Off-trail hiking vs. Bushwhacking

Off-trail hiking can be bliss.

A way to see some terrain that is unique, devoid of crowds and is a fun way to explore the backcountry.

The terms off-trail hiking and bushwhacking are sometimes used interchangeably.

But there is a difference.

At least in my opinion.

Off-trail hiking?

Pretty self-explanatory. You are off-trail, then you are off-trail hiking. Right?

Except, at least in the way many of my friends and I use the term, off-trail hiking is typically hiking among wide open spaces.

Navigation is typically easy and the walking is often a delight.

In the American West, this type of off-trail hiking is common.

Go to that trail-less ridge and see the alpine lake.



You can often get away with extremely light equipment and often shorts in lieu of pants. Frogg Toggs (DriDucks) works well enough for rain gear.

Good stuff.

This type of hiking can be more technical in nature versus bushwhacking, however. Scrambling and adroit placement of the hands and feet is sometimes needed.


Thick trees and vegetation. Perhaps lots of blowdowns a.k.a Pick Up Sticks.  

Navigation is often more difficult.

This type of hiking can be enjoyable but is usually done for utilitarian reasons.

Can be pretty and fun hiking..esp when the woods aren’t that thick.

A way to get to a scenic area such as a lake, a peak or a ridge line.

As I painfully remind myself when I have a lapse in judgement, long pants and shirts are strongly suggested. Scrapes, cuts and nicks remind me that long pants are much better for this type of hiking over shorts.

Yo! What the hell! 😀 PCO The Hiking Life

Hiking is generally slower overall if not technical in nature.

And the gear? DriDucks will get torn to shreds, your pack has to be sturdier and it is not suggested to keep items on the outside of the pack.


Be it bushwhacking or off-trailing hiking, getting off the literal beaten path is fun, challenging and rewarding.

A little planning, the appropriate gear and the right mindset are key.

Go out there and have fun.


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7 years ago

G’day, I do a lot of bushwhacking and have problem with holes being torn into my clothing. Can you suggest any durable materials to choose when purchasing trousers so the likes of blackberries,thorns, branches are less likely to tear through. cheers