How To Be A Considerate Outdoor Adventurer

DUSTIN & SARAH BAUER on a hike in the desert

We love sharing about our favorite hiking trails, the amazing vistas that we’ve seen, the beautiful rivers we’ve paddled, and the killer mountain bike trails we’ve ridden. And while having an RV makes experiencing all of these outdoor activities easier, we also recognize the need to protect these natural treasures so they are available for generations to come. With a better understanding of proper trail etiquette and responsible adventuring, we can all have a more enjoyable experience in the outdoors. Afterall, the more we all know, the better stewards of nature we can be. Here are some ways you can be a more considerate outdoor adventurer. 

Know Before You Go

Education and preparation will not only make your adventure more enjoyable, but it can also help avoid any injuries, issues or accidents. Before you even think about setting foot into nature, here are some things to consider:

  • Am I prepared for any / all weather conditions?
  • Do I have the proper clothing, shoes, gear, and sun protection?
  • Do I have a map, compass, GPS system, or relevant tool for navigation?
  • Do I have all of the supplies I need for both the activity and the local wildlife?
  • Does someone know where I’m going and roughly how long I’ll be gone?
  • Does this outdoor activity align with my personal abilities and / or the group’s abilities?
  • Will I have cell service? If not, do I have an emergency plan?

Trail Usage: Who Has the Right of Way? 

Did you know that there are specific yielding rules on trails? While we may dream of having a hiking or biking trail all to ourselves, there’s a good chance you’ll come into contact with other hikers, mountain bikers, horses (equestrians), or ATVers. If you do come into contact with one of these groups, here are the yielding rules:

  • Hikers should yield to horses
  • Bikers should yield to hikers and horses
  • ATVs and motorbikes should yield to all
DUSTIN & SARAH BAUER's graphic to show who to yield to when on a trail
When yielding, come to a full stop and kindly step aside or lean off the trail if you’re on a bike. If you’re on an ATV or motorbike, try to pull as far over to the side of the trail as you can. Provide as much space as safely possible to let the person, group or horse pass. If you are part of a group, it's best to tell the person you are passing how many individuals there are so they know when to proceed. In addition to who has the right of way, there are also rules when it comes to direction on the trail. For all trail users, the person or group coming down the trail (or heading back to the starting point) should always yield to those going up the trail (or heading to the destination point).

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

If you like to listen to music or take pictures while you hike, bike or kayak, there are a few things to keep in mind. If you have headphones on, make sure the volume is low enough so you can still hear approaching conversations, bike bells, even rustling and nature noises (no one wants to accidentally run into a bear). Try not to look at your phone or camera while hiking—step aside or pull over to take your picture, and then put everything away before moving again. It’s also important that you make yourself known as you approach others. If you are coming up behind someone, a simple “hello” or a quick ring on the bike bell will signal that you’re near. And if you’d like to pass, say something like “may I pass” or “on your left” so the intention and direction is clear.

Adventuring with Pets

Before leaving for an outdoor adventure, always check to make sure that you’re allowed to bring your pet with you. Some trails don’t allow domestic animals, even if they’re leased. If you are allowed to bring your pet, be sure and follow any posted signs, as some areas may still be off limits to pets. It’s best to keep your pet leashed at all times and follow the pet yielding rule: The person with the pet should always yield to others, regardless of the direction of travel. Lastly, be sure and bring the necessary supplies for your pet, including food, water and waste bags. Don’t ever leave pet waste bags along the trail to pick up on your return—there’s a chance it could blow away, get stepped on or you may just forget to grab it.

DUSTIN & SARAH BAUER show a no dogs allowed sign on a trail

Stay on Marked Trails

There is a reason trails are marked and clearly defined—these markings are there to protect you and the surrounding wildlife. For example, if you’re hiking in a desert climate, try to avoid stepping on the hardened edges of the trail. These edges, or crusts, have millions of different bacteria, fungi, lichen, and moss that are pivotal for holding water, preventing erosion and allowing new plant life to thrive. Or, if you’re adventuring in a high alpine tundra climate, venturing off trail could mean trampling tiny, fragile plants that have taken years to bloom. Venomous creatures, poisonous plants, dangerous ledges, protected restoration areas, and historic places may also be found just off the trail. Even if you’re considering a quick step off the trail for a photo, there may be false edges, slippery cliffs or snow cornices that could pose a serious threat to your safety.

What If You Lose the Trail?

Have you ever been on a trail and seen those little, stacked rock piles? What about a large branch on the ground that seems to blatantly block the trail? These rock piles (called cairns) and branches aren’t there by accident—they are deliberately placed to help assist with trail navigation. Cairns help show you the way if the trail is overgrown or losing direction, and large branches help prevent you from going the wrong way. Be on the lookout for these natural signs if you ever think you’re losing the trail. And if you spot a cairn or a blocking branch, don’t move or destroy it. They are usually placed and maintained by trail builders and forest service members to help fellow adventurers.

Be Aware of Trail Conditions

After a big storm or fire, trails can become damaged or completely washed away. And some terrain types, like soft sand or areas near moving water, are much more susceptible to damage. Before heading out on your adventure, try to gather as much information as you can about the trail conditions, especially if you’re in a new or unfamiliar area. Bike rental stores, rafting outfitters and hiking supply shops are usually great resources for the most up-to-date trail conditions. If you start your hike and find the trail to be muddy, flooded or blocked with debris, it’s best to turn around and try again another day.

Pack It In, Pack It Out

One of our favorite sayings is “take only pictures and leave only footprints behind.” When planning your adventure, pay special attention to everything you bring with you so you don’t leave anything behind. Many items can be swapped to avoid waste and extra packing, like reusable water bottles and food containers. If you notice trash on the trail, pick it up and add it to your own pile to dispose of when you’re done. Make a point to leave the place better than you found it. If you’re hiking with kids, you can turn trash pick-up into a fun game and give a special award to whoever collects the most trash.

DUSTIN & SARAH BAUER's Tiffin Wayfarer at a campsite

People typically adventure and RV so they can learn more about natural lands and explore the outdoors. But we know these beautiful places are not promised to us, so it’s important to leave every trail, park and river better than you found it. As more and more people choose to travel and explore, the more important it becomes to understand proper trail etiquette and considerate adventuring practices. This way, we can all enjoy our green spaces for years to come. 

Class C Motorhomes

Class C motorhomes offer outdoor experiences for larger families at a lower price point than Class A Motorcoaches. Recognizable by their raised sleeping or storage areas which extend over the cab of the RV, Class C Motorhomes offer more living space than Class B Motorhomes but are smaller in size and can offer better gas mileage than Class A Motorcoaches.

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