäuserer D, S. J.-K. (2019, 07 15). Hiking in suicidal patients: neutral effects on markers of suicidality. Retrieved from US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23953873
    7. O’Brien, S. (2019, 07 15). Can Hiking Help Heal Veterans with PTSD? Researchers Seek to Find Out. Retrieved from REI Co-Op: https://www.rei.com/blog/hike/can-hiking-help-heal-veterans-with-ptsd-researchers-seek-to-find-out
    8. Sorgen, C. (2019, 07 15). Do You Need a Nature Prescription? Retrieved from WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/nature-therapy-ecotherapy#1
    9. Sturm J, P. M. (2012, 07 15). Physical exercise through mountain hiking in high-risk suicide patients. A randomized crossover trial. Retrieved from US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22486584

How to Pack Your Backpack

Jeremiah Pastor “The Bullfrog” – AcadianX Lead Adventure Guide

Packed efficiently, a backpack can swallow an amazing array of gear. But what goes where? There’s no one right way to pack. Lay out all your gear at home and try out different loading routines until you’ve found what works best for you. Use a backpacking checklist to ensure you have everything and make notes on your list about what worked well (or poorly) after each trip.

This article offers packing tips and explains the proper way to manage your payload. A well-loaded pack will feel balanced when resting on your hips and won’t shift or sway as you hike with it.

Packing can be broken down into three zones, plus peripheral storage:

      • Bottom zone: Good for bulky gear and items not needed until camp.
      • Core zone: Good for your denser, heavier items.
      • Top zone: Good for bulkier essentials you might need on the trail.
      • Accessory pockets: Good for essentials you’ll need urgently or often.  This includes the brain (top section of the pack), side pockets, and hip pockets.
      • Tool loops and lash-on points: Good for oversized or overly long items.

Visualize stacking cordwood. You’re laying down rows, not building columns: Fill nooks and crannies until you have a solid, stable load—and be sure weight is equally balanced on each side. Tighten compression straps to streamline your load and prevent it from shifting as you hike.

Sleeping Bag First!

What comes out last, goes in first, because your sleeping bag is the last thing you’ll need at the end of the day. Plus, having a large, light item at the bottom of your pack perfectly sets you up to be able to pack your heaviest gear at the center of your shoulder blades. So, first thing’s first: put your sleeping bag at the bottom of your pack.

Put the Weight Where It Needs To Be

There are a few tricks that keep the aches and pains of hoisting 40-pounds of life necessities up mountains at a minimum—namely properly distributing the weight you’re carrying. Lightweight items go in first—on top of your sleeping bag. This includes clothes, and other odds and ends. Your heaviest items (bear canisters full of food, pots stuffed with food and clothes) and the bulk of the weight of your pack (including water bladders) should be centered between your shoulder blades and close to your back. Then, fill in the rest of your pack with middle-weight gear (first-aid, stove, water filter, etc.) further away from your back and in the middle of the pack—filling in the excess space.

Use Your Brain

The brain—aka the zippered pocket at the top of your pack—is your best friend. Keep everything that you need quick access to during the day here. Sunscreen, snacks, GPS, a headlamp, or an extra layer of clothing belong in your brain. Keeping these necessities where you can have quick access to them will undoubtedly save you from time spent on the side of the trail dissecting your pack, just for a tube of lip balm.

Keep It Together

Invest in some small zippered bags (not plastic bags, because that’s wasteful!) that can help keep smaller items wrangled together. Put your silverware in one bag, toiletries in another, and snacks in another. That way, you won’t be digging through your pack at sunset trying to find a fork when your hunger level is at a strong 10. This is also a great way to cut down on bottles and containers that you won’t need out there. Just squeeze foot powder, sunscreen, toothpaste, into baggies (we can recommend plastic bags for these messier items).

Say No to Backpack Ornaments

Sometimes, not everything fits inside your pack. Tents can be awkwardly shaped and hiking poles can impale your pack—leaving you with gear to attach to your person externally. Luckily, most packs are equipped to handle these scenarios without leaving you looking like a backcountry Christmas tree—with gear dangling all around you (and getting in your way). Attach your tent or sleeping pad to the bottom of your pack horizontally, and use side straps to lock your poles down vertically. Whatever you do, attach external gear in the direction that maintains the integrity of your packs’ shape—because nothing is worse than walking down a trail hitting every tree, shrub, and person that you pass by. Remember, it’s all about staying balanced.

