In the outdoors, we’re often giving up a lot of our daily comforts. So hiking without plastic can sometimes seem like too big an ask. But as Eva knows, moving towards natural alternatives can bring a different kind of comfort. Here are 20 hacks on how to go plastic free hiking

Being out on the hiking trail naturally gets us closer to nature and makes us feel good. So it makes sense when you’re out there in the wild, to return the favour and give Mother Nature a bit of love too!

Going completely plastic free in the outdoors is almost impossible, but there are plenty of ways to reduce your plastic impact. Choosing natural materials is an important part of the plastic reduction puzzle. So is buying good quality gear that’s built to last, making use of what you already have, and getting into DIY. 

Plastic free hiking means lessening your impact on landfills and the planet in general but also lessens the risk of accidentally creating litter in the wild. Plus less gross trash for you to carry around on your back! 

Here are 20 tips to help you move away from plastic to more natural alternatives in the outdoors and your every day life.

Plastic Free Hiking Tips for Clothing

1. Choose Natural Materials

News flash: hiking clothes don’t have to be polyester! Choosing clothing made from natural materials is a key way to reduce your plastic use on the trail. 

Pieces like icebreaker’s Tech Lite II T-Shirt that are made from 100% merino are a great alternative. The Tech Lite II is lightweight, odour resistant, and breathable, so you can wear the same tee for multiple days (without smelling) and reduce your pack load. Win!

2. Wear More Wash Less

Washing clothes too often wears them out, wastes water, and if you’re wearing polyester clothes, can send tiny microplastic fibres out into the waterways. 

To avoid this, choose natural fibre clothes that won’t shed plastic and wick away sweat for longer! You can also reduce the need to wash by airing out clothes in the sun to kill bacteria or spot cleaning if it’s only a small spot of dirt.


Plastic Free Hiking Tips for Food & Drink

3. Take a Refillable Drink Bottle

An oldie but a goodie, and often the first step in anyone’s plastic free journey. Refilling your own bottle instead of buying bottled water saves resources, plastic, and a whole lot of cash! Plus reusable bottles are way cuter anyway!


4. Purchase Reusable Cutlery

For long haul hiking every gram of weight matters, so it’s easy to see how plastic cutlery can be tempting. But if you don’t yet have a set, consider investing in a natural alternative like bamboo or a lightweight titanium set. Bamboo is compostable, and titanium will last you forever!


5. Make Your Own Museli Bars

Granola and muesli bars don’t have to come in individual plastic wrappings! Making your own is more cost effective and allows you to decide exactly what ingredients you want in them while avoiding waste too.

6. Plastic Free Caffeine

To get your plastic free caffeine fix out in the wild, ditch the single use sachets and try loose leaf tea, coffee grounds or syphon off some instant coffee from your jar at home. It may not be your usual brewing method but it’ll get you through till the end of the hike!


7. Dehydrate Your Own Meals

We all know how gross some pre-packaged dehydrated meals can be. Why take the risk? Make delicious food at home and use low heat on your oven or a dehydrator to create your own yummy instant camping meals.

Plastic Free Hiking Tips for Hygiene

8. Try Reusable Period Products

Instead of using single use pads and tampons, try out a menstrual cup and period underwear while you hike. They’re plastic free, don’t need to be changed as often, and you don’t have to carry blood and waste out with you. To leave no trace, just rinse out the menstrual cup when you go off to do your bush poo!

Read more: How to Manage Your Period While Hiking


9. Plastic Free Poo

This one is for the brave hikers amongst us who really want to go the extra plastic free mile. If you’re trekking somewhere that requires you to carry poop out with you, use a paper bag or compostable bag and store it in a PVC pipe until you can dispose of it.

10. Swap Wipes for Washers

I know we all love a baby wipe shower after a long day’s hike, but these little wet blankets are normally made from plastic fibres and wreak havoc in nature, waterways, and landfills. Swapping them out for some reusable washcloths is a great natural alternative for home or on the trail.

11. Swap Toothpaste for Toothpaste Tabs

If you’ve never heard of them, toothpaste tabs look like little mints and are essentially a bit of condensed toothpaste! They’re plastic free and perfect for hiking because they have no water in them so are super tiny and lightweight.

12. Wash Yourself With a Bar

These days there are plenty of brands that make shampoo, conditioner, and face wash in bar form instead of in a plastic bottle. If you’re someone who likes to keep squeaky clean even while camping, these are great because they’re smaller and lighter than bottles of product and actually last much longer!


Plastic Free Hiking Tips for Less Packaging

13. Wrap with Beeswax

Beeswax wraps are the perfect natural alternative to cling wrap. They’re perfect for covering leftovers in the fridge, or wrapping up your sandwich for a day on the trail. And the best part is that you can compost them at the end of their life!


14. Shop at the Bulk Store

Bulk food stores are hiking snack heaven. Bring your own containers or bags and fill them to the brim with trail mix, nuts, treats, muesli, or even get staples like rice and pasta. If there’s no bulk store near you, Coles often has a section where you can fill your own containers with yummy goodies. 

15. Buy in Bulk

If you do end up needing to buy something packaged in plastic, consider buying it in bulk. When you’re shopping for things like noodles, powdered milk, rice or cereal, buy in larger amounts and portion it out for your hike rather than purchasing lots of tiny individual sachets. This equals less individual plastic pieces overall and it’s often cheaper too!

16. Ditch the Zip Lock Bags

When you’re divvying up those portions, don’t undo all your hard bulk-buying work by putting everything in plastic zip lock bags! Go for alternatives like paper bags, drawstring mesh bags, reusable containers or silicone resealable pouches.

For those times when you really need a zip lock bag, save the ones that make their way into your regular groceries (e.g. from rice, noodles, dates) and repurpose them for hiking food storage.

17. Look for Natural Packaging

To avoid buying products packaged in plastic altogether, keep your eyes peeled for food that comes in natural packaging. Cardboard is a good one to look for especially for hiking, as it’s lightweight and easily compostable!


18. Cover Up Don’t Lather Up

Sun exposure is serious business on or off the trail and sunscreen is a necessary evil in life. But instead of covering yourself head to toe in cream, opt for long sleeves, pants, and a hat first, then use sunscreen for the extra bits. Using less sunscreen will save your wallet and help your plastic tube stay out of landfill longer.


Plastic Free Hiking Tips for Leave No Trace

19. Clean as you go

Not everyone is aware of the concept of leave no trace. But if you see it, go the extra mile and pick up any rubbish you find out in the wild. Nature gives us so much, the least we can do is give her an extra helping hand!


20. Use a Paper Rubbish Bag

Bringing your rubbish home and picking up extra pieces you find on the trail is important, but don’t add to the pile by wielding a plastic bin bag! A great natural alternative is a paper bag or repurposing your snack container as a bin! (Once the snacks are gone of course.)