15 Ways To Be A More Responsible Hiker (In The UK)

North Pennines UK

You might be thinking, I’m already a responsible hiker what more can I do?

But sometimes it’s those little things we can all do to help take care of our lovely National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Beauty, National Scenic Areas and the many other gorgeous places in the UK.

The list is by no means unlimited, if there are other top tips you have for being an eco-friendly and responsible hiker please get in touch and let me know.

You can either comment at the bottom of this post or drop me a message via Instagram @beckythetraveller.

15 ways to be a more responsible hiker

Leave no trace

Scenery in UK
Keep the UK beautiful – LNT

The Leave No Trace principle is commonly talked about, or sometimes referred to as LNT. In my opinion, it’s pretty much common sense. Leave the environment you’ve been walking in exactly how you found it. And that includes rubbish, toilet waste and food waste.

You might think that leaving the odd piece of food waste, apple core, banana skin or orange peel is ok. But firstly, that’s not something you want to see when you’re out walking. Yes, it will decompose, but it doesn’t happen quickly and your waste will encourage others to do the same.

Food waste can also encourage wildlife to areas they might not normally be and result in them changing behaviour. Ok, so we don’t have bears or mountain lions in the UK but rats do like food waste so by leaving this type of food you’re encouraging them too.

Sadly, on a recent walk to Dovedale and Reynard’s Cave left me disappointed with the amount of rubbish dumped 🙁

Car share or use public transport

Castleton Village
Help reduce traffic in small villages

This isn’t always easy if you’re planning on hiking somewhere remote or going on your own. But if you are hiking with a group of friends then try and plan ahead to reduce the number of cars.

  1. It’s better for the environment
  2. It stops small villages being congested with lots of cars
  3. You can save money on the car parking 

Check out these walks from Edale in the Peak District which has a train station.

Eco-friendly + sustainable hiking backpack

There is a lot of choices when it comes to hiking backpacks. One way you could be a more responsible hiker before even leaving the door is by considering what purchases you make and opt for a more eco-friendly and sustainable backpack. 

I find buying a new backpack very overwhelming, where do you start? Here you can read a detailed post giving you all the best tips and what you need to look for when buying a new backpack for hiking. It’s a brilliant guide on sustainable backpacks, including a few recommendations for different backpacks you can buy. 

Don’t add stones to cairns or build new ones

Historic stone pile on Pennine Way
Historic stone pile on Pennine Way

I have certainly been guilty of doing this in the past, it’s hardly the worst thing you could do but it can still have a small impact on nature and wildlife in the close proximity.

New cairns are unnecessary as for navigation you shouldn’t be relying on piles of stones to help you find your way. They can also cause confusion where there are already cairns on the route.

Walk on footpaths

Hiking up to Y Garner's in Snowdonia
Hiking up to Y Garner’s in Snowdonia, you can spot the erosion away from the path

Again, you might think I’m stating the flipping obvious, why wouldn’t you walk on the footpath if there’s one there? But all to often footpaths can get muddy or you might decide the grassy verge looks easier for your route. 

This can cause greater erosion to the areas near the paths. On popular routes you can clearly see how quickly it erodes the grass nearby, for example, Yorkshire Three Peaks has a very high footfall and you can clearly see some areas where people have veered off the path for an easier route down.

Replace single-use plastic items with reusable ones

Snowdon summit with metal water bottle
Sat on Snowdon summit with my Sigg metal water bottle

It’s important to keep fully hydrated on your walks so why not swap a plastic bottle of water for each hike with a re-usable water bottle.

I use a Sigg metal bottle, which is certainly very robust for my mountain walks, especially when I drop them on rocks! And in addition, I use a Water-to-Go filter water bottle which means I can refill water from streams and drinks safely on walks.

You can also swap out buying packets of sandwiches in plastic containers for some homemade sandwiches and pop them in a lunchbox. That does require you to be a bit more organised, something I’m not great at but I’m going to try and do better so I hope you can too.

Don’t pick flowers or plants

Wild flowers on Norfolk Coast Path
Wildflowers on Norfolk Coast Path

Leave nature as it was intended, wild and free to grow wherever it pleases. Many wildflowers are fairly common across the UK, but there are some rare flowers that need some extra love!

