We are hikers, we were born to explore, we travel places many others aren’t interested or inclined to go to. We love the outdoors and a sense of adventure that brings being in green and wild places. And with that sense of wonder comes a need to protect and preserve the places we trek and explore. But there are rules for hiking (which I invented just before putting together this responsible hikers guide).
Sadly the world is changing and not for the better. The ever increasing population has placed huge demands on our green and pleasant countryside. Even though the percentage of people who enjoy outdoor activities is still relatively small the population increase has had an overall and quite detrimental effect on the landscape of our planet.
I hate preaching! Unless of course I’m in one of those more moments when I really enjoyed preaching. But today rather than have a little rant I’m gonna keep it simple: today we are going to explore some ideas on how we can be responsible hikers.
Keep To The Tracks
I know this is a really contentious point, but we are trying to preserve the environment. Many of the tracks criss-crossing our countries, whether that be in the United Kingdom, Europe, Asia, the United States of America… et cetera we have a duty to preserve the outstanding beauty of the countryside. Sometimes this means we have to forego, or wind in, our pioneering spirit. But only a little bit.
The idea here is simple: we follow the path’s that have been laid before by people who have gone before us. It’s not a new idea, and even though I love really striding out and exploring I’m happy to go along with if only to prevent erosion and damage to the countryside.
Don’t Geo Tag Your Locations
In a world of Instagram and all the other social media sites allow you to post photographs of your journey there’s an overwhelming temptation to tag everywhere we go. Ordinarily I would wholeheartedly agree with telling people your stories – I’m a storyteller, I love tales hearing them and telling – but sometimes we need to keep our destination is a little bit secret
It’s fun documenting the trails we make, but sometimes our good intentions can be detrimental. Look at it this way, how many times have you found a piece of paradise, a place so beautiful and stunning that, really, deserves to be as untouched as humanly possilbe? It’s places like this, places that we really go to and the ones that should be protected from the constant stampede of feet and the piles of rubbish left by reckless hikers, that we should hide from the world.
It breaks my heart to say this, sometimes it’s much simpler and safer to not do you take your location if only to protect the environment.
Let Nature Take Its Course
“Dad, there’s a bear over there and it looks like it’s about to attack a deer! You have to do something.” Sorry girls, I’ll let nature decide. Most hikers are more than just nature lovers, they love animals too. And I can understand how difficult it is to get involved with the workings of nature, in particular predators.
It seems reasonable to get involved and help protect those defenceless little animals that are about to be eaten by a nasty brown bear. There are a couple of minor issues with these thoughts. First, I’ve been pretty close to the receiving end of the polar bear and, strange as it may seem, I have no desire to ever go there again. I like living. Second, predators have to wait too! Contrary to popular belief they can’t live on our junk and that includes McDonald’s.
Even apex predators face daily risks and
Let nature take its course, sometimes it’s hard, but that’s life.
I’m often surprised how much equipment, in particular electronic hiking gear, you can buy that still use disposable batteries. Admittedly most of this gear is relatively cheap equipment that ships from China but it still irritating because a lot of people using GPS units and other devices that have disposable batteries fitted in them.
And aside from the fact that there are some inconsiderate hikers out there accidents do happen and quite frequently we can drop or lose these disposable batteries in the countryside. The resulting care of the batteries results of pollution. This might seem a minor issue to some people but the less pollution the better.
The most obvious answers to only buy equipment utilises rechargeable batteries (which raises the question of how we charge them and we’ll deal with that in another post). And I’m not insensitive to cost – I realise that some people can’t simply afford or simply can’t afford to go out and completely renew all the electronic gear that you use for hiking at the drop of a hat.
It’s an idea: instead of buying new equipment purchase rechargeable batteries. These are a bit more expensive than disposables, and you definitely think twice before walking away when you drop one of these. I probably need to reword this quite drastically!
Use Public Transport
I know this isn’t a new idea, it’s one I’ve kind of pinched from my partner, but I’m surprised at how many people still use cars and SUVs to get to the start of their hiking routes. And this seems counterintuitive (I have been guilty of this too). After all, you going hiking so why do you need a car to get you to stop point?
In the park past few years I’ve taken a slightly more conscientious approach to my journeys. Where possible are use public transport to get as close as possible to the start point and then set off on foot. This has the added advantage of adding a few extra miles to the journey (TIP: one following this approach it’s a good idea to make sure you factor in the extra distance, at the beginning and end, of your hike to ensure you have ample time and provisions for the journey. I
What? Ask questions about your route, your destination and the path you take on your hike. I know any discrepancies final on the way.
Here is what I mean: a couple of years ago I was using ordnance survey map to follow a hiking route, through the Buckinghamshire countryside. About three hours into my walk I crested a small hill and look down into some dead ground. The route to head, the direction of the footpath, was barred by very high fence surrounding the tennis court the joints were large country house. I walked down the incline and towards the fence. As I approached someone popped out Amanda period and start walking towards me.
We met about hundred metres away from the artificial Boundry in the wreck. He told me. He asked me where I was going. Naturally I told him I was following the public footpath. At this point he told me that it was private land and was no right of way.
