The plain truth is, the more soulful hikers, the better. But, not just any soulful hikers, sustainable soulful hikers! Lace up your hiking boots and you can explore some of the most fantastic natural areas in Sydney. However, these are also often the most fragile too. It’s therefore important that as responsible soulful hikers, we explore these places in the most respectful way possible. That’s where these sustainable hiking tips and planning guide comes in.
1.Bring eco-friendly food and water choices to the trails to limit waste
When hiking, think about the food you’re taking with you to the trail. Try to opt for foods that aren’t wrapped in heaps of plastic. It’s pretty hard to go completely waste-free on the hiking trail so make sure you take some bin bags with you too. This also means trying to wrap and package your foods responsibly. Invest in a good quality food container that will last and a high capacity water bottle or bladder so you don’t end up using lots of single-use plastics.
2. Make green transport choices
How are you getting to the soulful hike meeting location? Could you travel by public transport/lift-sharing?
If you find driving is your last option, could you offer a lift to your fellow soulful hikers? Car pooling networks are a great way to get around and meet like-minded soulful hikers!
3. Leave no trace
Environmental values filter through every aspect of Soulful Hikes. We have Leave No Trace policies in place to ensure destinations retain their natural character and cultural diversity.
We follow the 7 principles of leave no trace and refer to these at all our soulful hikes:
- Plan ahead and prepare.
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
- Dispose of waste properly.
- Leave what you find.
- Minimize campfire impacts
- Respect wildlife.
- Be considerate of other visitors.
Leaving rubbish on your soulful hikes is very harmful for the local ecosystem. Wildlife can mistake it for food and end up with stomachs filled with plastic or they can even become injured by getting trapped in things like cans. Additionally, the chemicals they release as they slowly decompose are very bad. Even things like Apple cores, banana skins, cigarette butts etc. also shouldn’t be left, no matter how small they are, even if they’re biodegradable.
4. Respect the land whilst hiking
Spending time in nature gives you access to some of geologies most beautiful items. Petrified wood, dried leaves, stones, shells and artefacts may scatter the grounds you walk along, however we strongly encourage our soulful hikers to resist the temptation to bring home souvenirs. Leaving these items along the trail allows others to enjoy them, preserving the landscape, ecosystem and history of the area.
Braiding’ can also become a big problem. This is when hikers walk along the edges of a hiking path, sometimes to avoid things like puddles, which over time makes the path much wider. If you walk around mud on a trail, the path will not only become wider, but become even muddier in the future. To avoid this, stick to the trail or path and you won’t cause any unintentional damage.
While hiking, we recommend you always stay on the marked trails to avoid stepping on protected or endangered plants. Walking in a single file in the centre of the path will ensure you leave only the lightest of footprints. If you walk around mud on a trail, the path will not only become wider, but become even muddier in the future.
5. Be respectful of the local wildlife
Did you spot something peculiar, slimy, cute or fluffy on your soulful hike? Your immediate reaction might be to engage with it and take some pictures but this could be distressing. Animals are not used to humans or being the centre of attention and they may react aggressively if you try and get too close.
The best thing to do in this situation is to observe from afar, trying not to disturb the natural environment, and you’ll find you’re more likely to spot wildlife this way. And, as hungry as they may seem, it’s also best not to feed animals, they become reliant on human interaction and the food may be harmful to them. It is a BIG no-no, as once animals learn to depend on human visitors for their food, they rely less on their natural hunting and foraging behaviours. This loss of self-sufficiency can put them in danger.
6. Hike in small groups
One of the best things about hiking with Soulful Hikers is our small group sizes, which means we have a smaller environmental impact than larger group hiking operators. Smaller groups mean less people on the trail, reducing erosion, noise, and waste.
7. Lead by example
Now that you have got to this point you know pretty much all the tips needed to be a true soulful eco-hiker – make sure you use them!
Lead by example on the trail and encourage others to do the same. Spread the word on how friends, family and other trekkers can reduce their environmental footprint. If you meet people on the trail who are damaging the resources, violate area regulations (such as fire bans) or litter, teach them how to correct their behaviour. Many times, it may not be their own individual impact which is causing any great harm, however if you multiply their tiny effects by hundreds or even thousands of people who are all doing the same thing, they may have an active part in destroying the environment that they aren’t even aware of. Hence, it might be a good idea to remind them of their impact and how lucky they are to be in such a beautiful place in Sydney! That’s normally enough to hit home!!
8. Think of Others
We encourage all our soulful hikers to respect the other hikers and groups on the trail by hiking quietly. Keep your radio at home and enjoy the sounds of nature during the evenings. While your music may create the ambiance you are after, it may ruin the experience for others who visit the wilderness to escape from the hustle, bustle and noises of the city.
Other hiking etiquette includes giving others hikers the right of way. If in doubt, make your hiking decisions not only on how your actions will impact the environment but also how they may affect others as well.
Incorporating these simple steps on your next soulful hike will ensure you are protecting the land in the best way possible. Being on a soulful hike is one of the easiest and most enriching way to explore your local environment but being conscious of your impact is also very crucial