Hard and Soft Adventures, What are they?

Existing adventure tourism activities can be participated via two approaches, either in the form of ‘hard adventure’ or ‘soft adventure’, depending on the characteristics as well as personal preferences of the participants. Nevertheless, the management and operationalization of the two types of experiences are quite different.

Image Credit: Tom Fisk

Hard adventure is typically enjoyed by adventure tourists who are enthusiastic in exploring adventures that are found ‘off-the-beaten track’ and often visit isolated locations to obtain first-hand experience that usually entails a degree of inevitable risks and hazards. These risks are ‘actual’ rather than ‘perceived’ and need to be prudently-treated with advanced competencies, intense concentration, and high participant and tour operator expertise. In other words, hard adventure is characterised by an elevated risk level, active engagement, adrenaline-ridden and highly challenging activity.

Additionally, hard adventure participants must also be physically and mentally fit, as self-satisfaction from hard adventure is derived from the success of overcoming challenges, uncertainties and risks.

Examples of hard adventure activities are paragliding, skydiving, mountaineering, via-ferrata, downhill skiing, scuba diving and white-water kayaking.

Image Credit: Fazil Mukhtar

Soft adventure, on the other hand, usually comprises of novices or beginners in certain activities and settings. Soft adventure participants are generally seeking for carefully prearranged activities that offer fun, enjoyment and emotional release rather than highly challenging or involving extremely risky conditions.

The experiences of soft adventure are relatively ‘passive’ as compared to hard adventure and rarely cause physical discomfort, although such experiences are offered in the harsh and rugged natural environment.

Soft adventure participants gained excitement and pleasure from the ability to overcome perceived risks and certain degree of danger through the assistance of the adventure tour operator’s outstanding leadership, competencies, and experiences.

Moreover, the ubiquitous ‘all-in-one packaging’, which commonly comprises on-site transfer, food and beverages, accommodation, equipment rental, activities, permits, entrance fees, and entertainment, is also an important component of soft adventure tourism.

Examples of soft adventure activities are short-distance hiking, horseback riding, fishing, snorkelling, hot air balloon rides and scenic aerial tours.