Get Ready for Trekking and Backpacking Trips
Trekking. The word just has a naturally exotic ring to it and conjures up images of the Himalayas, porters, and high mountain passes. Though the word"trekking" comes from the Afrikaans language of South Africa and originally described a trip by oxcart, it was applied to hiking in the Himalayas in the 1960s when the first trekking companies took the classic African safari as their models. You know, the sort of expeditions that were always bumbling into Tarzan turf. The name and the style of travel stuck and thus was born a classic travel adventure.
However, despite its exotic sound, trekking is nothing more than hiking. What sets it apart is that it is still primarily associated with hiking in the Himalayas and has come to be inextricably linked to travel in Nepal. Trekking is also distinguished from many other forms of hiking by the fact that the gear is usually carried by porters, yaks, or sometimes ponies or llamas. All you have to carry is a small day pack with a few of your personal essentials and some water.
In recent years, however, the term trekking has been used to describe guided hikes in other parts of the world as well (for instance, in the hills of northern Thailand or along Peru's Inca Trail to the ruins of Machu Picchu). What all these countries have in common, of course, is a certain exoticness of locale.
One easy way to differentiate trekking from other sorts of guided hikes and walking tours is that a trek is likely to be in a country where you'll need not only a visa but quite a few vaccinations as well.
Backpacking, on the other hand, sounds like something not too exotic you do a couple of hours from home. It doesn't cost much and you can fit it into any summer weekend. In large part, this concept of backpacking is correct. However, what if you've decided you really want to spend a week hiking through the Grand Canyon and you don't want to follow the standard, crowded circuit to Phantom Ranch and back? In this case you might want to let a professional lead you through the more remote reaches of the canyon. By caching food and water in advance, your guide will be able to take you into places few people ever visit.
Likewise, if you want to explore deep into Montana wilderness or cross the Sierra Nevada, you might want to consider a guided backpacking trip. Sure it will cost quite a bit more than it would if you did it on your own, but do you really have the time and resources to set up long-distance shuttles and food caches? Basically, guided backpacking trips offer a chance to leave the logistical problems to professionals so you can concentrate on simply having a good time.
There is, however, one thing both trekking and backpacking tend to have in common, and that is sweat. We're not talking leisurely strolls in the hills here (though there are treks easy enough for children and physically fit senior citizens); we're talking aching muscles at the end of the day. Sore muscles, however, are a small price to pay for the type of scenery encountered on a trek or guided backpacking trip.
So, if you're an experienced hiker comfortable with walking six or more hours a day for several days in a row, then maybe it's time you considered a trek or guided backpacking trip. By the way, if you're wondering which is the more strenuous activity, I'd have to give the nod to backpacking, which requires you to carry your room and board on your back.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication