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Etiquette and Tips for Hiking and Backpacking

Backpacking girl with trekking poles

We’ve always been amazed by how respectful most people are when out camping and backpacking, but it only takes one dumb candy wrapper floating around an alpine lake to sour your day.

So we’ve compiled some of the most common (and broken) guidelines and etiquette for backpacking and camping. Following these guidelines will help ensure that your fellow hikers stay happy and the land stays.

1) Leave It Better Than You Found It

Backpacking and Camping Tips and Etiquette

This is an extension of the “leave no trace” principle that calls for hikers to minimize human impacts on the land. This calls for you to pack out trash (carry it with you), use established trails and campsites, and in general minimize any actions that may inhibit the natural environment. We prefer the “leave it better” mantra because it means if you should try to pack out others' trash you see along the trail.

2) Follow Right of Way 

There are some exceptions, but in general stay to the right and yield to people hiking uphill. Equestrians (dudes on horses) have the right of way over hikers, and hikers have right of way over bikers, though it’s sometimes easier to just let bikers pass. If you’re in a group, try to hike single file and be conscious of people who may be behind you and want to pass. If you need to pass, a simple “can we pass please” will usually do if there’s a logjam on the trail.

3) Ditch the Speakers

This one kills me. Unless you’re 100 percent sure you’re out of range of other hikers and campers, turn off your Bluetooth speakers and music. People go camping and backpacking to get away, and nothing spoils a campsite like having someone else’s music crowd out the crackling of a campfire. If you want music, bring headphones.

4) Take care of your waste

Requirements vary across different jurisdictions, but the rule of thumb is to go at least 200 yards from the nearest campsite, trail, or body of water. Dig a hole 6-8 inches deep, and make sure to bury your business fully once your done. I also like to mark the spot with a stick so other folks know to stay away. It’s best practice (and often required) to pack out your paper, in which case simply carry some extra pest waste bags that you can tie off and double bag in a ziplock.

5) Put your cell back in your pocket

Cell phones are great hiking because they can provide pictures, navigation, and reading material, but don’t let your constant cell phone use impede others. If you want to take a picture, move away from trafficked areas. Besides, looking down at your phone constantly means you’re looking up and away from your surroundings, and you’ll be missing all the good stuff!

6) Try not to crowd others

Some folks want to be social while camping, others want to get away, and unless you can tell they’re the social type, try to respect the privacy of other campers. This means giving a wide berth to other campsites when possible. If space or timing makes it hard to find another campsite, introduce yourself to the campers and ask if they mind if you share their site.

7) Be Good

Sounds trite, but perhaps the best lesson in life. If you see someone in trouble, help them. Say hello when folks pass, and plan to share some of that whiskey at camp.

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