For as long as I’ve been regularly walking in the bush, there’s been a debate about what word should be used to describe what I’m doing.
In my early days, when I wasn’t walking much more than 4 or 5 kilometres in a single trip, I remember getting “that’s not even a hike” from certain people in the bushwalking community.
There’s even a five-page thread on the subject on the Bushwalk Australia forums.
My response has always been the same… “Why on earth does it matter?”
We have this thing that can bring us all together – we like walking in nature. Why do we feel the need to focus instead on our differences and pick on the terminology people use for it? Or one up each other and say “Pfft… That’s not a hike. This is a hike”?
A fascinating article was recently published in Wild Magazine, titled “Is ‘bushwalking dying? Our brave new world of adventure”. It analysed Google Trends data on search terms people are using, comparing ‘hiking’ with ‘bushwalking’ and ‘tramping’.
The analysis did show a reduction in use of the word ‘bushwalking’ over the years, but that’s just in Google searches. As the article points out, “why would you search for ‘bushwalking gear’ after you realise you’ll get a wider range of relevant results by searching for ‘hiking gear’?”
To me, the words ‘bushwalking’, ‘hiking’ and ‘tramping’ mean basically the same thing. I might only use ‘tramping’ if I was talking to a Kiwi, but the others I would use interchangeably at all other times, whether I was talking about a 2 kilometre rainforest boardwalk or a two-day off track bush bash.
The word ‘hiking’ might not be uniquely Australian like ‘bushwalking’ is, but it isn’t an Americanism either. It’s in the Oxford English Dictionary and it refers to a long walk, especially across country. Well for me back in 2008, two-kilometres was a long walk. Now, when I walk with my step-children, one kilometre is pretty long to them.
It’s all ‘hiking’ and it’s all ‘bushwalking’ if you ask me. Now let’s move on and focus on what we have in common.
Does anyone agree with me that it’s all a bit silly? Drop me a line in the comments section below. You can also drop me a line if you disagree, of course.