two people hiking near lake

Hiking etiquette – or how to have good manners on the trails

While traveling has suffered serious restrictions during 2020, local outdoor activities like hiking remained the few that were still possible with a minimum risk of catching the virus. Many people turned to hikes in 2020, having the opportunity to rediscover their own wonderful countries.

In Romania, there are 13 National Parks and over 900 Natural Reservations. (source : http://www.rosilva.ro). An overwhelming flow of tourists rushed into these areas in 2020 to get out of their homes and enjoy nature and fresh air. Unfortunately, not everyone knows the basic hiking etiquette. And this becomes a major problem, both for the environment, wildlife and other tourists.

A few simple principles of hiking etiquette

Generally speaking, these are basic unwritten rules that help keep the trail as clean as possible and mostly everyone happy: hikers and wildlife alike.

  • Hike quietly, don’t shout or speak loudly, or worse, don’t listen to loud music from your phone or other devices. You can enjoy the music of nature while others can do the same.
  • Hikers coming uphill have the right to pass. If you are going downhill, step aside and let those coming uphill to pass. Usually, it is polite to say “hi” if you encounter other hikers on your way. If you want to pass by another hiker going the same way, kindly announce your presence.
  • Don’t throw away your trash. Even if it is biodegradable like paper napkins or banana peels. It is so unpleasant to see other hikers’ waste along the way while you want to enjoy fresh air and nature. Pack all trash and take it away with you.
  • Respect wildlife. Don’t feed wild animals. It can cause attacks (sadly, it happened several times in Romania, with tourists trying to feed or even take selfies (!) with brown bears). You can also contribute to modifying these wild creatures’ natural habits to get food.
  • Practice the “Leave No Trace” principles: leave plants, rocks, and everything you may find on your way where you found them.
  • If you hike alone and you encounter a group, then step aside and let the group pass.
  • Hiking with dogs: keep them under control, and don’t let them chase wild animals or bother other hikers on the way.
  • If you enter a National Park or Natural Reservation, read the regulations in place and respect them. Follow the signaling, and as much as possible, don’t leave the trail, as you can deteriorate the environment by doing so. You can also kill certain plants or animals near the trail.
people hiking on a trail

Going to the bathroom

This is a particularly uncomfortable subject, but I believe it is important to discuss it. Everybody has to go once in a while and it may happen while on the hike. The best practice is to go further from the trail, any camping spots, or any water source. Find a hidden, isolated spot.

It happened to me several times to come across used toilet paper on different trails. It is simply disgusting and unhealthy. So please take your used toilet paper with you. You can put it in dog poop bags and, of course, use sanitizing gel to clean your hands.

I got across this idea recently, and it seemed super useful: you can prepare a “poop kit” (with a tiny, light shovel, a zip bag or dog poop bags, hand sanitizing gel, and toilet paper or wet wipes). So whenever you go out hiking, you can take it with you. 🙂

Digging a cathole is the most commonly accepted practice when you have to poo into the woods. You must then cover it with the soil that you took out to dig the cathole. While you may find this subject hard to discuss or even difficult to put into practice, keep in mind that human waste left in the natural environment is a factor in transmitting pathogens and diseases.

man with little green shovel digging a hole in the ground

It is quite simple, isn’t it? Most of these hiking etiquette principles have as a starting point the respect for others and nature. So, if you enjoy going out in the wild, try to keep in mind that you are not alone. Every action that you take (or not, as a matter of fact) will have consequences.  

If you think about your good manners while going out on a date, at the restaurant or the office, why not consider these good practices also while going outdoors? The natural environment is our home, and the better we preserve it, the more generations will enjoy its treasures.

Photo credit : Unsplash

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