Hiking in the great outdoors is undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable sports on Earth, especially in the summertime, when the weather is temperate and the sun shines upon us. Unfortunately, nature’s charm can quickly fade when we stumble upon empty beverage cans, plastic sandwich bags or even worse, somebody’s still-smoldering cigarette butt, which could so easily become the next uncontrollable wildfire.
As stewards of the environment (and kind human beings), it’s important that we hike responsibly, leaving no detritus behind, respecting wildlife and preserving the pristine setting for everyone to enjoy. Here are a few tips for treading lightly on the next hiking trip.
Avoid overcrowded places. The most popular national parks and hiking trails have been hosting a record-breaking number of visitors lately, severely stressing the flora and fauna. Consider exploring less trafficked spots so that these areas can recover.
Stay close to home. Choose a trail close by to cut down on travel-related carbon emissions. For most of us, a beautiful natural setting is usually a short walk or bike ride away.
Use sustainable gear. Wear outdoor gear by eco-friendly brands that strive to lower the carbon footprint in their sourcing, manufacturing and shipping practices, such as Patagonia or Merrell.
Don’t litter. Leave no trash on the trail, including biodegradable items or food scraps, which could negatively impact wildlife. Remember to bring a bag on the walk to carry all refuse home—score extra points for picking up items that someone else might have left behind.
Pack responsibly. Limit waste by wrapping homemade snacks and beverages in reusable bags and containers. Bring bamboo utensils.
Bring a reusable water bottle. Single-use water bottles are out. Bring a lightweight, reusable bottle. For longer hikes near fresh water sources, invest in an on-the-go water filter.
Ditch chemical products. Use chemical-free sunscreens and insect repellents to keep toxins out of the environment. This is especially important when taking an outdoor swim.
Don’t take a souvenir. Resist the temptation to handle, move or take home items found on the trail. Rocks, shells, a handful of sand, pinecones, flowers—they’re all integral parts of the ecosystem, serving as food and habitat for wildlife.
Stick to the trail to avoid trampling plants or causing other unintentional damage.
Don’t engage with the animals. Getting uncomfortably close to touch, photograph or feed wild animals is a big no-no.