Try These 7 Sustainable Hiking Tips to Protect Mother Nature

With wild flowers blooming and Earth Day just around the corner, spring is an unbeatable season to explore the wonders of the outdoors.

That might mean hitting the trails for an undiscovered hike with your friends, or gearing up for a solo mountain adventure.

And while you’re enjoying all that nature has to offer, we recommend reflecting on your own ecological footprint.

Hiking may sound like a way to experience nature without causing damage. But humans can weaken trails, leave behind litter, and overwhelm the habitats of local plants and wildlife.

While carbon emissions may have fallen by 5.8% in 2020, there’s still plenty of work to be done to preserve our planet and our scarce resources. 

It’s one thing to appreciate the beauty of the outdoors, but how can you take an extra step to protect Mother Nature and make sure you’re not part of the problem?

To soothe your environmental anxiety, we’ve rounded up a handy list of ways to be a more eco-friendly hiker, so you can enjoy nature while giving back to the planet, too.

1. Shop for Sustainable Camping Gear

We’re all about picking the right gear whether we’re blazing the trails or headed for a promotion at work.

When it comes to hiking, before you even leave for the trail check and see if you’ve got eco-friendly backpacking gear or bags that are ethically made with the environment in mind with recycled products or in carbon-neutral ways.

For us, this means making our products out of 100% post-consumer materials.

You can check the materials on the tags of your backpacks, crossbodies, and even hiking apparel to look for durable fabrics and labels that ensure sustainable practices. 

It’s also not a bad idea to add a few brands that give back to the environment to your radar. Check out TenTree, United by Blue, and of course, our Open Your Eyes Collection that is made entirely from plastics removed from the oceans. 

2. Practice Leave No Trace Hiking

Leave no trace hiking is pretty much what it sounds like: the goal is to leave nature exactly how you found it (or better if you can). 

The LNT principles are well-known in the outdoor community, especially when it comes to camping. You may not think they’re as applicable for simple day hikes, but you’d be surprised to know they are just as important for small adventures.

Don’t Feed the Wildlife

While it may be tempting to share your snacks with any animals you see on your journey, you might just be harming them in the process. This can make animals more dependent on humans for food, and drive them out of their natural habitats for food they wouldn’t normally eat.

Avoid making loud noises on your hike and don’t pursue animals for cute pictures — you may scare them, which could turn into a scary encounter.

Pack Out Everything

Human waste is also a huge problem while hiking out in nature. Make sure to bring along a Ziplock or reusable trash bags to pack out any food waste, trash, or wrappers that you accumulate during your hike. 

You might find designated trash bins along your hike, but don’t count on it. It’s best to reduce waste and wait until you can properly dispose of it at home.

A few more ways you can practice leaving no trace include:

  • Leaving plants and wildlife as they are
  • Not taking cool-looking rocks or flowers from the ground
  • Refraining from defacing a tree with you and your friend’s initials
  • Carrying out all trash from snacks, drinks, and doing your business in the wild

3. Stick to Established Trails

If you’re the daring sort out of your hiking group, don’t go chasing waterfalls (literally)! 

When you’re out on a hike, stick to designated trails, and don’t go “off-roading.” This is important for a few reasons:

  • Trails are monitored by land management and safe for use
  • Wandering off a trail can damage soil, foliage, and vegetation, which are essential for the wildlife that lives there
  • Backcountry hiking (a.k.a. off the trails) can be dangerous, as these areas are not always stable to walk on

You can still scratch that wanderlust itch with a gorgeous trail hike. Many pass by beautiful landmarks and breathtaking landscapes without you ever having to leave the trail.

4. Ditch Plastic Water Bottles

    This one’s a no-brainer, but we know it happens.

    Plastic is terrible for the environment so many reasons. One of those is that it takes forever for it to break down — anywhere from 20 to 500 years, depending on the kind of plastic.

    So before you hit the trail, make sure you’ve packed your favorite reusable water bottle and fill it with some ice cold water to stay hydrated.

    There are so many cool ones on the market, we know you’ll find the perfect one to match your style. Cheers to being a sustainable super star!

    5. Skip the Fire

      It’s always fun to roast S’mores out on a campfire, but we recommend you skip roasting them on an open fire this year.

      Up to 90% of wildfires across the United States are due to humans. That’s tragic! And the devastation of wildfire season has increased in the past few years.

      It’s gotten so bad, the environment is struggling to keep up and recover from all the forest fires.

      For this reason, unless you’re camping in an area that is of low-risk in an already established area (like a fire ring) — keep the marshmallows and graham crackers at home this time.

      Unless you’ve got a nifty camping propane stove — in which case, go for it!

      6. Go Bio-Degradable

        One of the best things we like to pack in our hiking backpacks is bio-degradable sanitation products, like soaps and hand sanitizers.

        If you plan on doing a longer hike, you might find yourself wanting to cool off near a creek, or wash up after doing your business outdoors. Many soaps, shampoos, and conditioners are harmful to lakes and rivers, so you’ll need to find eco-friendly options:

        Also keep in mind you’ll want to dispose of these products just as responsibly.

        Doing your business in the woods can also have an impact on the environment. And on highly trafficked trails, that impact can add up quick.

        Learn how to responsibly go to the bathroom outdoors while hiking or camping >

        7. Plan Ahead

          Harming the environment isn’t always a conscious endeavor. Sometimes we have no idea how we’re impacting the earth during a hike or camping trip.

          The most important thing to do when heading out into nature is to plan ahead. Even picking the right time of year to hike can make a big difference — for example, if it’s an essential time of year for wildlife or vegetation growth, you might want to plan for another time.

          The same principles of preparation apply to what you pack, the products you bring along, and how you interact with nature once you’ve arrived.  Every bit of prep allows you to better enjoy your time there and leave the natural environment better than you found it.

          Together we can reduce our ecological footprints and preserve our planet for years to come. Because when the planet feels good, you’ll feel good, too.

          Prepping for a Springtime Adventure?

          No need to wait for the summer — you can get out and explore right now!

          We love packing our bags with travel essentials like books, and never saying no to something new.

          Read our travel tricks for springtime getaways >

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