What Is Trekking? (And How It’s Different From Camping)

Are you thinking about making a journey to the great outdoors, and you aren’t sure whether you want to go camping or trekking? At first glance, these activities seem quite similar, and many people get confused about their differences.

Camping involves staying in one place for multiple nights with less physical and mental exertion, whereas trekking involves hiking from one location to another, often 30 miles away. You’ll set up camp in a new spot each night. Both allow you to spend time outside and take a break from regular life.

If you are planning your next trip away from home, you need to know the main differences between camping and trekking.

What is the Difference Between Camping and Trekking?

Camping is a fun activity that allows you to spend a few nights in nature. While you may hike during the day, you always return to your campsite for rest and relaxation time.

Trekking is a different experience requiring you to pack up your campsite daily and carry it to a new location by sundown.

Suppose you’re curious about the major differences between camping and trekking. In that case, these different criteria will help you decide which of these hobbies is ideal for your next outdoor adventure. 

1. End Points

One of the major differences between camping and trekking is where you’ll end up when the trip is over.

When you go camping, the odds are that you park your car at the park entrance or drive right up to the campsite.

You plan to enter the campground from one location and leave from the same location a few days later.

Trekking is much different in this regard. In true trekking, you’ll start your trek at one location and finish somewhere else, often 30 miles or more away from your starting point.

It’ll take some planning to figure out what to do when you reach the end of your trek.

You might have a friend scheduled to pick you up or have one of your party members drop their car at the endpoint to drive everyone back to the starting point.

You’ll have to plan ahead if you don’t want to be stranded far away from where you started.

End Points

2. Physical Exertion

How much exercise do you want to get while on your expedition? Camping might be the way to go if you prefer to lounge around and enjoy the sunshine.

This would still allow you to go for short hikes around the campground, but you won’t have to carry much equipment with you, and you can always head back to camp when you get tired.

Trekking is a much more serious undertaking. These trips last for significantly longer and require much effort on your part.

You’ll have to carry your equipment and trek quite a while each day, followed by the effort of setting up a new camp night after night.

Trekking might be right for you if you’re looking to shed a few pounds or just want the physical challenge of a much longer hike.

3. Longer Timeframes

For many people, camping is a weekend activity they enjoy before returning to the real world.

While you can certainly camp for an extended period, it isn’t always common to spend a few weeks at your campsite. Many people would even get bored with this arrangement after a while.

Trekking will take much longer than camping. In most cases, trekking lasts a minimum of ten days but could last up to a month. It all depends on how far you plan to travel on your journey.

Once you plot your path, you can figure out how much progress you can reasonably expect to make on any given day.

If you have lots of vacation time to use up or have a job that doesn’t require you to be in the office daily, trekking might be a great way to unplug and connect with the great outdoors.

4. Packing Lightly

On a related note, you also have to consider how much you’ll need to pack to make your trip successful. Because camping typically lasts only a few days, you won’t need as much food, water, or other supplies.

Another benefit of camping is that you can drive your car directly to the campsite, making it possible to pack as much as you want without carrying it through the woods. 

For those who plan to go trekking, you’ll need to pack enough to sustain you for a few weeks if you’ll be out that long.

This means packing as much lightweight food and investing in a high-quality water filter to make good use of fresh water without having to pack water bottles.

Not to mention, you’ll have to carry your entire setup every day you’re moving camp.

Carrying a heavy tent, sleeping bag, or sleeping pad can be a real challenge if you don’t have lightweight equipment.

Be sure to keep weight in mind whenever you buy more gear if you think you’ll want to go trekking with it.

5. Weather

Camping can be done year-round in many parts of the world.

While it may not be advisable to camp when the temperatures dip below freezing, there are plenty of places where you can camp, even in the snow and ice.

You’ll have to take more precautions and pack more gear, but it’s a real possibility.

When you camp in the winter, you’ll need a way to transport all of your gear from the car to the campsite. This can often be accomplished with a sled. However, it’s a bit cumbersome.

A sled is sufficient for getting to the site, but it isn’t likely that you’ll want to go much farther with it. Once the snow falls and the ice sets in, trekking is ill-advised.

You’ll need too much gear to keep you warm at night, such as a sturdy tent, a thicker sleeping bag, quilts, multiple sleeping pads, more clothing layers, and even more food.

This is just the minimum to keep you warm and safe through freezing (or near freezing) temperatures.

It’ll be next to impossible to carry it all on your back while you trek from one place to another, and loading it all up on a sled isn’t an appealing option.

6. Indoor Camping

Most people want to go camping to escape into the great outdoors. They relish time spent in a tent, lounging in the middle of the woods.

