Skip to main content

Planning a camping or hiking trip? Reduce your carbon footprint with these tips

Minimize your environmental impact with these hiking and camping tips

Two people hiking the W Trek in Chile, mountains in the background.
Toomas Tartes, Unsplash Toomas Tartes / Unsplash

Hiking and camping in the great outdoors are much-needed escapes from the hustle and bustle of daily life. The serenity of nature, the breathtaking landscapes, and the sense of adventure all draw us to these outdoor activities. That said, it’s crucial to acknowledge that our outdoor adventures can leave a lasting impact on the environment.

As responsible nature enthusiasts, we have the power and responsibility to minimize our carbon footprint while hiking or camping, which ensures that future generations can enjoy the same breathtaking landscapes we treasure today.

While it might seem overwhelming, every person can do something more to champion this cause. Read on to learn more about your carbon footprint, why it matters, and what you can do to help preserve our natural environment.

Group hiking with friends.
Shutterstock Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

What is a carbon footprint, and why does it matter?

A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions, primarily carbon dioxide (CO2), released into the atmosphere as a result of human activities. It measures the impact of individuals, organizations, or products on climate change.

Many environmental scientists say that greenhouse gases harm the environment by contributing to global warming and climate change. The gases disrupt weather patterns, cause rising sea levels, lead to ocean acidification, and accelerate biodiversity loss. According to experts, mitigating greenhouse gas emissions through renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable practices, and conservation is essential to minimizing environmental damage.

Everyone can do their part, and it all starts by being aware. By understanding the consequences of our carbon footprint and actively taking steps to reduce it, we can play a vital role in mitigating the harmful effects of climate change and preserving a sustainable and habitable planet for future generations.

Group hiking at sunset
Shutterstock Dmitry Molchanov / Shutterstock

Hiking and camping tips to reduce your carbon footprint

When it comes to hiking and camping, it’s important to acknowledge that while these activities may not have the highest greenhouse gas emissions, they can still impact the environment in a lot of ways. So how can you do your part when you head out to hike or camp? Here are a few great ideas to consider:

Choose eco-friendly transportation

Transportation is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, so thinking about what kind of transportation you use is one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint while hiking or camping. If you’re meeting other people, consider carpooling, or look into public transportation. If your trailhead is close enough, you might even be able to bike there.

Opt for local trails

Opting for local trails and campgrounds is an excellent strategy to further reduce your carbon footprint while hiking and camping. By choosing destinations closer to home, you significantly decrease the travel distance required to reach your outdoor getaway. This directly translates to lower fuel consumption, which not only benefits the environment but also saves you money and time.

Moreover, choosing local trails and campgrounds presents an opportunity to support your local community. These outdoor destinations often rely on visitors and donations to sustain their operations. By frequenting nearby trails and campgrounds, you also bolster the livelihoods of local businesses, such as outdoor gear shops, restaurants, accommodations, and tour operators. Your support helps create a thriving community around outdoor recreation and encourages the preservation of these natural areas.

Use reusable water bottles and food containers

Using reusable water bottles on the trail is another great way to reduce your carbon footprint. It’s far more cost-effective to refill a water bottle than it is to use single-use plastics. Reusable water bottles are far more durable, so they won’t break open if you drop them by accident. Take this a step further and bring your meals in glass or plastic food containers, use metal silverware, and use cloth napkins.

Leave no trace

Now that we’re on the subject of waste, it’s a great time to discuss a leave-no-trace principle. If you’ve never heard of it, the concept is pretty simple: Bring out what you take in. Whether that’s trash, gear, or provisions, bring it all back with you. Otherwise, you might attract dangerous animals like bears towards high-traffic areas or cause wildlife to suffocate.

Respecting the environment in this way also means a commitment not to damage the foliage or wildlife. Disrupting the ecosystem can be detrimental to all the living things that depend on each other to survive, so leave things the way you found them.

Support eco-conscious outdoor brands

When it comes to purchasing from outdoor brands, you hold the power to make a positive impact. This is the part where you get to vote with your money, so purchase from brands that reflect your values. Most eco-conscious outdoor brands will have Fair Trade or B Corp certifications. Others might have their environmental initiatives published in a prominent place on their website. You can even look at the product materials list to ensure that it’s made using eco-friendly materials. When in doubt, read customer reviews and seek recommendations.

A couple camping.
Shutterstock Image used with permission by copyright holder

Final thoughts

Reducing your carbon footprint while hiking or camping is not only a responsible choice but also an opportunity to deepen your connection with nature. Even small actions can collectively make a difference in minimizing environmental damage, so by implementing these tips, you can do your part to protect our planet.

Editors' Recommendations

Sarah Joseph
Sarah is a lover of all things outdoors. With a bright sense of adventure and a heart for the mountains, she is always…
9 longest hiking trails in the world that you must visit
Strap on your hiking boots and prepare for these amazing, miles-long trails
Himalayas

There’s just something about long trails. Beyond the mileage and the physical component, distance trails require a different type of commitment and mindset — almost a lifestyle. And worldwide, the planet’s long trails also provide an intimate glimpse of some of the most fascinating and far-flung places on Earth.

From the Alps to the Appalachians, here are a few of the longest hiking trails on the planet. (And be sure to read up on how to prepare for a long-distance hike if you plan to travel to these remarkable hiking trails.)
Trans Canada Trail

Read more
Take in the gorgeous views: The top 5 most scenic hiking locations in America
Cape Royal on the North Rim provides a panorama up, down, and across the Grand Canyon.

America has some of the most scenic hiking locations in the whole world. From old favorites to new finds, many of us are constantly getting our hiking boots dusty. If you're looking for a challenging yet scenic hike to get your loved ones hooked on the great outdoors, it's your lucky day. KÜHL has just released an eye-opening study about the top 10 most scenic in the USA.

This study looked at 20 different hiking trails from each state and ranked them on a weighted scale based on four parameters:

Read more
The best camping hacks for first-time campers
Make that first time magical with these camping tips
A view from the inside of a tent looking out on a campground.

A night under the stars can be a truly magical experience. It allows you to relax, disconnect from a hectic schedule, and return to a more natural way of living — you can even turn your alarm off and let your body wake up with the sun. Regular campers know that sitting around a campfire and watching the flames dance, with a million stars all around you and a cold drink in your hand, is exactly as idyllic as it sounds. But for first-time campers, getting to this moment might feel a long way off.

Whether you're looking to dip your toes into camping for the first time or you're a seasoned pro trying to convince a partner or a buddy that camping is the ideal weekend getaway, that first experience can make or break a would-be camper. Use these camping hacks and tips to kick off your camping career the right way and ensure your first time isn't a washout.
Give yourself some space

Read more