This fourth installment of the Hiker's Glossary is a guide to different types of hiking. The first portion of the Hiker's Glossary is all about Types of Trails, the second portion focuses on Terrain, and the third section is all about Common Hiking Terms. We have one more installment after this one!
Whether you've been hiking for half a century or are looking to hit the trail for the first time, one of the greatest joys of hiking is that there are so many different things to discover on your own two feet. We're here to help you learn all the lingo you might encounter as a hiker.
- Day hiking: Hiking for part or all of the day, then going back to your home/lodging/campground for the night (vs. backpacking, see below). Most AGC hiking trips fall into this category.
- Backpacking: Hiking and then camping along the trail, having carried your tent, sleeping bag, stove, food, etc. in your backpack. A backpacking trip can be an overnight, a week, or a month or more. (“Car camping” refers to sleeping in a tent in a campground that you drive to.) There are multiple ways to backpack, including through-hiking, section hiking, and hut-to-hut hiking)
- Example of an AGC backpacking trip: Intro to Lightweight Backpacking on the Appalachian Trail
Through-hiking: Hiking a long-distance trail end-to-end. If you’re day hiking on a long-distance trail (for example, the Appalachian Trail or the Superior Hiking Trail) you might encounter backpackers who are “through-hiking” the entire trail. Through-hikers re-supply by hiking or hitchhiking into towns near the trail to go grocery shopping or to pick up a food package they mailed to themselves. Some more remote trails offer re-supply services by pack animal.
- Section hiking: Hiking or backpacking a long-distance trail in sections, perhaps for a week or two each year, instead of from start to finish in a single trip. Completing a trail by section works well for people who want the experience and sense of accomplishment of hiking the entire length of a trail, but who aren’t able to, or don’t want to, hike for months at a time.
- Example of an AGC section hiking trip: Appalachian Trail Section Hike
- Slackpacking: An alternative to backpacking; hiking a long-distance trail, or a section of a trail, carrying just a daypack. Each morning you get dropped off where you finished hiking the previous day, and your gear is transported by shuttle service to the next place you’ll spend the night (B&B, campground, hostel, etc.). Often it works to stay in the same lodging for several days while slackpacking a trail section and on AGC slackpacking trips we always stay in the same lodging for the entire trip.
- Lodge-to-Lodge or Hut-to-Hut hiking: Some hiking trails are served by staffed huts or lodges. Remote mountain huts tend to be rustic (bunks beds, bring your own sleeping bag), but some lodging facilities on or near trails are more luxurious.
- Trekking: “To trek” means to make a long journey. Although a through-hike certainly qualifies as a trek, “trekking” usually refers to multi-day hiking trips between villages, lodges, or camping areas in places outside North America such as Nepal, Bolivia, etc. “Trekkers” often carry just a daypack and their overnight gear is transported by pack animals, porters, or even by vehicle.
- Example of AGC trekking trips: Trekking to Everest Base Camp