AD, GIFTED | If you’d told me 10 years ago that I’d love hiking and even consider it one of my favourite hobbies, I wouldn’t have believed you. In fact, you wouldn’t have seen me doing much leisure walking at all! Besides the occasional canal path walk with my mum that is. It’s true. The thought of going for a walk for fun seemed alien to me; but, thankfully, over the years those little walks with my mum, which were more to do with supporting her, became fun for me as well. The walks got longer and I felt fitter and happier for it. There’s just something so relaxing and peaceful when you’re out on the trail. The scenery is beautiful and it’s a great way to get some head space.
But as a beginner hiker I made many mistakes, from wearing jeans and getting soaked through(!), to getting lost when the only navigation I had was my phone! Thankfully I’ve learned from both of these experiences (among others) and they’ve all helped become a more organised hiker. But it’s not just the practical aspects of hiking I’ve learnt, there are also so many eco-friendly tips I’ve picked up along the way as well. Which I’d like to share with you. These are great for newbies planning their first hike or even experienced hikers in need of a little refresher.
Eco-Friendly Hiking Tips for Beginners
Leave No Trace Behind
Probably one of the most important and well know rules amongst outdoor travels is the leave no trace concept (LNT). Which is simply to leave no sign that you were on the trail by taking out everything you brought with you. And that includes rubbish (unless there are bins on route, of course). But also includes picking up litter you may find on the trail, leaving the area as you found it – this means no picking flowers, no matter how pretty they are – and being respectful of any wildlife.
Consider Your Hiking Equipment
From single use plastic bottles, to prepackaged sandwich wrappers, and even toilet paper(!) there is a lot of potential waste you may bring with you on the trail. And, if you’re following the LNT rules correctly, to take back with you as well. Which is why I’ll always opt for multiple use or recyclable products wherever possible.
Take water for example. It goes without saying that water is one of the most important things to take with you, so make sure to plan ahead and bring a reusable water bottle (or water bladder) on your hike. This not only keeps you hydrated on the trail but also saves you needing to buy single use plastic bottles before / after your hike.
There are so many different designs available, so it can be a little intimidating at first. From ones designed to motivate you to drink more, insulated ones to keep your drinks hot / cold, and even ones that can treat water, which are ideal for longer hikes. The trick is to find what works for you, which will come with practice. I personally use two 750ml water bottles on shorter hikes. Along with something caffeinated!
Besides hydration you should also consider what food you take with you on the trail. The best option would be to make your own food at home and put it into reusable containers. For a shorter hike this may be trail mix or a sandwich, but for a longer hike you may need something more substantial. I always take more than I think I’ll need just in case and store everything in a lunch bag or reusable sealed bags.
There’s nothing better than a heart warming meal at the end of a hike. Especially in the cooler months. But if you’re too tired to cook try looking for a local pub or restaurant to enjoy your evening meal. They’ll often use locally sourced ingredients and your helping the local community too.
Consider Your Travel Arrangements
The hike itself is already eco-friendly as you’ll be travelling on foot, but how will you get to the trail head? If you’re sticking to a local trail you could walk or cycle there. But if you’re travelling a bit further afield you may need need to drive or take public transport. Perhaps you could life share with a friend? This way you’ll have the added bonus of someone to keep you company on your hike.
Stick to the Path
Marked trails are there for a reason. They keep you safe, help protect animal habits and fauna from being disturbed and prevent you from accidentally trespassing on private lands. So please try not to stray from them too much.
‘Doing Your Business’
One of the biggest LNT issues is human waste and the toilet paper we use to clean ourselves with. Not only does it look unsightly but volunteers may also come across your waste when they’re doing trail maintenance. The solution? Dig a cat hole and cover your waste. The cat hole should be dug at least 6 inches deep, to prevent animals from digging it up, and at least 200 feet from the trail path and any water sources.
When you are finished, be sure to pack up ALL other waste (e.g. toilet paper) to remove from the trail with you. You could use zip lock bags or, better yet, biodegradable “poo bags” like the ones from the Paper Bag Co*. The bags are a very generous size and come with a handy pooper scooper to collect your waste. They’re ideal if you’re ever caught out on the trail but can also be used as dog poo bags too.
As I’ve mentioned above you should do your business at least 200 feet from the trail and any water sources. And this includes peeing. The worst think you can do is pee in a lake or river as this contaminants the water. When it comes to drying yourself, ladies, make sure to pack up your toilet paper! Or consider an alternative should as ‘shake/drip dry’ or using a pee rag like the Kula Cloth.
I hope you found this post helpful. And if there’s anything you’d like to add, please share your eco-friendly hiking tips in the comments.