Hiking is undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable activities to participate in. Feeling at one with nature while reaping the benefits of physical exercise: what’s not to like? Yet no matter where you hike, it should be a pastime that is performed with the utmost respect in terms of the natural world around you. Not only should you respect that environment in terms of never underestimating conditions and taking unnecessary risks, but it is about protecting that natural beauty and ensuring it is there, unspoiled, for generations more of hikers to enjoy.
Here are five simple ways you can respect the environment around you when you are out on a hike:
Take all you need, and take it home with you
Although there is something romantic about living off the land, the reality is that you leave much less of a footprint, ecologically speaking, if you take everything you need with you, and of course take all waste, other than natural, home with you after. Plastic waste can be hazardous to the natural environment and is particularly harmful to wildlife. After you go to the toilet in the wild, bury it, and this includes any biodegradable toilet paper that you use. And if you smoke, make sure you take cigarette buts with you, as not only do they litter, but they are a major fire hazard too.
Stick to the paths
Sticking to marked out trials is vital for two main reasons. The first reason is safety, because as soon as you deviate from set paths, you take your own safety into your own hands, and there are absolutely no guarantees. The second reason is that trampling off path can severely damage ferns and plants that grow on the route you choose to take. The danger is that others will follow, and before long that flora gets irreparably damaged. Think about the lasting legacy of your actions.
Think carefully about fires
Devastatingly wildfires have been across the news in recent years, and hikers must play their part in ensuring these terrible events do not occur more often than they should. Nothing can account for an act of God such as a lightning strike, but when it comes to making a campfire, do so responsibly in an open area, and never leave before the fire is totally extinguished. You must be truly vigilant here, as even a fire that looks like it is out may have dying embers that are still a huge fire hazard. Douse with water, and make sure there is nothing around that could easily catch alight. If it’s windy, be twice as cautious.
Getting up close and personal with wildlife is one of the joys of a nature hike, but always be respectful and give the animal in question plenty of space. Do not touch any animals that you come across, as there can be lasting consequences to these actions that we can’t even consider. Observe from a distance, take a picture (being careful not to startle any animals) and then move on, always leaving everything as you have found it.
When it comes to using accommodation, guides, or whatever it may be, think local, and always look for organizations and hotels that operate ecologically. Supporting the local economy is often a major part of respecting the natural environment as long as that economy works respectfully. Thankfully, there is growing awareness in settlements in beauty spots that respecting and protecting the local environment is in everyone’s best interests, but it never hurts to double-check that you are using a reputable business.