Trekking Ethics: the 5 Guidelines

IPPG (International Porter Protection Group) recommends the following guidelines:

1. Clothing appropriate to season and altitude must be provided to porters for protection from cold, rain and snow. This may mean: windproof jacket and trousers, fleece jacket, long johns, suitable footwear (boots in snow), socks, hat, gloves and sunglasses.

2. Above the tree line porters should have a dedicated shelter, either a room in a lodge or a tent (the trekkers’ mess tent is no good as it is not available till late evening), a sleeping mat and a decent blanket or sleeping bag. They should be provided with food and warm drinks, or cooking equipment and fuel.

3. Porters should be provided with life insurance and the same standard of medical care as you would expect for yourself.

4. Porters should not be paid off because of illness/injury without the leader or the trekkers assessing their condition carefully. The person in charge of the porters (sirdar) must let their trek leader or the trekkers know if a sick porter is about to be paid off. Failure to do this has resulted in many deaths. Sick/injured porters should never be sent down alone, but with someone who speaks their language and understands their problem, along with a letter describing their complaint. Sufficient funds should be provided to cover cost of rescue and treatment.

5. No porter should be asked to carry a load that is too heavy for their physical abilities (maximum: 20 kg on Kilimanjaro, 25 kg in Peru and Pakistan, 30 kg in Nepal). Weight limits may need to be adjusted for altitude, trail and weather conditions; experience is needed to make this decision. Child porters should not be employed.

Choosing a trekking company

Happy Campers

Most importantly before you book your trek ask the travel company what their porter policy is (see below for questions to ask).

Contact organisations which offer ethical trekking agreements to which trekking companies can sign up. For instance, Tourism Concern in the UK, IMEC in USA and Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project in Tanzania.

Finally, if you see porter mistreatment complain loud and long on the spot and once home complain to your travel company.  Send a report of the incident to IPPG with as much detail as possible.

Questions to ask trekking companies:

1. Does the company follow IPPG’s five guidelines on porter safety?

2. What is their policy on equipment and health care for porters?

3. What do they do to ensure the trekking staff is properly trained to look after porters’ welfare?

4. What is their policy on training and monitoring porter care by its ground operator in the country you intend to visit?

5. Do they ask about treatment of porters in their post trek feedback questionnaire to clients?