Eco-friendly Hiking: 8 Ways Hikers Can Practice Sustainability While on the Trail

Hiking is one activity that lets you get close and commune with nature. But to enjoy such beauty, you also need to be a responsible hiker. Otherwise, you are depriving your future self and other hikers of the opportunities to bask in nature.

That said, we have listed eight ways you can be a sustainable hiker.

By Geraldine Millls

2 girls hiking through green hills
Photo by Daniel Llorente on Unsplash

Explore local hiking trails

Many avid hikers have an adventurer’s soul, so it makes sense that people are most excited about hiking trails from faraway lands. Although that’s fine, long-distance travel often requires you to use transportation and can lead to CO2 emissions. Therefore, avoiding transport that emits a lot of CO2 as much as possible is helpful.

One way you can do that is by enjoying more local hiking trails. There are plenty of gorgeous hike-able places around your locality that you might not have even noticed are there.

Local hiking trails are nearer to you, so you will not have to travel far, which means that you are reducing your carbon footprint. It would be even better if you use something like a bicycle to get to that trail.

Stick to the trails

The trails exist for a reason, so it is a good idea to follow them. For one, hiking destinations attract many trekkers annually. This can lead to the degradation of the trail’s environment if left unattended.

Aside from that, some of these areas are habitats of local animals. If you trample all over them, it can lead to them losing their habitat, or you might have an unwanted encounter with them.

Unless there is a specific mandate that allows hikers to traverse any trails, you should stick to the path.

Refrain using open fire

If the trail doesn’t have a built-in area dedicated to campfires, you should use a portable camping stove instead.

High-quality stoves are excellent because they’re convenient and can provide fire. You can use this to warm yourself up, have light, and cook your meals. There’s also the additional effect of reducing any unwanted accidents, specifically a wildfire.

Creating an open campfire in an undesignated area can be dangerous, as it can cause wildfires. That’s because you might burn tree roots that can spread throughout the forest.

To be a more sustainable hiker, it’s best that you only start a campfire if there’s a designated area or use a portable camping stove.

camp fire
Photo by Matt Whitacre on Unsplash

Dispose of trash properly

Waste management is a massive part of being a sustainable hiker. Thus, you should put a system in place for how you will deal with the trash you generate.

Bring a trash bag with you where you will store all the garbage that you cause. Aside from that, it would be best if you also thought about the human and food waste that you create.

Avoid bathing or relieving yourself anywhere near a body of water. Also, do not throw away food waste willy-nilly, regardless if it is biodegradable or compostable.

An apple core or a banana peel might seem harmless, but they still attract wildlife. They can catch the attention of wild animals way before they decompose.

Invest in well-made hiking gear

Getting high-quality hiking gear like hiking poles and sleeping bags is another way to ensure sustainable hiking.

The benefits of good-quality hiking gear are that it’s a lot easier to use them, and you’re more comfortable during the hike. They’ll be easier to use and are more efficient and effective. Aside from making it easier to maneuver on the trail, well-made hiking gear can also ensure that it doesn’t break down during the hike.

With high-quality hiking gear, you reduce the times that you need a replacement for your hiking gear after it breaks down. That means that you aren’t generating a lot of waste because your items last for a long time.

Be respectful of the wildlife

Being respectful to wildlife means that you should avoid getting close to and interacting with them as much as possible.

Do not feed the wildlife any of your food because it will change the ecosystem and how they live their lives in the wilderness more than you could ever know. Aside from that, do not take any natural memorabilia like flowers, rocks, or what have you back with you.

If one person does it, then you will empower other people to do it. This can lead to a massive reduction of natural resources in the area that local fauna might need.

Tents under blue sky
Photo by Goutham Krishna on Unsplash

Set up camp in established campsites

We mentioned before about not going outside of the trails. That also means that you should avoid setting up camps outside of established campsites.

Similar to staying on the path, you might have an unwanted encounter with local animals. If you set up camp outside of designated areas, you might be trampling on the natural habitat of local fauna.

Lead by example

Whether you are hiking solo or with friends, you have to be a responsible hiker and conscious of your actions. Doing so allows you to set a great example and encourage others to be more sustainable when hiking.

Being a responsible and sustainable hiker does not mean you have to take away the joys of hiking. Instead, think of being an eco-hiker as a way of thanking Mother Earth for the beauty you get to witness along the trail. And the best way to show your gratitude is to protect it.