As backpackers, we know to leave natural places and spaces better than we found them — pack out trash, bury our waste, stay off cryptosporidium crust, and keep campfires under control.
But planning a sustainable trip starts long before you reach the trailhead. From single-use water bottles and pre-packaged meals to synthetic clothing and toilet paper, a lot of products and gear aren’t as kind to the planet (or as disposable) as we think.
While it’s difficult to go completely zero-waste in the great outdoors, there are plenty of ways to lighten your footprint (and your load). All it takes is a little planning and research, as well as stocking your gear closet with quality products from the right brands.
Fortunately, there’s plenty of sustainable gear made by small brands on GGG that are offering more eco-friendly solutions to all kinds of waste-related issues on trail.
So gear up and be kind to the planet, all at the same time.
Food for the Sole
Meat- and dairy-free diets are better for the planet (factory farms are a leading cause of harmful greenhouse gases and deforestation), and that’s all Food for the Sole offers. But these aren’t boring meals lacking in flavor or protein. Options like Triple Peanut Slaw and Ratatouille are just a couple of the healthy meals made by this small brand. Both vegan and gluten-free, hikers of all stripes, regardless of diet, will find these meals delicious and satisfying.
Ditch petroleum-based ointments and other products with destructive chemicals; instead replace them with something more natural. Green Goo makes a hiker kit with all the salves you’ll need, including Pain Relief, First Aid, Skin Repair and Dry Skin balms. They do contain beeswax, so if you’re a vegan, they might not be your jam, but the brand offers many other outdoorsy, vegan-friendly products, including a DEET-free Bugs Be Gone spray that calls on essential oils to keep biting insects at bay.
Purple Rain Adventure Skirts
Always wanted to try hiking in a skirt? Purple Rain Adventure Skirts is your ticket. Offered in several colors, the basic black adventure skirt is made from recycled polyester, making it the brand’s most eco-friendly option! Bonus: the fabric is super stretchy and roomy for plenty of free-range movement, has lots of deep pockets, and dries quickly.
Fernweh Food Co.
For plant-based meals packed with the calories, look no further than Fernweh Food Co. But this brand offers more than tasty meat-free fare: they also use biodegradable packaging, which means it will break down faster and more completely than your average plastic or foil-lined bag, once you’ve scraped it clean and thrown it away back home. It’s hard to get a more sustainable meal than that!
Most massage balls aren’t ultralight. And even fewer are made with sustainable materials. But that’s what makes the massage balls from Rawlogy so impressive: they’re light, made of renewable and natural cork, and come in multiple sizes. You’ll never have a reason to leave your massage balls at home during an extended backpacking trip again. So bring them along and treat your sore muscles to some self-care!
Designed for outdoorsy people who squat when they pee, this colorful square replaces toilet paper for all liquid-related bathroom breaks in the outdoors. Kula Cloth is made from antimicrobial fabric on one side and waterproof material on the other side; snaps together for discretion’s sake; and easily clips to the outside of your pack or tent. It drastically reduces the amount of TP you have to pack in and out, plus cuts down on paper waste in the outdoors, and that’s a win.
Listen, we know SmartWater bottles are all the rage on trail for being light and slim. But they’re made of single-use plastic, which often doesn’t get recycled as it should. So ditch ‘em. And replace them with the 1-liter Vesica Collapsible Water Bottle from Cnoc. Not only is it just as light at 2.11 ounces, but it also collapses into about the size of a tennis ball when empty. Plus, you can use it with squeeze-through water filters like the Sawyer Mini — multi-taskers always take the cake in the backcountry.
Keep single-use Ziplock bags out of landfills, and instead store and organize your gear with a reusable bag from UltraliteSacks. Made of lightweight Dyneema fabric, they’ll keep items like wallets, phones, keys, first aid kits, and even larger items like clothing and sleeping bags, safe and secure (and easy to find) inside your pack. Several UltraliteSack options are even waterproof!
Don’t use your next outdoor adventure as an excuse to let sustainability slide to the wayside. Stock up on sustainable gear that’s good to the planet, good to the scale, and supports small brands that love the outdoors as much as we do.
Alisha McDarris is the co-founder and writer at terradrift.com, a sustainable travel and outdoor adventure blog and YouTube channel where she encourages folks to get outside to play safely, responsibly, and sustainably. Find her on instagram @terradrift.