Improving the Sustainability of Thru-Hiking

Thru-hikers discover how environmentally degrading backpacking can be. They find countless coolers and campsites full of trash, and eating individually wrapped packets of ramen and Pop-Tarts generates an uncomfortable amount of waste.

Hikers have ideas for making long-distance backpacking more environmentally sound. Though it’s nearly impossible to avoid creating some amount of trash, many hikers found that making mindful purchases, buying in bulk and adhering to Leave No Trace principles helped mitigate environmental damage.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Buy some of gear secondhand from the Backpacking Light forums and REI Garage Sales. Buying used and repurposing items is always more sustainable, and this is particularly true for hikers.
  • Avoid the problem of individual packaging by sending bulk meals to mail drops. This allows control over the ingredients and whether the items were sustainably grown and raised.
  • Protect both the environment and other people by following Leave No Trace principles. Backpackers should always respect fire bans. Hikers should always avoid creating new campsites and satellite trails whenever possible, especially in fragile ecosystems that cannot rebound quickly.
  • Avoiding certain areas during peak hiking times will help the trail and those who maintain it. Consider sobo trips and flip-flops.

Though hikers are resourceful people, there is still room for improvement in the way we treat the environment. With research and some creativity, future generations will be able to hike these precious wilderness trails as they are meant to be enjoyed.

More info here…


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