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Green Hiking and Backpacking Gear

by Alicia MacLeay
June 5, 2007 first published April 18, 2007

It’s often conveniently forgotten that much of the technical outdoor gear we use and wear is made with petroleum and toxic chemicals that threaten the Earth and its climate. But recently manufacturers have begun to offer more environmentally-friendly outdoor products. While offerings beyond casual and outdoor clothing are still limited, some exciting gear is beginning to appear—a carbon-neutral sleeping pad, packs made from soda bottles, hemp and bamboo sleeping bags, and more.

As consumer awareness of environmental issues increases, you can expect to see the number of technical eco-offerings expand and for the percentage of recycled content to rise along with consumer demand. Below are a few examples of this growing greener gear trend:


Sleeping Gear

Pacific Outdoor Equipment Eco Thermo 6 Sleeping Pad
The Eco Thermo 6 is the outdoor industry’s first carbon-neutral sleeping pad. The pad uses carbonized bamboo fiber fill for its air-loft insulation, undyed bamboo fabric, recycled aluminum valves, and a weight-reducing mummy shape to create an Earth-friendly, three-season sleeping pad. Pacific Outdoor Equipment purchases renewable wind and solar power to offset the CO2 produced from manufacturing and shipping the pads, thereby making the pad’s carbon footprint neutral. Available in men’s and women’s versions; the women’s has double insulation in the foot area.

Weight: 21.5 ounces (610 grams)
Dimensions: 20 x 66 x 2.5 inches (51 x 168 x 6.3 cm)
MSRP: $145

Big Agnes Battle Mountain -15° Sleeping Bag
The hybrid Battle Mountain -15° sleeping bag uses 600 fill goose down on top and more eco-friendly bamboo charcoal synthetic insulation on the bottom. The renewable insulation is derived from bamboo that is burned at 1,500° Fahrenheit to create charcoal, which is then spun into a synthetic fiber. Bamboo, also used in the Eco Thermo pad above, is considered eco-friendly because it has a fast growth rate, consumes high levels of carbon dioxide, and generates up to 35 percent more oxygen then an equivalent stand of trees.

Temp Rating: -15°F
Weight: 4 lbs 13 ounces (regular), 5 lbs 7 ounces (long)
MSRP: $289 (regular), $309 (long)

Lafuma Eco Bag XL
Lafuma has been busy designing eco-camping gear, furniture, and clothing for its growing Pure Leaf Collection. The Eco Bag XL is filled with 100 percent recycled polyester and has an outer envelope and lining both made of 55 percent hemp and 45 percent cotton. The bag features a wraparound hood, a self-adjusting two-zip opening with YKK double slider, an inside pocket, and can be zipped up with a second Eco Bag.

Temp Rating: 45°F
Weight: 4 lbs 10 ounces
MSRP: $99.95


Lafuma Eco 40
Lafuma’s first eco-designed technical hiking backpack, the Eco 40 is made from hemp (65 percent) and recycled polyester (35 percent) using simple cuts that limit the need for excess material. A TPE coating provides waterproofing without heavy metals and only the hemp fabric is dyed, avoiding another processing stage and reducing dyeing chemicals by 35 percent. The pack’s design includes a Ventilight backsystem, a double compartment with access via the pack bottom, metallic buckles, a hydration pocket with tube port, and camera, document, side, and belt pockets.

Capacity: 2,440 cubic inches (40 liters)
Weight: 2 lbs 15 ounces (1.320 kg)
MSRP: $99.95

Mountainsmith Day (Recycled) and Tour (Recycled)
Recycled versions of Mountainsmith’s popular Day and Tour lumbar packs using new recycled fabrics (450d PET recycled Velocity body fabric and 150d PET recycled rip stop lining) debuted in early 2007. The Day (Recycled) and Tour (Recycled) are made with fabric woven from threads produced from 100-percent recycled plastic beverage bottles. Each pack reuses between 13 and 16 plastic bottles and has the same durability, comfort, and performance as other classic Mountainsmith lumbar packs.

