Waste Free Tramping

Trying to keep your tramping trip waste free and light weight may seem contradictory, but it is possible. Zero waste is all about being prepared, organised and using what you have.


Reducing your waste while tramping can be difficult, and usually low on your priority list. But when you have to carry all your waste in and out with you, there are definite benefits to planning ahead.


If you think you’ll be taking up tramping as a long term hobby, invest in quality gear at the beginning! When I first started tramping, I was a broke student. Being stingy and not knowing how long my new hobby would last, I bought whatever gear was cheap and on sale. The pack turned out to be more of a travel bag and subsequently made my tramps much harder than necessary (I looked like a turtle!). My budget boots started to come apart after a couple of hikes. During a grueling downhill hike on Mt Pirongia, with the budget boots and cheap,synthetic socks, I lost my toe nail. After this experience I invested in some good quality leather boots  (I prefer to buy secondhand leather, but I’ve had these boots for seven years and still going strong) and merino socks (which I keep darning to last longer). I also saved up for a new backpack in a comfy woman’s fit. I used this backpack for my trip around Europe last year as well. I’ve not had to replace any of this quality gear. Most of my tramping clothes are secondhand from friends or op shops, I’ve been lucky to find Icebreaker merino tops for a couple of dollars!


Old hiking boots left along the Heaphy Track at the Boot Pole


If you’re just a casual hiker or unsure of your new hobby, then borrow before buying. Ask your friends or family if they have any gear you can borrow, make sure you return the items clean. There are also number or gear rental places in Auckland. I plan on expanding the inventory at Auckland Library of Tools to include outdoor gear (let us know if you have anything you’d like to donate!). Last year, when my friend and I were camping in Iceland, we found it was cheaper to join the Reykjavik Tool Library than use a rental company, and I got to meet and support another tool library.




Food packaging and waste is where most of your trip waste will come from. I used to hate being the one to carry out the smelly bag of mixed waste on group trips. I now sort the waste as I/we go, usually only a small pile of soft plastics and a reused ziplock bag of compost waste. I also have reusable cloth/mesh baggies to carry out, and a few tin cans if it’s a short hike with lots of friends to share the weight. 

Plastic free/zero waste is becoming a lot easier in recent years. Things I previously couldn’t buy plastic free now come in compostable packaging or can be find at bulk stores. For example, chippies! These used to be impossible to buy plastic free, but Proper Crisps have recently launched a compostable bag and The Source Bulk Foods also sell chips loose. As with most things environmentally/ethically minded, be prepared to spend a bit more and vote with your dollar if you can. 


Pro tip: compostable packaging can double as your compost bag.



If you don’t live near a bulk store or are not keen on shelling out a small fortune (this is only for the bougie bulk stores, Bin Inn is pretty affordable) there are lots of tramping snacks that are easy to whip up at home.

  • Dehydrated fruit is a great go to, if you don’t have a dehydrator (Auckland Library of Tools has one for loan!) you can bake fruits on a low heat in an oven.

  • Seeds and nuts can be bought in the supermarket bulk bins. BYO light-weight bag, reuse a paper mushroom bag or a plastic zip-lock bag. You could also buy a bulk amount as opposed to smaller portions in more packaging. 

  • Snack balls made of nuts and dates are easy to make in a food processor

  • Homemade baking always goes down a treat

  • Peanut butter is my go to, I fill a small reusable container. I eat it off the spoon or on apples or crackers. Most Bin Inn stores have peanut butter grinders, so you can grind the nuts straight in to your own jar. 

  • Hard cheeses that come in wax generally keep a bit longer, and the wax can double as a fire starter

  • Hard fruits and veges

  • Homemade hummus, need I say any more!

When packing your food, make sure you’re using light weight packaging as well as reusable packaging. This is where the zero waster’s best friend, the humble glass jar, will have to be swapped. 

What to pack your tramping food in:


Toiletries & First Aid

It’s harder to avoid waste from first aid kits as everything is individually wrapped and disposable for hygiene purposes. However, I would rather not compromise on my health. 

Compostable plasters can be purchased from Patch Strips. Hiker’s wool, for blisters, can also be washed and reused, and eventually composted.

If you menstruate, get a menstrual cup. These are a game changer for tramping, traveling, camping, festivals and just every day. The great thing about using a cup is because they are reusable and easy to clean, you don’t have to worry about carrying out used tampons/pads. Plus, you only need the one cup so no need to pack multiple tampons/pads. Period undies are also a good option, I have yet to try these but imagine they may get uncomfortable when hiking for long hours. Please let me know if you have experience with this!  

Bamboo toothbrushes are pretty easy to find these days, many supermarkets are now stocking them. My personal fave is The Eco Brush, use the code AMANDA10 for a 10% discount.

Tooth tabs are not only low waste, but a great light weight alternative to toothpaste, and you can take the exact amount you need. You can buy tooth tabs online, there are a few different brands and stockists. I can’t recommend any NZ ones yet, as I stocked up when I was in Europe last year (half the price there!)

For more toiletry tips, here’s a post about my low waste bathroom.


The one bit of unavoidable waste…

The humble hut ticket!

These are made of plastic to last your trip. Unless you’re on a Great Walk or in a Basic hut, you can’t avoid this waste. Make sure you pay your hut fees! If you’re a regular tramper, get an annual hut pass to save on the plastic waste.


Further Reading: 

Disclaimer: Links to Biome Eco Store are affiliate links, if you choose to make a purchase, I’ll get a small percentage at no extra cost to you. All other links to brands/businesses are for your info and ease. 

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