looking down on Macchu Picchu

Have you landed somewhere new and are looking for a way to explore off the beaten track? Perhaps something that will be memorable, eco-friendly but that won’t break the bank?

Why not try hiking?!

Hiking is an environmentally friendly way to travel and explore if it's done properly. With no carbon emissions, destructive vehicles or loud engines, it can be peaceful and non-intrusive.

Hiking may also be the only way to experience a place truly. As the Inca Trail in Peru; four days of winding mountainous ascents and descents before arriving to see the clouds part and Machu Picchu presented to you as a gift well-deserved.

Hiking can do amazing things for the mind and body, and even the conscience if done responsibly. Studies show that spending time with and having a connection to nature helps reduce anxiety, stress and depression, as well as aiding physical fitness. Making ethical decisions has a similar positive impact on mental health, so responsible hiking is doing you more good than just helping you clear your mind.

If a hike sounds like it could be your next adventure, read on to find out how to make it responsible.

1. Go local

If you're setting out on a multi-day hike, hire a licenced local porter or guide. Not only do these guys have every trail and turn memorised, but they are also an incredible wealth of knowledge. Hiring local ensures the tourist dollars you spend go directly back into the community and helps preserve the park or attraction. And having someone help to set up your tent or prepare a meal at the end of a long day is also invaluable!

2. Carry in, carry out

It seems obvious, but it's important to bring back anything you take on the hike with you. Most people remember their food wrappers and water bottles, but what about toilet paper? It's possible you'll need to use a bush toilet on longer hikes so remember to bring disposable toilet paper with you. You can bury it with any waste along the way. However, if you aren’t that prepared or you prefer baby wipes, simply pop the tissue into a sealable bag to prevent any unpleasant (or animal-attracting) odours and carry it with you to the next available, appropriate bin.

3. Stick to paths

Sticking to designated pathways ensures animal habitat and nesting fauna remain undisturbed. It can also ensure the hiking trail can stay open for longer between maintenance periods and be available for others to enjoy. Hiking trails are designed to offer the ‘path of least resistance’ and the best route to showcase the diversity of landscapes and views. There’s no need to go rogue.

4. Remain fire smart

Unless you're in a campsite, fires of any kind aren't recommended. Depending on the seasons, mountains can be wildfires waiting to happen. Smoking while hiking and carelessly dropping embers or butts can escalate into fierce bushfires that not only threaten human life but that destroy vast amounts of land and wildlife. If you must smoke, carry a butt bin. If you're camping and have made a small campfire, ensure it's completely extinguished before you move on. Please pay attention to all fire danger warnings.

5. Feed yourself, not others

Bring snacks! It’s amazing how hungry you can get while hiking. Snacks high in protein are best, so things like peanuts and trail mixes work well. But you may attract native animals when you stop for a snack. However cute that monkey or dingo is, you should never feed wildlife. Many animals can become reliant on hand feeding and become aggressive if they smell see your food. Please don't share your snacks with the cute critters, they already know where to find their lunch!

6. Practice solo safety

Female travel safety applies to hiking trails as well. Find a buddy to hike with for shorter tracks or stay insight of others on popular routes. On longer trails, have a plan to check in at the start and end of each day via satellite phone, wifi device or even at your lodge in the evening. This will ensure someone always knows where you are and they know what to do if they don’t hear from you.

7. Plan your water requirements

Plan how much water you will need. If you can carry the entire amount, perfect. If not, invest in water treatment tablets or a filtration system and fill up at designated water points. It pays to do your research on water availability along the route. Buying bottled water along the way is often expensive and hard to find. Single use plastic bottles are also a major waste problem so try to avoid them if you can.

7 Travel Tips to Ensure Responsible Hiking #responsible #travel

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When you're preparing for your next hike, remember these tips to ensure your decisions are responsible. If you need more information, most hikes have websites that provide specific details you need to know to ensure your hike is not only successful but sustainable too.

For me though, responsible hiking can honestly be summed up in my six favourite words:

Take only photos, leave only footprints.

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looking down on Macchu Picchu

Image source: author's own & pixabay.com