Day (Recycled)
Capacity: 854 cubic inches (14 liters)
Weight: 1 lb 7 ounces (0.77 kg)
MSRP: $80

Tour (Recycled)
Capacity: 488 cubic inches (8 liters)
Weight: 1 lb 5 ounces (24.32 kg)
MSRP: $70


DAC Poles
Tents have yet to see the same level of eco-redesign as other outdoor gear. However, many manufacturers, like Sierra Designs and Big Agnes, use DAC poles, which offer the most environmentally-friendly anodizing process, greatly reducing the use of hazardous chemicals like phosphoric and nitric acid.

Tarp It
The first step in reducing your environmental impact is reducing the resources you consume. So consider an ultra-light tarp (like the Integral Designs SilTarp2), a hammock (try Hennessy Hammocks) or bivy (like the Outdoor Research Bug Bivy), which use less material than a traditional tent. Or if weather and bugs permit, forgo a tent altogether and sleep out under the stars.


Traditionally the footwear industry has not been known for its environmentally-friendly practices, but the following companies are helping to change that.

Mion, which debuted its amphibious performance footwear only a year ago, is committed to eliminating its own contribution to climate change. The company attains a 98 percent material efficiency for the majority of its products, which means only two percent of materials used end up as waste, thanks to its pellet-to-part injection molded EVA manufacturing process. That’s 90 percent less waste than the traditional process and Mion is working toward 100 percent efficiency.

Mion also uses an eco-friendly antibacterial in its shoes, 100-percent recycled plastic in its dunk bags, and details the environmental impact of each pair of shoes on the box’s EcoMetrics label. Mion’s U.S. distribution center gets 60 percent of its power from on-site solar panels, its European distribution center is fueled 100 percent by on-site wind turbines, solar panels, and re-captured energy, and as of 2007 the company is carbon neutral, offsetting 100 percent of its CO2 emissions.

Current Sandal
Available in men’s, women’s, and kids’ sizes
Weight: 12.5 ounces (men’s), 10.5 ounces (women’s)
MSRP: $100

Flood Tide Shoe
Available in men’s sizes
Weight: 13.5 ounces
MSRP: $115

Patagonia Footwear
The shoes in Patagonia’s new footwear line feature uppers made of organic cotton, hemp, and non-toxically tanned leather, recycled rubber EcoStep soles from Vibram, and footbeds of 70 percent recycled Polio foam. Below are just two examples from the line of approach shoes, hiking and fishing boots, and casual footwear.

This sturdy, lightweight hiking and approach shoe has a durable, breathable mesh upper and a Vibram EcoStep (30 percent recycled rubber) outsole with edging and smearing zones and an EVA foam midsole (15 percent recycled content). A reinforced climbing rubber toe and an external counter allow for better purchase in crevices and the synthetic-cork footbed (70 percent recycled) has a carbon component with antimicrobial qualities.

Available in men’s and women’s sizes
Weight: 26 ounces (737 g)
MSRP: $100

Nomad GTX
The Nomad was built for sustained backcountry hiking and has a full-grain leather upper with Gore-Tex barrier and a bellows tongue. A recycled polyethylene/polyurethane insole affords lateral support on uneven surfaces and the Vibram EcoStep (30 percent recycled rubber) lug outsole keeps a steady grip. An air-cushioning disk in the EVA foam midsole (15 percent recycled) helps heel stability. The synthetic-cork footbed (70 percent recycled) has a carbon component with antimicrobial qualities and the Capilene lining provides natural odor control. The leather meets ISO-14001 standards for environmental stewardship.

Available in men’s and women’s sizes
Weight: 41 ounces (1,162 g)
MSRP: $160

Each Timberland Outdoor Performance shoe is rated using a Green Index, which calculates its environmental impact based on climate, chemicals used, presence of hazardous substances, and resource consumption. The lower the number between 0 and 10 the smaller the impact.

