Adventure travel is one of the true joys of life. It’s a chance to fully immerse yourself into a culture and enjoy a little adventure along the way. As adventure travellers we at CGR feel we have a responsibility to ensure that our experience does not come at the expense of either the environment or the communities we are engaging in.
On top of that a responsible traveller (we prefer the word responsible to sustainable as it offers a more holistic ethic to travel and doesn’t just focus on the environment or whatever is fashionable at the time) has a obligation to lighten their footprint by expert choice of travel and equipment.
We’ve put together five tips that should, hopefully, help you make some small adjustments to your travel experience and increase both the enjoyment and engagement of your travels and adventures.
It goes without saying that you should respect the local customs and values of the country and even the area you are visiting. Many areas have specific customs and small rules of etiquette that you should be aware of. I’m not talking here of walking around scantily clad in the Middle East – although you should definitely be wary of that!
It’s the small nuances, especially around food and drink that can make the difference between a great encounter and an embarrassing disaster. Drinking alcohol can also be an issue for some countries and should always be drunk discreetly and in accepted areas – restaurants and bars.
Even quite western and sophisticated societies can present hilarious situations. I remember once, in Sweden, being invited to a dinner party. I bought a bottle of wine (which was outrageously expensive) and turned up at the door and was invited in. I gave the bottle of wine to the host as my contribution to dinner, all very UK so far. The party proceeded but I didn’t have a drink and wasn’t offered one. I was, of course too polite to ask for one and everyone else was drinking from the bottle they had bought along. What I hadn’t realised that alcohol is so expensive in Scandinavia that it’s quite normal to bring your own bottle to a party and drink from that. Still, I had a lovely, if sober evening and my host, who found it very amusing, offered the wine back which I declined.
I’ve also lost count of the times I’ve been offered the ‘local delicacy’ which has been cooked especially for me and I’ve had absolutely no idea what I’ve been eating! I’ve survived it all lived to tell some great tales. The moral here is to find time to immerse yourself into local customs and don’t get too scared, you may cause some mild offence on occasion but it’s usually passed off in good nature.
I’m not into flygskam (Swedish for flight shaming), people have a right to travel and flying is all part of that. You can however, reduce your carbon footprint in all manner of ways. You could take less with you – I have traveled half way around the world with just a bag that fits in the overhead locker. Do you really need to take all those extra items of clothing? With careful planning you can mix and match outfits for all sorts of occasions. I now have a standard mix and match set of clothing that I can take on a whole variety of adventures and trips, you’d be surprised at what a little creativity can produce. Also, fly direct and don’t have that extra couple of days stopping over in Singapore. Taking off and landing uses huge amounts of aviation fuel. Why not just go to Singapore as a stand alone trip and explore the whole region. Go lightly and be flight sensitive should be your motto here.
You can also reduce the amount of times you fly, I now take many more European trips by train and car (even a car journey to Paris is less carbon than flying, especially if there are more than 2 people). I just take my time and make that part of the trip and stop off at a hotel en route. Longer journeys suit me as I always have some admin or writing to enjoy. I’ve also discovered a whole raft of great iPad games which I can happily while away a few hours and with modern technology I can research a great itinerary for my trip. Although the exotic sounds exciting I’ve begun to spend more time discovering my own country and all the fantastic adventure it has to offer – which is a lot.
We are all responsible for our own waste and especially so when we visit another country. Many developing countries lack the infrastructure to deal effectively with their own waste let alone yours. That doesn’t mean you should be packing it all out in your luggage but it does mean you should be mindful about how you purchase items and how you dispose of your waste. You should take all your own toiletries with you in small bottles (see reduce above) and bring the empties back with you to reuse on your next trip. A cup or flask is also a great idea, one it reduces the amount of paper cups you might otherwise use and two, in some areas of the world you know the hygiene of your own cup!
I also take with me a titanium/steel spork (I have got a spork through security but you never know how an official may see it – it could be a dangerous weapon!) and a stainless steel straw. I was an early adopter of these when, in Hampi, India, I saw a coconut seller blow out the remains of a previous customers coconut water and put the straw back onto the packet! Needless to say, I’ve used my own straws, cutlery and cup for everything since.
