Hiking group walks along a path in the valley.

Backpacking, mountain hiking, long-distance hiking: Which type of hiking suits you best?

From a demanding backpacking tour to a relaxed family hike: hiking as a hobby is very flexible and can be adapted to your individual needs and ideas. You can go for a relaxed day’s hike on flat terrain with the whole family or seek a physical challenge on a long-distance hike lasting several days. As with any sport, there are different forms of hiking, which place different demands on the hiker and require different conditions.

In this article, we will explain the differences between the various popular types of hiking and then go into specifics that you should consider when planning and preparing a hike, for example, if you want to hike alone, in a group, or with children.

What types of hik­ing are there? – Long-dis­tance hik­ing, back­pack­ing and more

Any experienced hiker will tell you: not all hiking is the same. If you are planning a more extensive hiking tour for the first time, you will certainly come across the most diverse variants of this popular outdoor sport during your research. What is the difference between backpacking and long-distance hiking? What are the special features of mountain hiking? Here we briefly explain some of the most popular types of hiking.

Long-dis­tance hik­ing

Long-distance hiking refers to hikes over a long distance that take several days. They can be multiple hundreds of kilometres long and go through several different countries and regions. Some long-distance hikes loop around and lead back to the starting point, but often the hike will end in a completely different place. They range from 6 stages to 30 or even a lot more stages.


Backpacking, also called trekking, is a multi-day hike that, unlike a classic long-distance hike, often takes you away from roads or marked trails. In addition, backpacking is often done without fixed accommodation. Instead, trekking tours are usually self-contained, using a tent, bivvy bag, or maybe huts along the way. Since backpacking requires more equipment, experience with regional weather conditions and knowledge of what to do in emergency situations, it requires good preparation and is recommended for more experienced hikers only.


Did you know that...

Greeting oncoming hikers in a friendly manner is part of “hiking etiquette” for many people. On long-distance hikes, people seek out a brief conversation, ask some questions about the route or weather, and maybe exchange a friendly anecdote.


Parents hiking with kids along a stream.

Mountain hiking

This hiking discipline refers to hiking in the mountains or mountainous terrain. This demanding type of hiking is best suited for ambitious hikers with a good level of fitness. You should be sure-footed and not afraid of heights.

The boundary between mountain hiking and mountaineering is fluid and cannot be defined by altitude or differences in altitude. However, mountain hiking does not need specialist equipment like crampons or safety ropes. Another rule of thumb is that mountaineering requires you to use your hands (for example climbing).

Alone, in a group, as a fam­i­ly – Which hike suits you best?

Various things can influence the choice of the right hiking type and route. To plan a hike, you should consider what demands you have for your tour.

  • How much time do you have for your hike? You can plan a hike as a weekend excursion, a hiking holiday, or a maybe even over several months.

  • How long should your hiking tour be? Choose between day hikes without an overnight stay, long-distance hikes lasting several days or even extended long-distance hikes through several countries.

  • How experienced are you in hiking? Do you consider yourself a newcomer to hiking, an experienced hiker or a seasoned long-distance hiker? What (sporting) skills do you have? How steady do you walk and how good is your balance?

  • What is most important to you during the tour? Whether you want to experience nature, go on a pilgrimage, or create shared memories with friends and family will influence how and where you hike.

  • Who do you want to hike with? Who accompanies you on the hike plays a central role in route selection and preparation (e.g. with children, in a hiking group, or alone).

Whether you are planning a leisurely hike, want to hike with your family or are looking for a sporting challenge, you are sure to find a suitable hike for your “hiking type”. Here are some of the options:

Hik­ing with chil­dren: How to plan a fam­i­ly hike?

Experience adventures in nature and spend time with the family – hiking with children can be a great experience for the whole family. To get your kids interested in outdoor sports at an early age, it is often necessary to make adjustments when selecting and planning the route so that the hike is child- and family-friendly.

