Treat people, trails, the environment, and wildlife how you want to be treated! Good manners and etiquette make everyday life with others just a little more bearable, and that doesn’t end in the backcountry. Just because you’re away from civilization doesn’t mean you shouldn’t mind your manners. Here are 10 backpacking etiquette tips to make sure you know how to navigate, respect, and share the trails.
- Stay on the trail when hiking, stay off the trail when resting or camping. Avoid cutting switchbacks, trampling fragile ecosystems, and don't go through the mud, go around it, you’re only ruining the trails. When you're resting or camping, make sure you're well off the trail so you're not in the way of other hikers (and you get some privacy).
- Be friendly. Say hi to fellow hikers, it's awkward not to. After all, you do have something in common.
- Give other hikers space. You may have something in common but that doesn't mean they want to be close to you. Respect other people's space and privacy. Always. In other words, don't be weird!
- Bring your own essentials. This includes things you absolutely need like shelter, fire starters, food and water, tools and utensils, and a first aid kit. It’s every man for himself here, and you don’t want to be without. Even if you don't need them, someone else might. Bring your own coffee too. Pro Tip: Just bring your own sh*t! Unless you coordinate sharing with a friend beforehand.
- Learn trail etiquette. Uphill hikers have the right of way (although they can prefer not to in order to catch their breath), but you should always give them the option. Let single hikers pass. Groups should be hiking single file to avoid hogging the whole trail. Keep the pace of your slowest hiker (don't be afraid to speak up slow hikers). Ask for breaks when you need them. See more trail etiquette tips here.
- Communicate. Always communicate with your group and other hikers on the trail, if need be. Don't be too noisy though (music included), especially if it's later at night or early in the morning. Many people are out there to relax and get away from all the noise.
- Plan ahead. If you have certain preferences, like you need a break every couple miles or you prefer walking up very early, talk to your group before heading out so everyone is on the same page. You should also be checking trip reports and the weather to make sure you're all prepared for what's to come.
- Point out trail hazards. You should always point out trail hazards to your group if and when you see them. And don't hit people in the face with branches. You don't like it and your friends won't either.
- Nighttime etiquette. If you're a light sleeper, bring earplugs, you're going to need a good night's sleep if you’re spending your days trekking the trails. Don't shine your headlamps into other people's tents, keep them on the red light mode. Common courtesy people!
Follow leave no trace principles. Pack EVERYTHING out (yes, even toilet paper). And don't feed any wildlife! Find all leave no trace principles here. Learn them, and learn them well.
Pro Tip: Leave your trip itinerary with someone you trust and sign in at the trailhead register so people can find you if you don't come back when you had planned to. It's also a good idea to keep one in your car and have your identification on you, just in case you're unable to identify yourself.
Have fun, be safe, and don't complain!
If you have a dog, make sure to keep him her under control too. Check out our Tips for Backpacking with Dogs.