I am also beginning to buy kit that can be repaired, so I look for hiking shoes that can be resoled. This also goes for other equipment such as packs, clothing, hats and just about everything I use for travel. When looking for an item of clothing or equipment ask – how durable is this item? Can it be used for more than one purpose (can I go to an event as well as go hiking with those shoes)? Does the manufacturer offer a repair service – some of the best service I’ve ever had is through Scandinavian companies, I’ve had gloves repaired, patches sent over and no quibble replacements. That doesn’t mean to say that UK and US companies don’t offer the same service and I’ve found it is well worth paying for.
It is your full responsibility to maintain your health and wellbeing when you are on a trip. I’ve had many adventures through my life – some of them were definitely not a holiday and thinking about them now still make me shudder and wonder how I’m still alive. A responsible travel mindset should be about recharging yourself and becoming a more informed and energised traveller.
This can be done by varying your activities and as I explain below helps put money into the local economy. I look very carefully and responsibly at how my money is spent when I am away. Not only am I on a budget but I want to be as sure as I can be that my money is making a difference to the person I’m giving it to as fair exchange. I buy an experience and my money helps feed a family or educate children. So I like to spread my experiences around and try plenty of smaller experiences as opposed to one big one. This often means that these days I spend less time climbing and dedicating some time to wind down and explore other areas by hiking, canoeing, eating out and maybe even some yoga if I have the time.
So slow down, be mindful of your surroundings and enjoy yourself. Its so much better coming home feeling recharged instead of exhausted and full of the night terrors – maybe I’m getting older but that’s no bad thing!
A fully immersive adventure trip should involve a significant amount of time being local. Take time out to visit parts of the country that aren’t fashionable and smaller national parks and reserves. The honeypots are very carbon intensive, with lot’s of vehicles, shops and all manner of goings on. Quite often if you just explore a little more off the beaten path you’ll find another world opens up before you.
Instead of the Trip Advisor ‘Best of …’ lists go and eat where the local do – it’ll be cheaper and better tasting. Pus you get to mingle with the locals and maybe even get chatting. Let year I was plagued everywhere I went with local who wanted to know about Brexit – just what I was trying to get away from. It was great to chat with them and give them an insight into what some of the underlying problems were and to offer a perspective they probably hadn’t thought about. It’s all about putting your money into the local economy where it’s needed. The owners of stall in the popular areas are often from out of town or other, wealthier parts of town and very little of the your money stays local.
One of my best experiences was on a trip to India, I had returned from a rock climbing trip to Hampi and was on my way to Mysore (Mysoru) to finish my trip with a little culture and sightseeing (as well as sourcing some silk for my wife). I was waiting for a train in Bangalore (Begalaru) and chatting to locals about, you guessed it, Brexit when I noticed a young man had got the same make and model of sneakers as I had. I nudged hime, pointed out our great taste in sneakers and got a little fist bump. Smiles and laughter all around and a great way to start a train journey.
On the train I was the only westerner in the carriage and I had a lovely time chatting away to a father and son when the food server came around with food. Of course, I hadn’t realised that you should order food with your ticket and there is no restaurant car or trolley service. Than man I was chatting to was having none of it – he quickly ordered the food server for an extra meal and insisted on paying for it. It was the most memorable part of the trip.
So there you have it, five simple but vey effective strategies to employ on your next adventure and help ensure you have a memorable trip. Respect local customs; Reduce your carbon footprint by adopting simple changes; Recharge yourself by enjoying different activities; Reuse as much of your stuff as you can and develop a deep Rapport with the culture you are visiting. It’s not about paying for an expensive ‘Eco Tour’ which probably isn’t as eco as you think it is. It’s about developing a responsible travel mindset and enjoying immersive experiences that leave you recharged and educated.
We have put together a small recommended kit list for responsibly minded travellers. These are not all made from recycled or organic materials but fit the bill of being responsibly sourced.