 

Hiking Vs Trekking:  Beginners Guide

Jeremiah Pastor “The Bullfrog” – AcadianX Lead Adventure Guide

If you’re an adventurer who loves being out in nature, then a hiking or trekking might just be your cup of tea. However, it’s important to understand that while the two activities share a number of similarities, they’re also very different. Understanding the difference between a hike and a trek is crucial for making sure you choose an adventure that’s right for you. So, what is the difference?

Hiking

What is a hike or day hike?

In simple terms, hiking is the leisure activity of walking on well-marked, man-made trails or roads. Hikes range in difficulty levels but typically aren’t too strenuous compared to treks. A hike can last a couple hours, to an entire day, and terrain varies from rolling hills to steep forested inclines. Because of this hikes are often referred to as “day hikes”.

At the end of the day, a hike is an adventure that typically doesn’t leave you carrying heavy gear or involve any overnight responsibilities.  This is what the “day pack” was designed for.

What type of traveler is best suited for day hiking?

Hiking is perfect for travelers searching for an adventure that gets their blood pumping without pushing their physical limits too far. You’ll be outdoors, walking for long periods of time and a hike may also involve walking through rain, hail or shine.

So, while the physical demands of a hike are less than a trek, you still need to be prepared to push yourself to some extent.

What’s it like to go on a day hike?

Day hikes are much more involved than a typical sightseeing tour and you’re often able to experience a destination while enjoying a more in-depth experience, as you’re that much closer to nature and the environment you’re visiting. Day hikes involve early mornings, great wildlife photography opportunities while providing the chance to travel with a group of like-minded individuals who love the great outdoors (just like you).

What are the must-do hikes in the world?

When it comes to hiking, everyone has a different bucket list. But there are some hikes that stand out as the most famous in the world:

    1. Tiger’s Nest, BhutanMost people who travel to Bhutan opt to make the hike up the side of a cliff to visit the breathtaking Buddhist monastery, The Tigers Nest. Perched 900 meters off the ground, this hike is steep, but the views are definitely worth it.
      • Distance: 3.25 kilometers (each way)
      • Time: Two hours to get to the top, however, it is best to allow for five to seven hours for the entire hike
    1. Tongariro Alpine Crossing, New ZealandConsidered one of the best day hikes in New Zealand (and quite possibly the world), this hike boasts phenomenal landscapes and a uniquely beautiful volcanic terrain for your viewing pleasure. If you’re looking for a hike with constantly changing scenery, this could be your top pick.
      • Distance: Roughly 19.5 kilometers (roundtrip)
      • Time: Between six and eight hours
    1. Trolltunga, NorwayIf you’ve seen a travel photo of someone doing a handstand on a cliff over a picturesque lake, it was probably captured at Trolltunga. Growing in popularity for its beauty and thrill-levels, this hike is both picturesque and extremely memorable for those who are game to brave the adventure.
      • Distance: 23 kilometers (roundtrip)
      • Time: Between eight and ten hours
    1. Torres del Paine Lookout, ChileThis hike will leave you wanting to hike again and again, everywhere and anywhere. The highlight of this adventure is hands down the breathtaking mighty towers of Andean granite that demand your attention. Plus, the photo opportunities are nearly endless.
      • Distance: 19 kilometers (roundtrip)
      • Time: Between four and six hours, however, this depends on the weather as it can turn in an instant
    1. Faulhornweg Bernese, SwitzerlandAs one of the most iconic hikes in the world, the Faulhornweg hike takes you right to some of the most iconic peaks in the world. This high-level route is definitely dramatic, showing off stunning meadows, Alpine flowers, and of course, the Faulhorn at 2,680 meters above sea level.
      • Distance: 15 kilometers (roundtrip)
      • Time: Between five and six hours.

What do I need to know before I go hiking?

Before hiking, there are a few vital pieces of information that you need to be aware of. It’s important to complete your research about hiking in your chosen destination and is certainly important to test your body and gear so you know what you’re capable of and what to expect.

