Thursday, September 21, 2023

Hiking Essentials: The Best Low-Impact Sustainable Options


Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just getting started, the ten essentials for hiking will help make it as rewarding as possible. We’ve got the most sustainable recommendations so you can truly leave no trace.

Does anything rival the feeling of hiking in nature and taking in all the great outdoors? Hiking can count toward your forest bathing goals. But if you’re not fully prepared, a hike can be a daunting experience, even a dangerous one.

It also matters that the hiking gear you bring is low-impact and sustainable so that you’re treading as lightly on the planet as possible in all ways possible.

Courtesy Jake Melara | Unsplash

These ten essentials for hiking are widely regarded as a must for any hike. The American Hiking Society recommends everyone pack the ten essentials for every hike. “Whether you plan to be gone for a couple of hours or several months, make sure to pack these items. Become familiar with these items and know how to use them.”

  • Hiking backpack
  • Weather-appropriate clothing
  • Plenty of food
  • Plenty of water
  • Navigation tools
  • First-aid kit
  • Knife or multi-tool
  • Light
  • Fire
  • Shelter

Let’s break them down into their parts with sustainable options in mind.

10 sustainable hiking essentials

A word about sustainability: the most sustainable option is the one you already have. So even if your backpack or hiking shoes aren’t made from eco-friendly materials, if they are in good working condition, there’s no need to upgrade. But if you are in need of replacements, opting for sustainable, low-impact replacements is a great option.

1. Backpack, fanny pack, or crossbody bag

Whether you’re a backpack wearer, or a fan of crossbody bags or fanny packs, any of those are essential for your hike.

Try these sustainable offerings:

2. Weather-appropriate clothing

Be sure to dress for the weather. Wearing layers is always a good idea, as the temperature can change throughout the day. For example, if you’re hiking in an area with lots of vegetation, long pants and sleeves will help to protect you from scratches and insect bites. And if you’re hiking in a colder climate, pack a jacket and hat to keep you warm. A hiking hat or sunglasses can help to protect you from the sun, and a map and compass will come in handy if you get lost. By dressing for the weather, you can have a comfortable hike no matter the conditions.

women in outerknown jackets
Courtesy Outerknown

These brands make sustainable all-weather wear for hiking:

  • Patagonia – Upcycled and organic materials, comes with a lifetime warranty
  • Timberland – Recently increased its sustainable offerings
  • Outerknown – The Kelly Slater company puts an emphasis on high quality, functional eco materials
  • Boyish – Sustainably made cargo pants for any type of hike

Clothes should help to protect you from the sun. For everywhere else, be sure to use a proper sunscreen.

Another essential for any hike is a good pair of shoes or boots. Wearing the wrong footwear can lead to blisters, soreness, and injuries. Be sure to choose shoes that are comfortable and provide good support. If you’re hiking in an area with rocky terrain, consider wearing shoes with good traction to help prevent slips and falls.

These brands offer sustainable hiking boots and shoes:

  • The North Face – These shoes feature recycled rubber
  • On – Super sustainably made and so stylish
  • Arc’Teryx – Technical gear without the leather
  • Merrell – A range of eco and recycled materials from an industry leader

3. Food

Dense energy sources travel well and sustain you longer if you find yourself on the trail longer than expected. Snacks like granola bars or trail mix are perfect for a quick energy boost, and packing a lunch will help to keep you going during those scenic or strenuous hikes. Granola is easy to make and can be eaten like trail mix, too. Pack nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. (We’ve got more tasty snack recommendations here.)

water bottles
Courtesy quokkabottles | Unsplash

4. Water

Possibly the most important thing to remember when hiking is to bring enough water. Depending on the length and difficulty of your hike, you will need to pack accordingly. It is always better to err on caution and bring more than you think you’ll need, just in case. Consider bringing a filter or purifier if you’re hiking in an area where potable water is not readily available.

These eco water bottles are great options:

5. Navigation tools or maps

Hiking is a way to escape from the bustle of city life and technology. But sometimes that can mean getting a little lost. Don’t expect to rely on your smartphone, though, as may places can be out of range for service. Bring a map or a compass. Antique and vintage shops often sell working compasses. You can also opt for an heirloom piece like this compass from Garrett Wade.

6. First aid

When hiking, it is also essential to consider your health and safety. Be aware of your surroundings and look for any potential hazards. Know which species of plants and animals pose a health risk. Always hike with a partner and let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. Bring a first-aid kit in case of any minor injuries, and familiarize yourself with the area before setting out on your hike. The Brookstone travel-ready first-aid kit is stocked with essentials.

7. Knife or multi-tool

Some first aid kits have tools like tweezers and scissors, but you’ll want a good knife or multi-tool on hand as well. The James Brand‘s Pike is a sleek design that will fit in most any bag or pack.

camping under the stars
Courtesy Josh Hild | Unsplash

8. Flashlight/headlamp

A small flashlight can also be a lifesaver, especially if you find yourself hiking in the dark.

9. Matches or lighter

In the event that you are lost or find yourself in an emergency situation, matches or a lighter will make all the difference. Wether it’s to help keep you warm or mark your spot for rescue, never leave home without a fire source.

10. Shelter

While a shelter may seem like going overboard for a quick jaunt up your favorite neighborhood trail. It’s not likely necessary for something like that, especially if other people know where you’re going and keeping tabs in case you don’t return when expected. But for all other hikes, especially long trails and trails unfamiliar to you, follow the American Hiking Society’s recommendation and bring a shelter along. These can be tents or pop tents or even a space blanket, which takes up little space in a pack.

Need some nature inspiration? Check out Julia Butterfly Hill’s story.

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