Tilley have a bucket load of experience when making hats and this new take on the classic T1 hat is spot on trend for your travel adventures anywhere. With zero plastic, outstanding durability, locally made and an unbeatable guarantee the Tilley T1 Bucket Hat is the perfect companion for all your do anything, go anywhere adventures.
Made from tough 100% cotton duck fabric, with brass details the style of the hat is just perfect for those who don’t want a wide brimmed hat and don’t suit a baseball cap. It’s certified UPF 50+ so will keep the rays off your head when trekking the Jordan Trail and will float if you lose it paddling down the River Wye. And with small details like a chin strap and hidden pocket it should be the only hat you’ll ever own – and therefore a great responsible option.
It comes in three colour ways Navy, Black and Natural and plenty of size options it’s a thoroughly modern take on what was already a classic hat. It’s unisex so will suit both men and women, retails at £70.00 and is available from Tilley UK and specialist retailers.
Continuing Rab’s use of Gore-Tex, this season brings the Rab Meridian Jacket. Made from recycled Gore-Tex Paclite and a whole host of great features the Meridian is a super all round and lightweight adventure hardshell.
It’s light and compressible so will pack down into the smallest space with it’s included stuff sack. Perfectly suited to both valley and summit activities as it has deep ventilating pit zips for that uphill alpine hike and a generous hood with a stiffened peak and side cinch points for individual adjustments. It’s super lightweight, coming in at 340g and has all the usual features you would want in an all weather shell with adjustable wrist and hem to keep the wind and rain out. The cinch release buttons are concealed to keep the silhouette sharp and the fit is athletic so it will be comfortable when carrying a pack.
The Gore-Tex Paclite fabric is premium and more the better for being made from recycled fabrics. It has a soft feel and a PFC free treatment to make sure the water beads off and the breathable membrane is well tested in the field so shouldn’t let you down.
There are two deep hand warmer pockets are easily big enough to stow a map and plenty of kit such as gloves, hat and phone. All secured with robust YKK zips.
The Rab Meridian jacket is light, well featured and has strong sustainability credentials so deserves a place on any responsible travellers kit list.
The Rab Meridian Jacket comes in four colour options and sizes S-XXL for men. Women also have the choice of four colours and sizes 8-16. The SRP is £220 and it is available direct from Rab UK and specialist retailers.
Having my own, cutlery, cup and steel straw has proved a life saver in many a travel situation. I am in full control over the hygiene of these items and they can always be trusted. A spork is the most useful item of cutlery I carry. I often travel with carry on luggage only so I can’t take a knife and I’ve also spent time arguing with security that my spork is not a dangerous weapon that I can bring a plane down with!
The Sea to Summit Titanium Spork is a simple but very effective item that will enable you to eat a whole variety of meals easily. It’s super light, robust (a plastic spork is a waste of money and resources as it WILL break and need to be thrown away) and looks great. Weighing in at a mere 14g it will suit the most geeky lightweight traveller and if you look after it it will last a lifetime (and if you do break it it comes with a lifetime guarantee). It comes in a nice anodised blue colour and a handy clip carabiner to help secure it in your baggage.
The RRP is £11.00 and it can be bought from Sea to Summit UK and specialist retailers.
Osprey continue to produce solid products with strong sustainability credentials and the Arcane Laptop Sleeve 13 is the perfect way to protect your expensive laptop when on the move. The Arcane Laptop Sleeve 13 has a durable canvas feel due to the 500D, 100% recycled polyester main body. A PFC free water repellent finish and is Bluesign certified so you be assured of its provenance.
Not only does it boast excellent sustainability credentials it’s well featured too. It has a large, zipped and bellowed front pocket that easily accommodates a mouse, leads and chargers. It also has a side grab handle a a large, webbed rear handle that can be used to carry the sleeve or secure it over a standard handle for wheeled carry on luggage. Oh, and of course, it comfortably fits a 13” laptop into it and protects it using high quality side foam protection.
The Arcane Laptop Sleeve 13 is part of the Arcane series which includes day packs, briefcase bags, duffels, a tote and a 15” laptop sleeve.