Greenscapes Mountain Sneaker
Timberland’s Greenscapes Collection features men’s footwear and apparel that incorporate environmentally-friendly materials. The men’s Greenscapes Mountain Sneaker, available in leather or leather and fabric, is made from 100-percent, organically tanned, premium full grain leather and fast-growing hemp. It features 100-percent recycled PET shoelaces and linings, hand-sewn stitch-out construction that eliminates the need for harsh chemical adhesives, and Vibram EcoStep outsoles (30 percent recycled rubber). The washable footbed is made with OrthoLite comfort foam, impregnated with an environmentally-friendly biocide to fight odor and fungus, and is covered in SmartWool material to regulate temperature and wick away moisture.

Available in men’s sizes
Weight: 1 lb 11 ounces
Green Index rating: 3.5
MSRP: $85 (fabric and leather), $90 (leather)

Summer Park Low
Timberland’s Summer Park collection features women’s footwear and apparel that incorporate environmentally-friendly materials. The Summer Park Low shoe provides comfort and support for light day hikes or walking tours. It features a combination of leather and hemp upper, a full-length, hiking-tuned Timberland Agile IQ stability plate for support and protection, a dual-density, tri-zoned footbed with SmartWool lining that naturally regulates temperature and wicks away moisture, a compression molded EVA midsole for cushioning, and a Vibram EcoStep outsole.

Available in women’s sizes
Weight: 1 lb 3 ounces
MSRP: $80


Powering flashlights and lanterns with a crank of your hand uses renewable energy and eliminates the waste of disposable batteries and bulbs. Handy for emergencies and as back-ups lights, wind-up generator lights are also fun for camping kids.

eGear Dynamo 1-LED Squeeze Light
The Dynamo Squeeze Light has built-in Ni-MH rechargeable batteries and one white LED bulb. Thirty seconds of winding provides five minutes of light.

Weight: 5.4 ounces
Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.75 x 1.75 inches
MSRP: $10

eGear Dynamo 3-LED Light
The 3-LED Light features three ways to power up: a wind-up generator (one minute of hand winding produces nine minutes of light), a 12V DC input from a car lighter socket, or a 12V AC adapter (not included).

Weight: 7.4 ounces
Dimensions: 7.5 x 2.6 inches
MSRP: $20

Freeplay X-Ray LED Flashlight
A quick wind (about 30 seconds) of the X-Ray gives 20 minutes of normal light. Fully charged it provides 3 hours 20 minutes of ultra bright and 20 hours of normal light. The translucent flashlight features seven super bright white LED’s with a 100,000-hour life and two brightness settings (energy-saving or full-power mode) and an AC/DC adapter.

Weight: 13 ounces
Dimensions: 6.3 x 2.4 x 2.1 inches
MSRP: $34.99

eGear Dynamo 15-LED Lantern
The Dynamo Lantern features dual mode lighting (9-LED or 15-LED), a pop-up case with 360 degree illumination, an emergency siren, a charger for mobile phones, and four ways to power up: wind-up generator (one minute of winding produces 5-8 minutes of lantern light), replaceable rechargeable battery, 12V AC/DC vehicle lighter socket adapter, or 12V AC/DC wall socket adapter (not included).

Weight: 17.5 ounces
Dimensions: 4.5 x 4.5 x 6.1 inches (closed), 4.5 x 4.5 x 9 inches (open)
MSRP: $50

Freeplay Indigo LED Lantern
The Indigo uses both a cluster of seven LED’s for area lighting and a single LED directional task light. A 60-second wind provides two hours of lantern light at the lowest setting. Fully charged the LED cluster provides up to 2.5 hours of continuous bright light and 70 hours of night light. The lantern features an AC/DC adapter, dimmer switch, and handle for carrying or hanging.

Weight: 15.9 ounces
Dimensions: 8 x 2.7 x 2.9 inches
MSRP: $39.99