I put up my map and showed him clearly marked footpath. He was adamant that it didn’t exist and that if I want any further I’d be triple trust passing.
I’ve been map reading for a very long time. I’m at work, compass work and ability to use the GPS are excellent. Yes, we all make mistakes. In this case I was adamant that I was correct. That said, I did give the guy a little bit of respect, if only for a short space of time, and navigated my way round the left quote mark private right quote mark land.
The next working day I headed down to local council offices and raised a query about the footpath.
A few months later I discovered that the guy at basically just built tennis courts across the footpath, without permission. I never really bothered to check back to see what happened to the tennis courts but I can imagine they’re not there any more and the guys wallet is somewhat later.
Always ask questions!
Embrace Isolation: Ditch Your Smartphone
Smart phones of the scourge of society! Research shows they have had a detrimental effect on concentration of both adults and children, what’s more they’re power hungry and quite often you’ll find that your swanky smart phone becomes little more than deadweight when the battery runs out.
Over the years I’ve seen people use their smart phone as a navigation device. Last year, whilst on on a long run, I was approached and stopped by a couple of hikers. They told me that their smartphone battery had drained and they could no longer access their mapping app. Worse, they didn’t even have a real map which to navigate (and, as I soon discovered, they couldn’t actually map read)
Your smart phone might have the best camera in the world, it might have phenomenal voice to text capabilities, but never ever consider using it as a navigational aid. In fact, leave it at home.
More recently I’ve taken to using a very simple Nokia phone when I go hiking or trekking. Its brilliant! The battery last for several days, sometimes a week. I can make calls and send text messages. I use a separate digital camera for photos. My smart phone problems have been eradicated.
Bag It Or Bury It, Don’t Leave Your Poop Stretched Across The Trail
Poop! We’re meticulous when it comes to cleaning up after our dogs. We’re even more determined to ensure other people clean up after their dogs. So why do some people thinks it’s fine to leave the footpaths and trails scarred with brown streaks
A time honoured way of disposing of your number 2 is to bury it (with a 21 gun salute, if you so wish). Nature will send in her army of waste disposal technicians and within a pretty short period of time the remains last night’s dinner will be fertilising next year’s growth of greenery.
If you’re really determined to leave no sign of your passing you can ‘drop’ your poop into a plastic bag, seal it up and then dispose of it properly when you get home. A word of warning: achieving the necessary positioning of both you bag and hands might take some practise. Keep a disinfectant hand wash close by.
Recycle Your Water
A number of years ago I spent about three months in the Sahara desert. Part of the journey involved meeting Bedouin tribesman on our travels across that insanely hot barren place. I particularly enjoyed the storytelling; many hours in the middle of the desert, talking with tribesman who retold their culture in broken English. It was a truly amazing time.
One particular, shall we say, extravagance we shared was water. To be precise boiled water served with mint. For anybody who hasn’t been to a desert environment it’s hard to convey how truly amazingly refreshing this drink is, even when hot in an already stifling environment.
But, as you’ve probably already worked out, there is a catch!
Sadly even when the desert aquifers were fully topped up water was still had a premium. Now imagine the current situation in which these huge reservoirs of water have been drained by the people who most need them. So precious is this commodity that every means possible is used to recycle and replenish the sources of water.
Yes you know what’s about to come next… Sometime after my first, second, 20th, et cetera mint tea I discovered I had in fact been drinking urine. A bit distilled pee, but still somebody else’s.
If you wanna be a real hard-core hiker then I highly recommend drinking your own (distilled) wee.
Get Comfortable With Pain And Treating Injuries
It goes without saying that any hiking trip is going to involve one or more injuries. Although I’ve had some hard knocks over the years I’m quite fortunate in that I’ve never had to saw off one of my own limbs with a credit card. But you need to get used to having and treating injuries.
Years ago when I was on a course in the Army I decided to let an officer do the map reading on a particular section of the route. We followed the path up into the mountains, clambering over wet rocks as we climbed. I slipped, fell about 30 feet and ended up wrapped around a rock in a very unusual position. Pain! To give you an idea of how hard I hit the ground – my rifle snapped on impact.
That was not a good day.
Injuries are as common as muck. Get used to treating nicks, cuts and bites. In fact, even taking off the top of your thumb with a multitool could be classed as a fairly trivial injury (I cut off part one of my frostbitten toes – ouch).
Be Safe, Be Seen
When I was in the army it was our job to camouflage ourselves and hide from the enemy. If we were operating in Western Europe, in forests and on rolling planes, we wore clothing that matched matching environment. Likewise the deserts.
The last thing you want to do is not be seen when you’er hiking. From a safety perspective it’s better to be visible. Bright, gaudy colours work best.
I know some people like to wear darker, less of juice of clothing when the hill walking and hiking and rely on right market panels for you soon emergency. That’s all well and good unless you’re hiking on your own and you end up unconscious or unable to roll out your mark a panel. How are the rescue services going to find you when your olive drab Gore-Tex perfectly matches surrounding terrain?
Like the old 1970s advert said-be safe, be seen
There are more rules for hiking enthusiasts, but I think you get the idea. Some of my examples are a little tongue in cheek, but they’re food for thought. Until next time, happy trails.