What Is Scramble In Hiking? Basic Look

What Is Scramble In Hiking Basic Look

The likelihood is that even if you’re very new to hiking, you’ve already heard of something called “scrambling.” What is scramble in hiking? Scrambling is a term used to describe a type of hiking that is essentially a combination of modest rock climbing and hiking. However, this simplistic description does not do credit to a stand-alone leisure activity that has thousands of devoted followers around the globe and far more depth than the oversimplified moniker of “hiking-climbing hybrid” suggests. 

What Is Scrambling?

Between hiking and rock climbing, there is a sport known as rock scrambling, which is frequently abbreviated to just “scrambling.” In order to climb steep, rocky surfaces, scrambling requires the use of both hands and feet. There is a good chance that you have already engaged in some scrambling if you have successfully completed difficult hiking trails on steep terrain.

Scrambling Versus Hiking

The navigation of a path to reach a specific location is a component of rock climbing, scrambling, and hiking. However, there are some important differences in the types of terrain they cover, the gear needed, the risks involved, and the ways they test you.

The terrain’s angle and the body parts needed to navigate it are the main differences between these outdoor activities. There are both flat and steep hiking trails. Hikers typically walk upright on just their feet, though the trails may have some shorter sections where using the hands for balance is necessary. Longer steep sections on scrambling routes necessitate frequent hand use. A step further involves rock climbing, which involves using your hands and feet to climb up nearly vertical or even overhanging rock faces.

What Is Scramble In Hiking Basic Look
What Is Scramble In Hiking? Basic Look

Each of these activities carries a different set of risks. The least dangerous activity with the lowest risk of fatal falls is hiking. It’s a common misconception that scrambling is a simpler and safer alternative to rock climbing, but this isn’t always the case. Rock climbers use ropes and either fixed or placed gear to protect them in the event of a fall, whereas scramblers do not. This makes scrambling potentially more dangerous than rock climbing.

On the other hand, scramblers frequently rely solely on their arms, legs, and balance for protection, leaving them without a safety net in case they fall off the rock. Despite this, scrambling can still be enjoyable and secure if done properly. One of the most important aspects of staying safe while scrambling is being aware of your limitations and using ropes and other safety equipment on difficult, exposed sections.

Let’s first discuss the grading system for scrambles before we go into more detail about safety while scrambling.

What Distinguishes Rock Scrambling From Rock Climbing?

While they may not seem dissimilar, rock scrambling and rock climbing are. The transitional activity between hiking and climbing is known as scrambling.

Climbing rock faces or boulders is known as rock climbing. You have to pull yourself up with your arms when rock climbing. Normally, you’re strapped into a safety harness. 

To pull yourself up rocks while scrambling, you don’t need a lot of upper arm strength. Your hands are primarily used for balance and support when rock scrambling.

Scrambles in the class of 5, which are the most similar to rock climbs, should only be attempted by seasoned climbers.

Why Do People Scramble When Hiking?

When you’re out hiking in rocky, uneven terrain and need to use both of your hands and feet to safely navigate, you’re doing what’s known as “rock scrambling,” or simply “scrambling.”

Scrambling can resemble crawling more so than walking. While hiking on uneven terrain, you’ll occasionally need to balance using your knees and elbows as well as your hands.

There are various classes of scrambles, which indicate how challenging or steep the scramble along the trail will be.

The lowest and simplest rating is Class 1. Only experienced climbers or scramblers should attempt the most challenging Class 5 scrambles.

Five Rules To Follow On Your Scrambles

Here are five suggestions to ensure your safety if you decide to try scrambling:

Maintain three points of contact with the rock at all times to keep your balance and guarantee that you can catch yourself if you fall.

Wear appropriate footwear  Grippy rubber outsoles will make a big difference, as will a stiffer “climbing zone” in the toe (a feature found on many of our best hiking shoes and best hiking boots). 

Test handholds before committing your weight to them …because you never know when you’ll come across a loose one! 

Gear up It’s a smart idea to wear a helmet and rope up with your partner on all but the most straightforward scrambles. Even if you are confident in your ability to navigate the scramble, you never know when you might lose your balance due to a loose handhold or rocks knocked down by scramblers above you on the route. 

Up is easier than down Because it can be challenging to locate suitable handholds and footholds from above, downclimbing is almost always much more challenging than upclimbing. Given this, it’s preferable to find a walk-off route for your descent rather than attempting to climb back down the same way you came up. 


Scrambling is a type of hiking that lies between normal hiking and rock climbing. And if you’ve spent enough time climbing mountains, you might be familiar with this phrase. But what is hiking scrambling, and how is it different from other related activities?