      1. Test your gear. It’s better to know how things work before you start; otherwise, it might be useless on the trails. Aim to complete a trial run, even if it’s just in your backyard.
      2. Avoid cotton. Quick-drying, breathable fabric will be your best friend out in the elements and won’t leave you uncomfortable if it rains or gets hot out.
      3. Load up on food and water. Most hikers agree one pint of water (roughly half a litre) for every two hours (or four miles) of walking should suffice. For food, you’ll want to pack roughly a half-pound for a full day. Plus snacks. Never forget snacks!
      4. Respect the trail. From other hikers to nature itself, remember that you’re a visitor. Pick up after yourself, be polite (always smile and say wave when passing other hikers), and don’t cause any harm to nature.
      5. Try trail sneakers. Hiking boots are okay, but depending on your hike, they can actually cause you more harm than good. Trail runners are becoming a more popular and comfortable option for many hikers.
      6. Share your plans. If you’re not hiking with an organized tour group or hiking team, it’s a good idea to let people know your plan – especially if you’re hiking alone. Let someone know where you’re starting, where you’re finishing, and roughly what time you’ll return. Better safe than sorry.

What should I pack to go hiking?

If you’re not sure what to pack for your hiking trip, don’t forget to do some research on your hiking location. For instance, a hike through the Swiss Alps will need different gear than a hike through the Amazon.

      • Proper clothing (thermal shirt, quick-dry material, lightweight hoodies, waterproof shells, thermal leggings, convertible hiking pants, moisture-wicking hiking socks, warm hat, light gloves)
      • Hiking poles or walking sticks
      • A comfortable backpack, however, the size will vary depending on the length of your hike
      • Hiking boots or trail sneakers
      • Sunscreen and bug spray
      • Baseball or sun cap
      • Emergency thermal blankets, because if you get lost, this could literally be a lifesaver.
      • Food and water. Remember to pack the right amount of water, and healthy food, such as nuts, seeds, trail mix, and energy bars
      • Toilet paper
      • Plastic bags
      • Mini first aid kit
      • A map
      • Travel insurance. In some countries, if you do require rescue assistance, it’s going to cost you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.
      • Camera
      • Binoculars
      • A good attitude

Now that we have looked at the basics of day hiking let’s take a look at Trekking.

Trekking

What is a trek?

A trek is like a hike, but longer, more difficult, and a lot more involved. And by longer, it’s not just a few hours longer. A trek is typically two days or more. In fact, some treks can be weeks in length. Treks are also more strenuous and require more physical and mental ability.

Because you’re walking for days at a time, you’ll need to be fit enough to make it through the entire trip and be mentally strong enough to push yourself. While hiking is a leisure activity, trekking is a challenging activity that pushes you the entire way.

What type of traveler is best suited for trekking?

Trekking tours are ideal for a traveler who’s trying to push themselves, while still experiencing an adventure. This type of traveler enjoys the journey just as much as the final destination. They stay focused and committed, keeping the final goal in mind regardless of the current situation. And while a trekker might get tired, they simply wake up the next morning ready to do it all over again.

What’s it like to go on a trekking tour?

Before one embarks on a trekking tour, they should consider what it’s like to go on one. Unlike a hiking tour, treks are long and challenging. You’ll be walking for hours, for days at a time, through difficult terrain. You’ll likely be camping, and in many cases, you’ll need to be prepared to set up and take down your camp each morning and night.

Depending on your trek, you’ll need to prepare for varying weather. Some of the most famous treks in the world start in warm climates and make their way through rain, wind, snow, and dirt. With a trek, the possibilities are endless – so be prepared to really rough it, including going to the washroom outdoors and bathing in rivers. Treks are in no way glamorous, but they’re arguably some of the most rewarding experiences in the world.

What are the must-do treks in the world?

There are dozens of treks you’ve probably heard of, but never imagined going on. Here are our tops picks for some of the must-do treks around the globe:

