Zero Waste Hiking Essentials

Hiking is something I look forward to every time spring comes. It is a great way to get steps in, stay active and even connect with the company you bring with you. Being in nature reminds me why I choose zero waste, even though it is one of the most challenging lifestyles you can choose.

I feel like a good hiking essentials list for zero wasters is well overdue because it can be hard to find what you need. Some things are easier to find than others, and not everything is being made with organic material and waste free packaging. These are my recommendations on what and where to buy for your next adventure.

Have No Fear, Just Get Some Gear

Good hiking gear is really important. My hiking boots are one of the best investments I have ever made. I didn’t realize how necessary these were until a friend refused to take me to hike the Indian Head Trail in the Adirondacks without them. Now, I can’t believe I ever hiked in regular sneakers.

When it comes to gear, most things are made of plastic. My recommended first step is to see if you can find items gently used at a secondhand store. This could take some time, but if you’re not in a huge rush then hopefully, you can find something in good condition.

If you’re looking for new gear, which is completely understandable, look for things made of natural materials to avoid new plastic. Materials that will biodegrade when you’re done is preferable. If your search isn’t producing anything that fits your needs, then recycled plastic is the next best thing. Buying recycled can also be great if the product is high quality and will last a lifetime. Otherwise, you’re sending another item to landfill.

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Must Have Wearables

  • Athletic wear: You want to find organic, sustainable and ethically made clothing. This may come in organic cotton, bamboo or recycled polyester. Either way, there are many brands choosing sustainable fabric:  Pact Organic, Patagonia, and more. Check out this list of The Best Eco-friendly Activewear Brands for some other brands.
  • Hiking backpack: For long hikes, you NEED a high quality backpack that will not hurt you. A well made backpack will last you forever. I’m still in the market for one, but plan on buying from a trusted brand with a strong Corporate Social Responsibility mission like Patagonia. Here is also a list of American made outdoor gear.
  • Hiking boots: Same with hiking backpacks, I can’t seem to find a good new, zero waste option for boots. Even though the more natural materials, the better, your priority should always be quality. I chose Merrell because they trusted for quality and will last me some time.
  • Wool hiking socks: Most hiking socks are made the same with wool, nylon and some type of elastic. Maggie’s Organics has an organic selection and if you care about American made, check out Farm to Feet.
  • Hat for sun protection: Even if you have hair, your scalp needs protecting. You may easily find something cotton, but picked up a 100% recycled polyester cap by Quagga Green Label at Whole Foods and it has become an everyday essential.

A Prepared Hiker is a Happy Hiker

The following items will make your hiking experience so much better and allows you to stay out for a longer period of time. You never know what you’ll need while out there.

  • Insulated reusable water bottle: These are the BEST. They can keep your cold water cold for a whole day! I suggest getting a big one so you’re well hydrated on your hike. I got this 32oz Klean Kanteen. It is a great size and not too heavy when full.
  • Insect repellant: I have definitely cut a hike short because of bugs. You do have some options for packaging. You can get sprays that come in aluminum or glass bottles, or stuff you can rub into your skin that come in metal or cardboard.  Butterbean Organics and sunnybraebuzz. both make toxic free products in different types of sustainable containers. I don’t recommend paper containers because they may leak if melted, this goes for sunscreen too.
  • Sunscreen: Chemical free and reef safe sunscreen is seeing greater demand. In fact, Hawaii is soon going to ban the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. Ecoboost has a review of zero waste sunscreens in metal and cardboard  containers. I use Raw Elements sunscreen in a tin and I find it works better if it is warm, as it is hard to rub in, which shouldn’t be an issue on a hot day. I recommend having someone who doesn’t mind helping you out for hard to reach spots. This may be a pain so you can also find some in recyclable packaging but that’s less preferable.
  • Food containers: Nuts are always a great option because they don’t need special containers, a cloth bag would do. These are easy to find in bulk as well as trail mix, dry fruit, protein bites, etc. For better treats like fresh fruit, this Insulated Klean Kanteen Food Canister is the best way to keep cold food cold. Anything else can go in stainless steel food containers like this one from Life Without Plastic. These travel really well because they are lightweight and won’t leak. I do not recommend glass or plastic containers.

Some Extras

Bag for Trash: Not all trails are well maintained, so I always have a chico bag with me just in case I see some trash laying around. It’s easy to just keep on your pack because it comes with a nifty pouch and a carabiner. Any plastic bags you have around the house will do. You don’t have to do this but it is nice to do your part. Earth maintenance isn’t just for people being paid to do it.

Bathing Suit: Maybe you will find a hidden watering hole on your trail, and if you want to take a dip you’ll need a bathing suit. I recently invested in 2 suits made of Econyl fabric. This fabric is created from ocean waste like fishnets. Summer Love Swimwear [use LUV10 for $10 off] and Amara Tulum [Sign up for emails for 15% off].

Biodegradable Dog Poop Bags: If you’re taking your best friend up a mountain, bring along some biodegradable bags so that hikers behind you get blessed what he/she left behind. Poop bags can go really fast and create a lot of waste, so choose ones that will break down. There are a few brands you can find on amazon. This one works well.


I hope that these ideas will help you make more informed decisions when buying what you need for your next adventure. Leave a comment below if you have any other suggestions for those looking to hike waste free!

Follow me on instagram @nottrashy.zerowaste for everyday tips.

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