One of the reasons we love the mountains so much is because we can forget about everything when we’re there. All our daily struggles seem to be miles away (which is actually true, because we don’t have mountains in Holland)… We love just to enjoy all the beauty nature has to offer. But, to keep nature beautiful and accessible, it is vital to treat it in the right way. Whether you are a hiker, mountain biker, climber or camper, with these tips, you’ll be able to enjoy responsible hiking during
ryour future trips to the mountains.
Maybe your mind is like: “Isn’t hiking or biking in the mountains already really sustainable?” and to some point, you’re right. But each year, European Mountain associations pay a considerable amount of money to ensure that nature remains accessible to enthusiasts. Some of this money goes towards the maintenance of hiking trails and mountain huts, and another part is for the preservation of nature. Maybe it’s not something you think about when you’re hiking or biking in the mountains, but that awesome nature is quite vulnerable. Especially in popular mountain areas, with hundreds of thousands of people visiting every year. Fortunately, you as a nature lover can also contribute and make more environmentally conscious choices when you’re in the mountains.
1. Go local
Whenever possible, try to avoid getting on a plane to get to your destination. If you live in a flat country, as we do, you might have some more sustainable options to get to your starting point. Make sure to check if trains and buses are stopping close to your destination. In Europe, you could get around by bus pretty quickly and cheap!
Once you’ve arrived at your destination and decided you want to do a multiple day hike, make sure to hire a local guide! Not only do they know everything there is to know about an area, but by hiring them, you also contribute to the local community of the country you’re visiting. So everybody wins!
2. Leave no trace
If you take only one tip from this list, make it this one! Please make sure you leave no trace when you’re hiking in the mountains. Not even at the place you’re spending the night. Obviously, this means no throwing any (plastic) packaging on the ground. But also that you don’t throw the remains of your apple or your banana peel into the bushes. Even though nature can digest foods like these, it still takes some time, especially at high altitudes. A banana peel can even take a few years. Moreover, the animals living in the mountains can become dependent on this kind of leftovers that we leave behind. So make sure you leave no trace! When you sleep in mountain huts, you might think about leaving your garbage there, but you’ll have to realize that they’ll also have to get rid of their waste somehow. In the high mountain huts this is done by helicopter, and as you might understand: that is not cheap. Make sure that you’re always carrying something that can double as a garbage bag.
You see any waste laying around somewhere? Do nature a favor and take it with you. Nowadays, you can record how much waste you take and where you find it, using an app called Litterati. It’s a very cool initiative by Jeff Kirschner, designed to urge people to clean up the earth. Check out this short TED talk in which he explains how he got the idea and how much it can contribute! We’ve already created an account 🙂
3. Opt for sustainable materials
When you’re going higher up in the mountains, you need more gear. Like climbing gear of appropriate clothing. This is a great opportunity for choosing a more sustainable option! Some manufacturers pay more attention to the impact (the production of) their products have on the environment and the working conditions of their workforce than other companies. Just checking whether the pants you want to purchase is produced sustainably or not isn’t hard. Check out the website Rank a Brand before you buy. Responsible hiking starts wayyy before you actually head out on track.
4. Think about water
Before you travel, think about the amount of water you’re going to need in the mountains. Make sure to take into account that you should drink an extra liter of water for every 1000 meters you climb, in order to prevent altitude sickness. If you can’t take all the water you need, you’ll need to look for options to refill your bottles on the trail. Never buy disposable bottles on the road! Not only are they very expensive, but they are also a major waste problem that must be avoided. Invest in a good water bottle or drinking system before you travel. In the mountains, you can often find rivers or glacial lakes where you can tap water. If you do not trust it to be clean, use a water filter or chlorine drops. This makes most water drinkable.
We always take our Care Plus water filter when we go hiking. Because it only weighs about 65 grams, it doesn’t bother us when we don’t need it on a trip. But when we do, we have fresh water in no time!
5. Stick to the trail
Always stay on track, no matter how tempting it may be to take that shortcut. If you don’t, you’ll disturb the animals living in the woods and the nesting fauna as well. Because less maintenance is necessary, it also helps the tracks to stay open longer, so more people can enjoy the outdoors. Don’t be afraid you’ll miss out on all the beautiful sights; the pathways are often designed to show you all the goodies nature has to offer.
6. Use a power bank
Don’t worry, nowadays most huts have electricity, and in most of them, it’s even free (in Europe at least). But that doesn’t mean you can go ahead an charge your phone, tablet, GPS device and the three camera batteries you’re carrying. That rule certainly applies when you can just use solar power to charge your devices. Invest in a good, durable device and you can charge all your equipment while you’re exploring! You’ll never be left with an empty battery again.
Although many people opt for the WakaWaka, we chose the Power Monkey Explorer. It comes with all sorts of adapters so that you can use it on different devices.
7. Share your knowledge about responsible hiking and ask questions!
Probably almost everybody you’ll meet in the mountains, loves nature. But that doesn’t mean everybody knows how to take good care of the environment. So if you see something that isn’t ok, speak up! And don’t be afraid to ask questions to the people who work in the mountain huts. They are generally very open to feedback and inspiration from their customers. Especially when your question makes them more aware of the impact they are having on the environment. So don’t be shy and share your knowledge!
One final tip: make sure you stick to the rules. Is camping prohibited? Then don’t camp there. Are there signs everywhere saying that you shouldn’t make a fire, then don’t start one. Rules like these are there for a reason. In fact, they often help to protect the environment we all love so much. So treat them with respect.
Do you have any additional tips to help your fellow nature lovers be more sustainable in the mountains and enjoy responsible hiking? Tell me in the comments!