Tips for Being Greener on Your Thru-Hike

As the countdown to your hike ticks closer, keep a few of these environmentally friendly suggestions in mind, as you go on your shakedown hike or repack your bag for the 100th time. You’ll be spending an intense and extended time out in the wilderness connecting with nature and observing your surroundings, it just makes sense that you would want to act in accordance with keeping it beautiful and healthy. On the trail it’s easy to let go of some of our destructing habits we pick up in our conveniently disposable culture, so here’s some help to get you thinking.

Reduce Plastic Use

Grocery bags: Just say no when the cashier is bagging your peanut butter and tortillas. Use your food bag, pack, or carry your items rather than getting a disposable plastic bag that will most likely end up in a tree or a fence after being discarded. This goes for your produce bags as well. Once you get into the mindset of passing on the plastic, it becomes a natural habit.

Straws: Skip the plastic straw in your fizzy drink while in town scarfing down your one-pound burger. This is actually becoming more of a widespread initiative, as plastic straws are one of the most high-volume types of trash found in our oceans.

Ziploc bags: Found in pretty much every hiker box you come across. I know, this one is hard to reduce especially if you are prepping your own mail drops with portion sizes all in plastic baggies. So if you have to use the bags at least try to reuse them over and over again rather than discarding them after one use. And just repeat after me until it sinks in, single use plastics are evil.

Water bottles: The thru-hiker look includes the SmartWater bottle strapped to the outside of a pack, often topped with a Sawyer Squeeze. But if you’re not going to use that same bottle for 2,000 miles think about getting a water bladder and making the Sawyer in-line. Just because the plastic bottle is convenient to toss and buy a new one doesn’t mean it won’t end up in the North Atlantic garbage patch.

Ziploc Bags galore-if you have to use them, reuse them over and over

Eliminate Packaging Waste

Look for foods with little to no packaging. Produce is an easy way out here plus it’ll help you not get scurvy. Bulk foods are also great; use one of your existing Ziploc bags or get creative with your cooking pot and stock up. Trust me, you will eat all of those chocolate covered pretzels in the bulk containers.

The original dryer=the sun

Lessen Electricity Use

This one is a bit easier since you won’t find an outlet at your nightly shelter. Just keep in mind when you’re staying in your hostel or hotel room that you don’t need to keep the lights and TV on all night.


Conserve Water

This is another tip specific to trail towns. I know it’s nice to take a 15-minute hot shower when you haven’t bathed in a week and you like to watch your dirt trail slide down the drain, but try to contain it to a five-minute water deluge. Also be aware of all the water that goes into washing your dishes and clothes and flushing your toilets. That also goes for eating out. Everything that you use will be cleaned so keep it down to one plate, utensil, and cup; maybe even bring your own.

No outlet here

Buy Green Products

Look for gear that is responsibly made and whose company has a strong sustainability mission. Patagonia is a leader in this arena and whose founder also started 1% for the planet. When looking for toiletry items look for products made with organic and sustainably sourced materials.

Just for the ladies

Consider using a menstrual cup like the diva cup to eliminate tampons and pads from the landfills (don’t bury or throw them in the compostable privy). Plus it’s cheaper in the long run. Another option is to go for a birth control that stops your period altogether; I can attest that it makes life on the trail so much easier.

I hope these tips start you thinking about your impact on the planet and help you to minimize it. And always, practice Leave No Trace.

If you’ve got any more tips leave them in the comments!


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Comments 9

  • Smokebeard : Mar 7th

    Hear hear.

    I think some of the same arguments can be made for single-serving plastic tuna packets, single-serving PB cups/packets, “borrowing” condiments, TP and trashbags from trail towns, buying disposable gear, and using places like REI as a rental service.

    Long distance hikers have an opportunity to set an example as lean, mean, low-impact machines. The phrase “hiker trash” should be an honorary.

    • Tide Walker : Mar 8th

      Yes, all good points!

  • Eyedbythetiger : Mar 7th

    Seems inappropriate to to be recommending hormonal drug treatment to readers. You are not a medical professional.

    • Tide Walker : Mar 8th

      Thanks for your comment. I’m not telling people what to do just throwing different options out there, then people can decide for themselves. Plus, I am sharing what I did so if someone is curious they can ask me directly about it.

      • Frannabelle : Apr 26th

        Birth control is not a green thing for anyone to take (and then urinate into soils and waterways) whether they are hiking or using flushing toilets. Go the cup! Or, reuseable pads if you don’t mind sun drying them on the outside of your pack in full view!

    • Margaret : Mar 13th

      It’s not as if they can run out and pickup birth control from REI. They’ll obviously have a discussion with their health care provider.

  • vicky : Mar 9th

    All good ideas. To add to the female tips: A dollar store douche bottle. Replace the cap with a squirt top and you have a great bidet and it lasts forever. A quick drying Handy Wipe connected to a carbiner (rinse every night) and there ya have it. You can reuse the Handy Wipes many times. Better than TP.

  • Katie : Mar 9th

    Great article! I encourage hikers to rethink their food strategy to include more whole foods and items from bulk bins for this very reason (less packaged foods=less waste=better health for us and the planet). The less we support destructive mega-corporations, the better the outcome for our personal and planetary health. As outdoors enthusiasts we have an awesome opportunity to protect the places we love through thoughtful actions 🙂

  • Margaret : Mar 13th

    Consider a travel size water bottle with a squeeze top for a backwoods bidet. Bonus: you don’t have to pack or the dirty TP.


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