    1. The Inca Trail, PeruThis ancient trail has quickly become one of the most famous treks in the entire world. Laid by hand by the Incas, this trail leads from the Sacred Valley all the way to Machu Picchu, over 2,000 meters above sea level. The view from the top is definitely iconic but prepare yourself for long days and the risk of altitude sickness.
      • Distance: 43 kilometers
      • Time: Three to four days (different touring options are available, but the most common trek is four days)
    1. Mount Kilimanjaro, TanzaniaAt 5,895 meters high, Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest mountain and one of the world’s most renowned treks. This trek passes through nearly every ecosystem, from snowfields to deserts, and tropical jungles.  It is important to note that this trek is quite difficult, and less than half of those who start the trek do not make it to the summit.
      • Distanced: 51 – 72 kilometers (depending on which route you take)
      • Time: Five to eight days
    1. The John Muir Trail, California, USAConsidered one of the most famous trails in America, the John Muir Trail lies nearly entirely in the wilderness. This trail covers a lot of ground, passing through Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park – arguably some of the most beautiful landscapes in America. Brace yourself, however, this is a long trek and you require a permit to hike this trail, so be prepared.
      • Distance: 340 kilometers
      • Time: Three weeks if you complete the entire trek
    1. W Circuit – Torres del Paine, ChileLocated in Chile’s Patagonia region and tucked between the Andes Mountain Range and the Patagonia steppes, this trek is perfect for anyone who really wants to experience natural wonders. Known for its glaciers and golden lowlands, this trek showcases nature at its finest, including the always adorable guanacos.
      • Distance: 100 kilometers
      • Time: Four to six days depending on the route
    1. Everest Base Camp, NepalThe epitome of success for any mountaineer, Mount Everest is one trek on every adventure seekers bucket list. However, you can explore the Himalayas without going all the way to the top of the world’s highest peak with the Everest Base Camp Trek. Taking you to the top of the world and regarded as one of the best treks in the world, this one should definitely be on your bucket list.
      • Distance: 62 kilometers each way
      • Time: 13 days

What do I need to know before I go trekking?

Before trekking, it’s important to do your homework. Unfortunately, it’s not something you just wake up and decide to do. It takes some planning, preparation, and research. Consider the following before your next trek:

      1. Prepare your body. Treks are long and arduous; your body needs to be prepared. Hit the gym, go for plenty of short hikes, and eat healthy foods to prepare for your trip. You’ll thank yourself later on.
      2. Do lots of research, especially if this is your first trekking tour. You need to know about the weather, language, food… with so much to consider, leave yourself with lots of time to figure it all out.
      3. Plan for AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). Lots of treks hit some pretty high altitudes and your body won’t be prepared. It’s important to give your body at least two days for acclimatization, so make bookings with that in mind. On top of that, Diamox tablets should be on your packing list in case sickness does strike.
      4. Get travel insurance. Treks are much riskier than a hike. If anything goes against your plan, you might find yourself in a tricky situation. Avoid the risk and make sure you’re covered – especially with traveler’s health insurance.
      5. Know your tent. The last thing you want is a faulty tent or lack of knowledge on your gear. You’ll be setting it up every night, so know it inside and out… literally.
      6. Review the hiking tips. For the most part, what to know before hiking also applies before trekking. From sharing your plans to avoiding cotton, the tips for hiking should also be reviewed before a trek.

What should I pack to go trekking?

As with hiking, the gear for trekking is very dependent on your location and your tour. If you’re travelling with a tour company or guide, they often provide a lot of the camping gear. However, there are some treks that need it all. Do your research and know what to bring. Here’s a place to start:

      • Nearly everything on the hiking packing list. Seriously, you’ll want all of those items too.
      • The proper medication for AMS (talk with your doctor)
      • Trekking Poles
      • Sleeping bags – invest in a good one, it’s hard to sleep when you’re freezing!
      • Sleeping mat
      • Toiletries including shampoo, soap, toothpaste – remember, you’re out there for days
      • A great tent
      • Quick-dry towel
      • Stove and fuel
      • Bowls and utensils
      • Water purification
      • Compass
      • Lots of extra socks
      • River shoes or flip flops because after a long day of waking, you’ll want to put on different shoes to give your feet a break
      • Lighter and matches
      • Earplugs

Regardless of which adventure you decide to embark on, hiking and trekking are both amazing and unique ways to experience a country, its culture, and its landscapes. You’ll see amazing wonders, experience new things, and challenge yourself like never before. If it’s your first time hiking or trekking, you might just find yourself with a new and amazingly rewarding hobby.

Phrases and words

Blaze – A colored mark, painted or nailed to a tree, about 4 inches tall by 2 inches wide.

Cache – A place where you store gear, food and other supplies before a long trip.

Cairn – A mound of rough stones built as a memorial or landmark, typically on a hilltop or skyline.  Mostly used as a mark to guide travelers in the right direction.

Col – The lowest point on the ridge between two peaks.

FKT – The “Fastest Known Time” is the record for completing a section of trail in the shortest possible time.

Hut – A permanent backcountry shelter with four walls and roof that can sleep any number of backpackers, depending on the size.

NPS – The National Park Service in the United States.

SAR – Search and Rescue service.

Scree – A field of loose rocks smaller than the size of your head. It can be very tricky