  • Choose a route that is manageable for your child. You can calculate a good length of the hike using the rule of thumb: Age x 1.5 = trail length in kilometres. For hiking trails with a lot of hills, you should bear in mind that experts consider 100 metres of altitude as one kilometre on level terrain. More demanding hikes, including long-distance hikes, are often recommended for ages 10 to 14 and older. But even in this case, the maximum walking time should not exceed 6 to 7 hours.

  • Plan enough breaks. Even if your child is in good shape, children generally need more frequent and longer breaks to recharge their batteries. You know your child best and can judge how long a break you should plan. It is also important to offer your child variety on the hike to keep them motivated. For example, occasional games and activities or discovering nature together are suitable for this.

  • Plan ahead to ensure the safety of your child. Acquaint yourself with the special features and difficulties on the route. In difficult places, take younger children by the hand. Even if your children don’t have to walk by your side the whole time, you should always keep an eye on them.

  • Depending on the age of your child, involve them in the planning. Why not choose a route with interesting sights or views along the way? Older children can also take the lead on safe sections, e.g. read the map or look for the right path.

  • Make the hike an adventure to arouse your children’s enthusiasm. There are many things for children to explore in nature: You might discover animal tracks in the forest, find different plant species, or simply rest in places with a lovely view. A picnic or campfire, if allowed, is also a good way to liven up the hike.

Hik­ing alone: What you should bear in mind when plan­ning your trip

Being alone in nature without a hiking group is a dream for many hikers. You can enjoy the sporting challenge and the experience of nature without distractions and concentrate entirely on yourself. As a single hiker, you set the pace and determine your own destination. However, to ensure your safety throughout, you should take a few things into account when planning:

  • Inform someone close to you about your planned route and approximate arrival times. Be aware of possible delays or deviations from the route. If you are planning a long-distance hike, you should keep in regular contact with people close to you.

  • Choose familiar regions or routes for your first solo hikes. Hiking alone for the first time is an exciting challenge. However, to keep your bearings and overview, you should choose familiar routes or hike in familiar areas.

  • Choose hiking routes with markings and places to rest. If you have problems on the way or are looking for contact with other people, it is helpful to stay close to known paths and rest stops.

  • Use the official paths. This will help you pinpoint your position and assess the difficulty of the terrain.

Tip: For multi-day hikes, sign registers in mountain huts or summit books. If you need help along the way, the course of your route can also be traced via the entries.

Hik­ing with friends: How to plan a tour with a hik­ing group

Do you have many like-minded hiking enthusiasts in your circle of friends? Or do you simply want to go on an active holiday together with good friends and leave the daily grind behind you? On a hike with friends, surrounded by unique landscapes, you can create shared memories that you will remember for a long time. Here are a few tips to help you plan your trip:

  • Agree on a route before you start the hike. Discuss not only in which hiking region and for how long you want to hike, but also talk about certain preferences: Which sights are you interested in? How do you want to spend the night? What breaks do you want to take?

  • Discuss your individual fitness level and hiking experience beforehand. When planning the hike, make sure that it is doable even for the least experienced participant. Choose the length and difficulty of the hike accordingly.

  • When hiking in a group, pay attention to each other and maintain communication during the hike. This will ensure the safety and well-being of the whole group. If someone needs a break or wants to take a detour, this should be discussed beforehand. Compromises can prevent disagreements and frustration in the group.


Bear in mind that...

Do not overestimate your own abilities and energy levels, especially on demanding hikes through the mountains. For tours with high technical demands or risky terrain, you can hire a mountain guide.



The type of experience you are looking for when hiking and the people who will be taking part in your hike will largely determine the planning and choice of route. Whether you have sporting ambitions or simply want to get away from it all for a while, safety is always a priority. Always take the weakest members of the group into consideration, both for hiking groups and for family hikes. If you are hiking alone, however, it is most important that you walk in familiar areas on safe hiking trails with markings. This way, with a little experience, you can master even challenging hikes without any problems.

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iStock.com/Alexander Chernyakov