So we have these three tags which are all fairly popular and have lots of overlap. I feel like it is often happenstance whether one is chosen over the other for a question, or they are combined. Our tag-wikis aren't entirely clear on it either.

So I think it would be a good idea to try and define/describe , and especially considering their interaction with the other two.

Ideally if a clear result emerges from this discussion, we can just update the tag-wikis, otherwise we might have to start a follow-up discussion about changing/merging/... tags. Please do not yet discuss this aspect, this will go much better if first we find a common ground on what these tags actually mean.

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    Don't forget mountaineering.
    – Eric
    Jul 27, 2017 at 6:32
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    Well, this seems to have stalled. The Next Step is for someone to take a stab at rewriting a tag or two and presenting the rewrites for edit and discussion. Who will volunteer?
    – ab2
    Jul 29, 2017 at 20:37

3 Answers 3


Here's my take, with diagram!

venn diagram of tags

  • is probably the most controversial. Usage seems to range from "a hiking journey" (more popular in Europe, not often used in US) to "hiking in extreme or rugged conditions". From my (US) perspective, "trekking" covers situations like high-altitude or jungle hiking, or hiking in wild areas with no established trails. Hence, the Appalachian Trail - while a long hiking journey - is not trekking, but a hike at Annapurna Base Camp is.

    Otherwise, "trekking" is a synonym for "backpacking". Certainly an option, but one I dislike. I think the "extreme backpacking" situations are worth having their own tag. (Or maybe there's another word for it?)

    Good example: Accessibility of hiking trails in Nepal during December - a classic trekking scenario.

    Bad example: What food is good to take trekking for acid reflux? - an example of using "trekking" as a synonym for "backpacking". Since there's no indication answers need to account for extreme situations, and it's about carrying supplies, I would tag this .

  • is for questions relating to when one carries all their camping equipment in a backpack, traveling on a trail to where they set up camp. This is related to both and , but has its own unique set of issues. Questions about things that happen while backpacking are not necessarily tag-worthy, if they can just as easily happen during a day hike without a backpack.

    Good example: How to minimize impact on terrain at camp? - correct, as it's specific to setting up a camp on a trail.

    Bad example: What are the risks of stream crossing with bare feet? - not specific to carrying camping gear around, so it should be tagged .

  • is the most general tag, for questions relating to walking around in the outdoors. This should be used when it's about walking around outdoors and the other tags don't fit.

  • Where I live (admittedly non-native English territory) backpacking refers to almost anything were you carry your stuff in a backpack. Even if you go traveling with no intention of camping (e.g. sleeping in hostels), if you carry your stuff in a backpack, this is referred to backpacking. Is this an abuse of the term or more common in other places as well?
    – imsodin
    Jul 27, 2017 at 9:35
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    @imsodin I think the "traveling with a backpack" meaning is pretty common, for instance it's a tag on Travel.SE. I didn't mention it since I figured that type of backpacking would be off-topic here anyways. Or did you mean you'd also consider e.g. a day hike with a backpack as backpacking?
    – user812786
    Jul 27, 2017 at 12:11
  • I also just found this quora question which has some opinions across the world!
    – user812786
    Jul 27, 2017 at 12:33
  • Do you distinguish a backpack (large, holds sleeping bag, tent, etc) from what I call a dayhiker or daypack (small, holds necessities for a dayhike, but too small for sleeping bag).
    – ab2
    Jul 31, 2017 at 0:57
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    @ab2, bringing a daypack would not count is backpacking. It has to do with carrying everything you need for an overnight and not the mere usage of a backpack.
    – ppl
    Aug 16, 2017 at 13:18

I'm not sure we can define these terms exactly, or that if we did all users would comply. I agree with @whrrgarbl that there is overlap. But it is worth narrowing them down.

I've always thought of trekking as distinct from backpacking. When backpacking, you carry all your stuff yourself. When trekking, you carry only the things you need during the day, and porters and/or pack animals carry the bedding, food, cooking implements, tents, and so on. Alternatively, in trekking, there are guest houses where you stop each night that have food, bedding, etc. I suggest making a clear distinction between trekking and backpacking based on the above.

I agree that hiking overlaps with backpacking, because you can take a day hike without your backpack from a temporary camp in the course of a backpacking trip. Also, I'd speak of "an overnight hike"; "An overnight backpacking trip" just doesn't sound right.

And on all three, people use trekking poles, but let's ignore that.

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    I agree, there is no universal definition, let alone one without overlap. However it is in my opinion important, that on TGO we establish a common ground, to make tagging consistent and to that end, write clear tag wikis with guidance on when to use one.
    – imsodin
    Jul 27, 2017 at 9:33
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    @imsodin Agree see my suggestion in edit.
    – ab2
    Jul 27, 2017 at 13:24

I'm tempted to say that these should be made synonyms of each other. I think the differences are too subtle. I'd argue that is the more generic one so the others should be made a synonym of this tag.

I've added the synonyms feel free to down/upvote as you see fit.

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    Here comes the dupe hammer ;) While I agree the differences aren't clear (obviously, that's why I asked), I think the size of these tags warrants making them as specific as possible (in a meaningful way). Apart from the BS tag gear, hiking is No1 and backpacking follows closely.
    – imsodin
    Aug 1, 2017 at 9:24
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    Yeah, cool. Just figured it was worth asking the question
    – user2766
    Aug 1, 2017 at 9:46

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