A Guide To The Etiquette Of Hiking

Over the past few years (accelerated by the pandemic) more and more people are discovering a joy for hiking. We think that’s amazing!

With more and more novice hikers taking to the hills and forests however, there too comes a worry of the environmental impacts on the landscape. Today we wanted to cover just a few of the lesser known, or even unspoken ‘rules’ of hiking. These simple etiquette techniques are designed to not only make your hiking experience more enjoyable, but also for those around you! So let’s jump into it!

Walk Don’t Drive!

This is a great one to start with because so often it’s something people overlook. How many times have you been to a natural beauty spot or national park car park to find that the designated parking (if there is any) is completely rammed?

We know we’ve certainly seen it a fair few times!

Whilst it may seem trivial, parking cars outside of designated spaces does raise a number of safety concerns, such as speeding, illegal parking, disturbing local residents and potentially damaging property or land.

This is why we’d recommend where possible to either:

1) Ensure there is plentiful parking before you set out

2) Park in a more pedestrian friendly zone. For example if your walk is on the outskirts of a town, can you park somewhere more urban and walk to the start of the route?

3) Walk there from your doorstep, or get a bus!

Leave No Trace

This is a term you’ll hear a lot in hiking communities and for good reason! It ties nicely onto the previous point of affecting the landscape, but the mindset behind absolutely every hike you go on should be to be respectful of where you are, be aware that every decision and step we take impacts the environment in some way so what decisions can we make to minimise that impact?

Obvious pitfalls here are things such as littering, fire lighting (the BIGGEST no-no of them all) and disturbing wildlife, however with more people out hiking, parks and forests are at greater risk of being negatively impacted by human behaviour. One trend that is becoming increasingly popular is that of ‘plogging’ (a combination of jogging or walking with picking up litter) – If you do spot a piece of litter, it’s good practice to bring with you a pair of safety gloves and rubbish bag. Just because someone else doesn’t respect the environment, we still can!

Read more: Looking for the right backpack for your next hike? Read our guide here.

Stick To The Path

Whilst wild hiking can be acceptable in certain areas or situations, on the whole, it’s always a better idea to stick to the path. Not only will you be less likely to get lost, but from an environmental point of view, again you won’t be impacting any potential growth or wildlife.

In certain situations, you might find yourself crossing paths with another hiker on a narrow trail, if you want to give someone space to walk ahead of you, it’s best practice to step off the path but then stay there until they pass. Walking off the trail can lead to ‘braiding’, which kills vegetation.

As another incidental point, in the same narrow path situation, where someone is hiking in the opposite direction, remember that the party going uphill should be allowed to pass first. As going uphill is generally considered harder, it’s best to give them right-of-way.

Taking Breaks and Stops

Whether it’s for a quick breather or a full picnic, it’s important to be mindful of where you’re setting up on your hike. Perhaps that patch with newly growing flowers isn’t the best spot, instead we’d recommend opting for harder areas that are far less likely to be affected by you stopping there. Areas like rocky outcrops, under a large tree or a fallen log.

For more tips on staying hydrated whilst hiking, read this guide…

Dog Owners Beware

Dogs make great hiking companions, there’s no denying that and we love them!

However, it is important to have full control of your pets before taking them out into the public. Just like you shouldn’t be running around off the trail, your dog shouldn’t really be roaming around on its own, potentially trampling on whatever is sprouting there or disturbing the local wildlife. (A certain dog named Fenton comes to mind here…) 

And remember, in some hiking sites, dogs must follow lead laws, both for their own safety and the safety of others..

This then opens the door to another common issue…Just pick up after your dog.

Yes poop is a brilliant fertiliser and hundreds of other animals are doing their business in the woods, but your dog doesn’t need to be one of them. Just think about the next hiker to walk this trail. Another trend we’ve seen is those leaving poop bags on trees to ‘pick up later on the way back’. Not only does ‘later’ often never come, but leaving such things on trees is known to attract animals and litters the landscape, impacting other users and the environment.

Quiet Is Courtesy

This is also another often overlooked one and whilst you certainly don’t have to hike in silence or without others, noise is a big part of the outdoors. Some people do hike with music playing out loud, and others hike in large groups making a lot of loud noise.

The message here is more to just be considerate of other people as most people usually take to nature to de-stress. The soundscape is as much a part of that as the landscape. The tweeting of the birds, whistle of the wind, crack of a twig as you walk over it, these are all things that people love. So it’s best practice to not be screaming or speaking at a volume better suited for the football match.

There you have it! Just a few quick etiquette tips to help make your next hike all the better! Want to learn more about getting into hiking, read our guide here! Or if you’d like to speak to our experts for advice on areas such as footwear or clothing, get in touch today!

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