Hiking is a fantastic exercise and a chance to explore untouched wildernesses but if you’re not careful, it can hurt the environment. The goal is to reduce our impact as much as possible so we’ve put together this list of 5 tips for sustainable hiking that will guide you in making a better choice about how to hike, what to bring and where to go.
Plan Your Route
Choosing a route can be a critical part of sustainable hiking. Do you take advantage of the world’s remaining wilderness or will you hit a crowded trail, will there be campsites to avoid, will it get you in the right mood for nature, and can you do it in an environmentally friendly way? It’s easy to end up in the wrong place if you haven’t properly planned the route ahead of time.
You should also consider the time when choosing your destination. What will be happening around you when you take your hike? Is there an important time of year for wildlife? A crucial point for some of the local vegetation? Is it day or night?
If you’re planning to hike a wilderness area with limited trails, consider whether you need to leave a vehicle parked at the trailhead or if you need a vehicle at all. Many areas now have designated trailheads and backcountry campsites with facilities where hikers can drop their backpacks, hang out and enjoy the wilderness before setting out so pack accordingly taking into account the distance between restful locations. If none are available, you may want to pack light.
Planning for these aspects of your hike will help you choose better gear and impact nature the least.
Bring The Right Gear
If you want to make sure that you can reach your destination and bring home the treasures that you find, you’ll want to make sure that you bring enough equipment. This doesn’t mean that you need to bring down the size of your backpack, but it does mean you should think about what you need for the destination. If your route includes snow and ice, bring snowshoes. If it’s a sandy beach, bring a pair of flip-flops. Heavy hiking boots can damage forest floors and cause more erosion so you should choose hiking shoes instead. Trekking poles make hiking much more efficient and minimize wear and tear on the forest floor so we totally recommend bringing those to your hike.
Bringing the right gear can really impact the trail you leave behind.
Choose Your Clothing Carefully
This may not sound super important but clothing choices have a significant impact on the environment. Every time clothing is made, more waste and pollution are created through manufacturing and shipping. So, take a moment to decide if you need new clothes or if you can simply re-ware the ones you have. If you do need new garments for your hike, consider eco-friendly brands like The Ninth Project, which make clothing on-demand, creating less waste, and use only certified sustainable materials like organic cotton and recycled polyester.
Keep An Eye On Wildlife
If you plan on hiking in a wildlife preserve, be careful. While the hike may be pleasant and most animals will not make an appearance, there is a chance you stumble upon the path of wild animals. To avoid an encounter, keep your eyes open, if you hike with your dog, keep it leashed and make sure to keep all of your possessions in your backpack and wear it at all times.
If you’re hiking to the same place every time you go hiking, you can end up polluting the environment or creating unnecessary overcrowding. Rather than going up and down the same route over and over, try a new route every time you go hiking. It will create more opportunities for “mountain therapy” for you and you’ll find more beautiful sights.
Leave No Trace
No one should be able to tell you were there. Whatever you brought with you, you need to bring out. Bring a small bag to put your trash or you can even do a good deed and pick up any trash you find along the way. Please don’t bury your trash, animals will dig it up or it will become exposed later on for someone else to find. It’s best to always take your trash with you (even biodegradable trash like banana peels).
Remember, LEAVE NO TRACE.
We invite you to be the change you want to see and hike this wonderful planet responsibly.
Sustainability is about reducing our impact to the minimum and we believe that by following these tips you’ll enjoy your time in the wild while keeping mother nature happy.
Do you have any other tips to stay sustainable while hiking? Please share them in the comments below.