They have no plan, no schedule, and they can finally feel more connected with the earth. While you might choose to camp in a cabin or a yurt, many people prefer to rough it. Trekking is a little bit different.

If you decide to go on a planned trek, many of these routes give you access to shelter that keeps you from having to pack as many items to set up camp at the end of a long day spent hiking.

You might get to stay in a lodge, hut, or cabin. On some treks, they even offer a bed and breakfast.

When you trek, it’s more about pushing yourself to the limits while you soak up your surroundings and less about roughing it.

Indoor Camping

7. Unmarked Territory

Campers often find joy in settling in locations designated for camping. They might have a cleared spot in the middle of the woods and even a firepit.

It’s possible that you were required to make a reservation before heading to the campground if you’re going during a popular time of year.

If you do a day-long hike, most campers will stick to well-marked trails and defined routes that make it easy.

Trekking presents a new level of difficulty for those who choose to follow this type of trail. You’ll often follow a general direction, but the trails aren’t as well defined.

As a result, you’ll need some great map-reading and navigation skills to get yourself from point A to point B.

You’ll also need more experience setting up a camp when settling in for the night. You’ll need to know how to set up your cooking fire area, pitch a tent in the middle of the woods, and more.  

You can check out my article on pitching a tent which will serve as a guide to finding the perfect spot to pitch your tent.

8. Environmental Impact

One of the things that camping and trekking have in common is their desire to leave no trace that humans were there.

For campers, this means ensuring that you pick up all your trash and keep your bathroom habits from contaminating the water supply.

You don’t want anyone to know you spent the night or even hung out for a few hours.

Trekking has a similar desire not to leave a trace, but it can be a bit more difficult. Because you’re setting up camp multiple times, you have several campsites to clean up.

Some trekkers have a hard time with the impact they might make on the environment because of even very simple things like destroying vegetation by driving their tent stakes into the ground.

If you’re trekking in the wilderness and not along a defined and maintained trail, you’ll also want to ensure that you aren’t destroying the woods. 

9. Terrain

Campers tend to prefer flat and even areas for their camping expeditions. It’s easier to set up a tent on a flat area though there might be a few hills around. The same is true of hiking.

Most people who are going camping and plan to hike during the day prefer a less arduous journey than what a trekker is used to.

Trekking frequently takes place in areas that can’t be reached by transportation. As a result, you might find yourself in the hills or mountains where the terrain is much more difficult to cross.

It’ll require everything in you, both physically and mentally, to reach your destination. 

10. Preparation

Camping doesn’t require much preparation, especially if you’ve done it a few times.

You don’t need to do much to physically or mentally prepare for your camping trip. It can be quite easy to just pack up your items and go.

On the other hand, trekking does require quite a bit of preparation:

  1. You’ll need to map out the journey that you plan to take.
  2. You’ll need to ensure that you’re in great physical shape to make it from the beginning to the end of your trip.
  3. You’ll need to ensure that you’re in a good headspace to handle the rigors of a hard trekking expedition.

It can take days or weeks for you to prepare for an arduous trek, making it less a spur-of-the-moment type of expedition.

Not to mention, because it lasts longer, you may need more vacation time from the office.

11. Tent

There is a big difference between the supplies you’ll need for camping and trekking. Camping tents tend to be bigger and may even be bulky to carry from your car to your campsite.

You can check out my guide on buying camping tents which will help you choose the perfect camping tent.

This isn’t usually an issue because the trip from the car to the campsite is relatively short.

If you plan to go trekking, you won’t be able to use the same equipment as you do while camping. You’ll have to carry it much farther, so you’ll need a less bulky tent.

Trekking uses smaller tents with very little in the way of legroom. They are meant to provide the minimum amount of shelter you need to be comfortable for your trip.


12. May Have Spiritual Significance

Camping is a great way to unplug and reconnect with nature.

For many people, this is a way to tune into themselves, but others may go on camping trips to escape from the daily grind and start reconnecting with their spiritual side.

Trekking also ties into this because many people view their pilgrimage from one location to another as a spiritual journey leading them to a greater sense of purpose.

Both are seen as spiritual endeavors, but trekking is often viewed this way. 

Choose Trekking for Thrills, Camping for Tranquility…

Camping and trekking are two activities that go hand-in-hand. Trekking allows you to camp in a new location every night, but camping is much more physically and mentally taxing than camping.

On the other hand, camping is a much more leisurely activity you might want to engage in if you want to disconnect from the world and take it easy for a few days.

Keeping some of these core differences in mind, find out which one is right for your next adventure.

Shailen Vandeyar

A proud Indian origin Kiwi who loves to plant trees and play with his pet bunny when not out in the woods, exploring the infinite beauty of mother nature.

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