Minimalist Backpacking

October 7, 2021

Minimalist Backpacking

by: Emma Cieslik
Hello! My name is Emma Cieslik and I am an Education Intern this year! I am a Junior at Santa Clara University and I love hiking and spending time outside. Studying Environmental Science has not only allowed me to observe and further understand our relationship with the environment, but has also continued to fuel my passion for inspiring others to become active and mindful citizens.

As I am always trying to convince others to get out in nature, I have begun to understand the importance of being ecologically conscious while exploring the outdoors too. However, I have come to realize as I head out on trails to hike or backpack, I often end up creating more waste in nature than at home!

While backpacking, you are already limited to bringing the essentials for survival, and packing only what you can carry. And while many backpacking products are made for convenience, including prepackaged granola bars, freeze-dried meals, and single-use coffee packs, these products also produce a lot of trash.

The zero-waste movement has been gaining momentum as more people become aware of the waste they produce. Going zero-waste is meant to examine the entire life cycle of various products and materials in an attempt to push our society to be less wasteful in our production and consumption habits. Ultimately, the goal is not to be perfect in your attempts to be more ecologically conscious, but to rather be mindful of your everyday choices.

If you also enjoy backpacking and are interested in finding ways to minimize the number of wrappers and packages you return home with, I have compiled a few tips and tricks below to help transition to low waste backpacking!


While the prepackaged freeze-dried meals are incredibly convenient on the trail, preparing your own meals is not only typically cheaper, but also yummier! Oats, pasta, rice, dehydrated beans, or freeze-dried fruits and vegetables are all simple and quick staples to incorporate into your meals while backpacking– just add water!


Instead of grabbing the pack of granola bars on the grocery store shelf,opt to make your own! This is a fun activity that doesn’t take too much time and reduces packaging waste– especially if you buy your ingredients in bulk. Buying nuts, oats, and chocolate in bulk to make your own trail mix also helps reduce packaging.


Storing your food in stainless steel containers or beeswax wrappers will not only keep your snacks fresh, but also minimize the amount of trash you are packing out! Also, remember to bring your reusable utensils!