Zero waste on the trail

My recent hike of the Laugavegur trail was the first time I encountered a zero waste policy on a trail. On my Jordan Trail hike later that year – which ended up being from Dana to Petra-, this was even more prominent with days without seeing a living soul and yet, encountering countless instances of plastic and waste on the trail. So here are the things I try to do to get to zero waste on the trail.

What I already do towards zero waste on the trail

  • No littering. I use a combination of a waste compression bag (to store my waste over the days) and a small IKEA bag (to quickly stow away my waste during the day) to store my waste on the trail.
  • Take other people’s waste. Every day, I try to take at least one other person’s waste with me from the trail. This isn’t always possible (I just do not have the space in my backpack to carry 6 or 7 plastic bottles or jerry cans), but every bit helps.
  • Leave no trace. I make sure to take my toilet breaks away from the trail, bury my larger breaks (and cover them) and take the wipes with me in my waste compression bag.
  • Biodegradable soaps. For washing (myself, washing clothes and washing gear) I use biodegradable soaps. On top of that I make sure to wash away from water sources.
  • Take care of gear. I take pride in caring for my gear. Rather than buying cheap throw-away items, I tend to invest in durable gear I clean and watch after, after my hikes. E.g. Camelbak water bags over throw-away bottles.
  • Choose sustainable brands. I try and choose brands with a sustainable purpose (e.g. Patagonia, Icebreaker) over others

Where I want to improve this year towards zero waste on the trail

This year, I’ll be attempting an Arctic Circle Trail thru-hike in Greenland and am looking to either an attempt on the Annapurna circuit or any other open plans.

  • As also explained in my cooking routines on the trail, I currently use Adventure Foods dried meals, packed separately, which creates a substantial amount of waste. I hope to transition into other ways to carry food (larger stacks of pasta, other food for multiple days) to decrease waste.
  • I feel the responsibility to share waste piles and what we can do about it on the trail, especially in remote areas as the Jordan desert or Greenland.

What do you do to get to zero waste on the trail?

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