Hiking, Speed Hiking, Fastpacking and Trail Running: you may have heard these terms thrown around when it comes to getting outside and hitting the trail, but what's the difference? The primary difference between these activities relates to speed.
Hiking is usually referenced as the slowest of the activities. Hikers typically want to enjoy their surroundings as they hike. Hikers take to the trails at a leisurely rate, enjoying the experience of the trail and the scenery. Speed hikers want to take in the scenery as well, but their goal is to see more of the scenery in a set amount of time.
Speed Hiking can sometimes be confused with Fastpacking. The main difference between these two activities is that Fastpacking usually involves overnight stays with a pack on your back (but as lite as possible), traversing the trails at speed similar to those that speed hike. For Fastpackers, they appreciate the challenge of traversing long distance in as short of a span of time as possible; the activity is more about the destination than the journey.
This brings us to Trail Running. Trail Running is very similar to Speed Hiking with one major difference: running. Trail runners will traverse distance much faster since they are running. That doesn't mean that they can travel further distances than speed hikers, they just do it faster. This usually means that Trail Running requires a more established fitness level. The cardiovascular strain put on the body of a Speed Hiker is not nearly as great as that put on a Trail Runner.
Regardless if you like to run, hike quickly over short or long distances, or just tackle the trail at a leisurely pace, the most important thing is to get out, hit the trails and enjoy the outdoors.