25 Ways to reduce your waste when hiking, camping, or exploring

Living a sustainable lifestyle at home may be second nature, but what about when you venture out into a new environment for fun family activities? With a little extra planning, you can still have a terrific time while leaving minimal impact when hiking, camping, or exploring. In most cases, you can leave it better than you found it.

The mantra “pack it in, pack it out” is great to follow every time you leave home for a family adventure. And better yet, reduce the amount of waste before you leave. Here are some ideas.

Reduce waste while hiking

  1. Food waste – while it may seem alright to leave biodegradables, like orange peels, on the ground, it can habituate animals and is not very appealing to other hikers.
  2. Reusable containers for drinks are always a great idea. Nothing worse than seeing plastic bottles and hydration packs on the trail. Stay hydrated!
  3. Take a sealable bag to collect your used wrappers or use a larger snack bag that you empty while out - such as a chip bag. Remember a chip clip to seal it up. Tissues and such need to be collected too if there are no restrooms around.
  4. Only bring what you really need. Keep your load light and fresh. Some foods melt or spoil easily. Good selections include trail mix, jerky, nuts, granola, fresh fruit, veggies, and bagels.

Reduce waste while camping

  1. Create a box of reusable plates and cutlery.
  2. Freeze your own blocks of ice. They last longer than chips of ice.
  3. Use rags instead of paper towels and Sani-wipes. Cut up old towels and keep them in your camping gear.
  4. Use bags, such as chip bags, to collect waste instead of buying other bags.
  5. Invest in a large water jug instead of buying several smaller ones. Pumps are available for the 15 – 25L jugs that make things easier. Jugs can be refilled with clean water at local grocery stores.
  6. Prepare food at home and bring in waterproof containers so it is not affected by melting ice. Another reason blocks are better.
  7. Use plant-based detergents, soaps, etc.
  8. Avoid buying firewood wrapped in plastic or other packaging. Many locals sell firewood along your journey.
  9. Travel in fewer vehicles if going in a group.
  10. It’s good practice to gather waste that may have been left behind by other campers. Leave the site better than you found it.
  11. Keep fires small. Be sure to extinguish all fires completely.
  12. Solar-charged lights eliminate the need for batteries. If you need battery-powered lights, consider using LED bulbs that consume much less energy.


Reduce waste while exploring or vacationing

  1. Bring along reusable hot and cold drink bottles. Refuse the single-use cups at cafes.
  2. Stash a reusable shopping bag when going out for the day. You never know when you might need one.
  3. If flying is part of your plans, use the airline’s app instead of paper boarding passes.
  4. Rent bikes if feasible to explore town.
  5. Opt out of daily housekeeping when staying in hotels.
  6. Try not to use travel-size toiletries. Put your products in reusable containers instead.
  7. Don’t order more food than you can eat. Leftovers will only go to waste while you are out exploring.
  8. Find local farmer's markets, when possible, to buy snacks and gifts. Products are normally made locally which eliminates transportation.
  9. Pay with cash and refuse the receipt.

There are probably many more things you can add to this list.  You could include this in your family activity planning sessions and create a to-go kit such as picnic baskets or travel bags.  Let your imagination go wild and see how little impact you can have out there.

Leave a comment (all fields required)

Comments will be approved before showing up.