The great hiking vs tramping debate
Do you go tramping? Or hiking? Is there any difference in these terms, and does it really matter? We investigated.
In Aotearoa New Zealand, the term ‘tramping’ has a long and proud history. However, if you head anywhere else in the world and say you’re going ‘tramping’, you’ll raise an eyebrow or two. While many countries have their own unique term to describe the activity, ‘hiking’ (possibly thanks to the influence of North American culture) has become the globally recognised term.
The different names for this polyonymous parlance have plagued people’s social media posts, pages and paragraphs aplenty. After discovering even our own team at Mountain Safety Council was divided on the matter, we decided it was time to settle the debate once and for all; what term do we use in NZ? Are we hikers who go hiking or trampers who go tramping?
To determine this, (and let’s be honest there’s no definitive answer here, you really can apply personal choice!) we’re going to try to remove the human emotion from the debate and look at what data can tell us…how do we do that? Google does it for us!
Using a tool called Google Trends (which you can access for free online, just Google it) we can see search trends for specific search queries (keywords) such as ‘hiking’ and ‘tramping’, and we can compare these to see how their respective search trends line up against each other. Google Trends uses anonymised search data, and we can refine this to only searches made within New Zealand and over a specific period.
To begin, let’s jump back in time, to a land long ago…2012. A decade ago! As you can see in the graph below, throughout 2012, tramping (the blue line) had the highest search interest overall, and for most of the year was higher than hiking (red line). This means in 2012, more people in NZ were searching Google using the term tramping than they were hiking.
However, fast forward through space and time to the present day (mid-November 2022), and things have changed! We have a new champion…we are ‘hiking’!
As you can see in the graph below, for all of 2022, hiking (red line) has consistently been a more frequent search term than tramping (blue line).
So, it seems, things have changed, in the space of a decade, Google searches from NZ have flipped, with more search interest for the term ‘hiking’ than ‘tramping’. In the graph below, you can see this switch took place for good from about May 2016, as from that point on hiking (red line) has remained consistently ahead of tramping (blue line).
Well, blow me down, it must be the foreigners you say?!
Remember, this is search data restricted to only Google searches from within New Zealand, and remember how we were in lockdown and almost all tourists went home? It seems no matter what way we look at it, Kiwis are searching Google using the term ‘hiking’ as the graph below shows.
Between the period 1 January 2020 and 1 November 2022, ‘hiking’ (the red line) begins well above tramping (blue line), taking a sudden dip through March and April 2020 (remember those lockdowns), however, at almost every point throughout the following two years, as almost all travellers had left NZ and our borders remained shut, those people still in NZ conducting Google searches (overwhelmingly ‘Kiwis’) continued to search for ‘hiking’, over ‘tramping’.
Since 2004 until now in New Zealand, the term ‘hiking’ (red line) has slowly taken over ‘tramping’ (blue line) as a higher ranked search term. What!?
So, there you have it. The facts are clear, Google search data doesn’t lie, and despite our rich history of tramping, we appear to have become a nation…of hikers. Or, at a minimum, trampers who search Google using hiking.
Author’s note: if you’re interested in learning more about Google search data and the amazing truths it holds, we recommend you take a look at the incredible book ‘Everybody Lies’ by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, here. Well worth a read.
Header photo: Gillespie Pass, Bevan Smith