If you like it that much then take a photo 🙂

Go to the toilet the right way

Digging a hole with trowel
Digging a hole with a trowel

In an ideal world, you’ll use a toilet at the beginning of your walk, then maybe a nice cafe or pub for the mid-way point and a public toilet at the end.

In reality, it doesn’t work like this, very annoying, yes, I know!

If you’re going for a wee then make sure you go at least 30 feet from a water source. Remember some people are using this water to drink so you don’t want to contaminate it!

If you need a poo, yes, what a flipping pain but walking with a stomach ache isn’t a fun option either. Be prepared with tissues, wet wipes or leaves (the choice is yours), a plastic bag to carry out tissues/wipes, a small trowel/stick to dig a hole. Again, make sure you’re away from the path and any water source, you should be at least 50 metres away.

Read all about here – How to Pee and Poop when you’re outdoors?

Pick up rubbish

Ben Lomond, but spoiled with orange peel :(
Beautiful view, but spoiled with orange peel 🙁

You might have done an awesome job of Leaving No Trace but things can fall out of pockets or get caught by gusts of wind and disappear down a hill before you have a chance of catching it.

I’ll always pick up food wrappers which I often see on walks. I’m afraid I draw the line at tissues, and unless you have some plastic gloves then I’d probably avoid.

This is optional, but little picking is one little way you can make a difference.

Plan and prepare for your walk

Sunrise on Crib Goch
Sunrise on Crib Goch

On a beautiful sunny day, things can still go wrong, the weather can change, accidents can happen. Make sure you have the correct equipment, food and water for your walk.

Being able to navigate safely off the mountain if really important. Mountain Rescue Team are there for emergencies but not just because you didn’t prepare in the first place!

And also, carry some warm layers with you in case you or a member of your party get injured. It’s amazing how quickly you can get cold when you’re stationary.

Keep dogs on leads

Sheep grazing near Hawes
Sheep grazing near Hawes

Ok, I’m not a dog owner myself but I  understand the importance of keeping your dog on a lead. In particular, during springtime when there are newborn lambs and ground-nesting birds about.

Even out of season dogs can find sheep interesting characters so it’s best to be safe and keep your dog on a lead to prevent any unwanting chasing. I once witnessed a dog chasing after a sheep on a hike, the owner was shouting but the dog seemed intent on going after the sheep. Thankfully, it wasn’t harmed but I’m sure it was shaken by the experience.

Consider the impact on sharing your location on social media

Wild camping in the Lake District
Keeping spots secret by not sharing locations on social media

An important one for me, if you have a larger social media account then think about whether you should be sharing a location. The more popular locations can become very busy due to promotion on social media so consider the impact before sharing the location on your social channels!

Buy local

Stopping at a tearoom on the Pennine Way
Stopping at a tearoom on the Pennine Way

Where possible, pop into the pubs and local cafes at nearby locations to your walks. During weekends some of these locations can be popular, however, out of season I can imagine it’s very different so if you can support the businesses in the local community then that’s a great thing.

I’ve now visited this sweet shop and tea room on both Pennine Way trips!

Close gates behind you

Gate on Pennine Way
Whatever the size, don’t forget to close the gate!

You might not realise how important this is but farmers need to be able to keep a check on their sheep and it’s much easier if they are all in the same place!

Also, it prevents both sheep and cows wandering into places they shouldn’t be, including roads, which I’m sure you don’t want them on either!

Please note – if a gate has been obviously left open, ie secured in place, then you should also leave as you found it.

Don’t light fires

Baby partridge chick
Fires don’t only damage the land but wildlife living there

This one is simple, fires can cause horrendous damage to plants, wildlife and even people’s homes if it gets out of hand. You might think a small campfire doesn’t do any harm but if not properly extinguished then it’s serious. 

Also by lighting a fire on the ground, you are going against the Leave No Trace code, since there will be evidence of the fire!

This little partridge chick was literally right next to the path, hmm, the mum didn’t plan well with her nest!

Those are my 15 tips on being a more responsible hiker in the UK. Can you think of any more things you can do to be a Super Hiker? Let me know in the comments or get in touch with me via Instagram @beckythetraveller

More UK hikes

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5 thoughts on “15 Ways To Be A More Responsible Hiker (In The UK)

  1. Pat Wenborn says:

    What a brilliant post. I have been guilty of leaving things like an apple core when out walking. Should be read by everyone even just walking in a local park. Thanks.

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