It comes in two colour options Stonewash Black (Black) and Haybale Green (Olive) and realise at a very reasonable £25.00. It is available direct from Osprey Europe and specialist retailers.
We love Darn Tough socks here at CGR, why? Well, they’re locally made in Vermont USA; using high quality merino and other materials and manufactured into a high quality; they’re super comfortable and a very durable sock. The socks are made in one mill so the carbon footprint of each sock is as low as it can be – made and shipped out from the same mill by one team of well paid local people who all share the same values.
There is a vast range and styles of sock to choose from so there will definitely be something for your adventure. We particularly like the Light Hiker Micro Crew for hiking and the Standard Crew Light for more smarter occasions. We’ve also used the Hiker Boot Sock for when the temperatures begin to drop. You need to check the website for the full range as it’s massive – there will will definitely be something you like as the pattern range is great.
What we like most of all about Darn Tough socks is the no quibble guarantee – if you wear them out they will replace them for free. So once you have repaired them a couple of times just send them back. They will recycle the material and send you a new pair.
Not all of the socks are available in the UK and Europe but many are and more retailers are now beginning to stock them. The SRP is £25 for the Hiker Boot Sock and you can get more information and where to purchase from via this link.
The Lowe Alpine Bag for Life ticks all of the requirements for a sustainable item for your travels and should become a staple of your kit list. It’s compact and lightweight at 200g; it’s spacious enough to cope with various amounts of kit whether you are going on a rock climbing day or just hauling your food from the market; the two handles enables both shoulder and hand carrying and it’s made from robust ‘end of line’ fabrics so really should last many years of travel abuse. It’s a not for profit item from Lowe Alpine using left over production waste in order to reduce landfill, that does mean that you get whatever colour is available but that only adds to the coolness. On top of all that 50p (or 50 cents) is donated to a UK charity that promotes outdoor learning to all. It’s a great price too at £10.00 and available direct from Lowe Alpine UK.
Taking your own cup, cutlery and straw away is something that I do for just about every trip now, even to developed countries (the recent 2020 Corona Virus Pandemic is a case in point) . A watertight bottle is especially useful as you can use it in a whole variety of situations from brushing your teeth to grabbing a take out coffee or some chai. You could, of course, buy a silicone keep cup but your drink will taste so much better from something more solid and I guarantee you that the taste of cool mountain water on your hiking day out will taste infinitely better from metal rather than plastic.
Snow Peak shouldn’t need much introduction to an avid adventure traveller. The Japanese outdoor company has been around since the 1950’s and produces some of the best outdoor cookware in the world. The Kanpai Bottle 350ML is the perfect drinking item for your travels; it’s nigh on indestructible being made entirely from high grade stainless steel and light enough at 220g. The 350ml version is a double walled bottle so will keep that coffee nice and hot or that water nice and cool. It’s the most compact bottle in the range so it will fit into the smallest space in your luggage and pack.
One tip for travel is if you are packing it with carry on luggage: don’t pack anything inside it as it will look very suspicious and you will get pulled over. I take it out of my pack, take the lid off and place it in the tray with my iPad and phone. Once through security find a water fountain (they can be clever at hiding them to encourage you to buy the shop stocked bottled water) fill up and save yourself some cash and plastic waste. The Kanpai comes with three lids: an insulated lid, a cooler lid and a drinking lid – I travel with just the insulated lid as it’s water tight and I use the bottle for everything. The others I save for home use.
On top of all that it’s rugged looking and once you’ve put a few dents and scratches in it you’ll be able to proudly display your adventure credentials when on the commute and dreaming of your next adventure.
The Snow Peak Kanpai Bottle 350 is now available direct in the UK. The SRP is £77.00 and it can be purchased directly from Snow Peak UK.
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Disclaimer – CGR reviewers and writers are never paid to provide a review and the website does not take advertising or link to affiliate sales. We are a bunch of keen climbers and travellers that accept sample products and offer an honest and independent review of the item. The reviewer will often keep the sample after reviewing it for both hygiene and safety reasons and more often it’s in no fit state to return!