In recent years, camping has been gaining in popularity. And for good reason – it allows you to slow down, take a break from daily challenges, and reconnect with nature. Unfortunately, while the great outdoors helps us recharge our batteries, not every camper cares about the environment.
Guys, let me tell you an open secret: Only eco-friendly camping trips are good camping trips. There’s nothing that can compare to spending a night under the stars, surrounded by lush forests, snowy mountains or sandy beaches, knowing that you are doing your best to protect the place. Convinced? Here’s how to plan the ultimate eco-friendly camping trip.
This article is written by Leoni of Softback Travel.
How To Make Camping More Eco-Friendly
There are several things that you can do before you go and while you’re at your campsite. All of the following tips are pretty easy to follow, yet will make a big difference for the environment and your camping experience! Let’s dive in.
1. Consider a vegan lifestyle
Surprised that this tip has made it on top of the list? Well, it might save the trees that you’ll be hanging your hammock in between. One of the many benefits of being vegan is that you do not support deforestation for livestock farming. Today, nearly 70% of cleared lands in the Amazon are used as cattle pastures.
The production of plant-based foods, on the other hand, is a more efficient use of our resources, as it requires less energy from fossil fuels as well as less land and water. There are endless easy vegan recipes for camping that you can try – and trust me, you’ll be amazed how healthy and delicious they are.
2. Leave no trace
Every eco-friendly camping trip should be based on the following seven Leave No Trace Principles:
- Plan ahead and prepare
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces
- Dispose of waste properly
- Leave what you find
- Minimize campfire impacts
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate of other visitors
Well done for following the first principle by reading this article. You’re on the right track!
3. Prepare your meals
Don’t stop at the supermarket on your way to the camp spot and stock up on individually packed meals with single-use cutlery and plastic sachets with peanut butter. Instead, plan ahead and be mindful of waste.
Depending on the number of days and campers, you can prepare meals at home and bring them along in reusable food storage containers. If you’d like to cook fresh food over the campfire, research a few easy recipes before you go. Ideally, you create different meals from a small number of basic ingredients that you bring along in plastic-free packaging.
4. Separate your waste
If you can’t avoid producing rubbish, make sure you come prepared. Bring reusable bags that you can use to separate plastic waste from compost and recycling. If your campsite doesn’t have different garbage cans, take your compost and recycling home and dispose of it properly.
5. Opt for second-hand gear
Do you really need to buy a new tent, sleeping bag and a camping cooker for this one getaway? Unless you are planning to embark on a long-term journey around the world or to go camping every weekend for the next few years, you might get by on second hand, borrowed or rented gear. This is a great solution not only for our planet but also for your wallet.
6. Use solar power
Want to take a break from the bustling big city and disconnect from daily life, yet still take stunning pictures or use your GPS to get to your destination? Nobody said technology can’t be part of your eco-friendly camping adventure. And yes, your devices need to be charged from time to time.
However, nobody needs noisy generators anymore. Plus, not being dependent on power points at the campsite will unlock a whole new level of fun and freedom, I promise. Consider installing a solar panel on the roof of your car or van. For smaller devices, bring a solar power bank.
7. Say no to plastic bottles
Always. According to several studies, it takes three times more water to make one single bottle of water than it does to fill one. Think about that for a moment. Pack a reusable bottle that you can fill up, and you won’t have to worry about polluting your environment with single-use plastic bottles again.
8. Never feed wildlife
It might be tempting to use your leftovers to lure some native wildlife and take a closer look. However, human interference puts animals and even whole ecosystems at risk. Not only is human food unhealthy for wild animals, but it also causes a number of other issues.
Large gatherings of animals can lead to the spreading of disease and turn into public health concerns. Moreover, animals accustomed to humans often lose their fear of people and can become aggressive. Plus, if fed along roads, they tend to stay closeby, which increases the risk of accidents.
9. Practice fire safety
Imagine the following scenario: You take your eyes off your bonfire for a split second and all of a sudden, you find yourself in the middle of a catastrophic bushfire. While this might sound a bit intense, the moral of the story hopefully came across: please practice fire safety.
I know, I know, it’s not a real camping adventure without a proper bonfire. So before you book, ensure that campfires are permitted at your campsite. Also, don’t burn anything man-made, be mindful of where you source the firewood and don’t immediately leave the site after you have put out the fire.
10. Discover your own backyard
You don’t have to go far to spend some time in nature. Before you plan a trip to a remote island thousands of kilometres away, consider exploring what’s right in front of you! That way, you produce fewer CO2 emissions – one of the key goals of your eco-friendly camping trip. Plus, exploring your home turf is one of the best ways to satisfy your wanderlust when you can’t travel! If you plan to go on a longer road trip, travel slowly. Spend more time on each campsite, rather than rushing through the experience.
Must-Have Eco-Friendly Camping Equipment
Now that we have established what to do and what not to, we are a big step closer to the perfect eco-friendly camping trip. Time to put together a packing list! As already mentioned, always first check if you can borrow, rent, repair or buy second-hand equipment. Sometimes, investing in eco-friendly travel products is necessary though, and for that case, you can use this list of must-have eco-friendly camping equipment as a guideline.
Don’t rely on single-use plastic. Bring a reusable water bottle to refill instead. There are many different sizes and materials out there; I personally recommend stainless steel. It lasts longer than glass or plastic because of its corrosion resistance and does not leach chemicals when exposed to heat.
And what if you are camping in an area where you can’t drink the water from the tap or don’t have access to drinking water at all? Then you will be very excited about the following solution. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present The LifeStraw! This portable water purifier makes contaminated water safe to drink. Not only great for eco-friendly camping adventures, but also a potential life-changer for millions of humans worldwide.
When it comes to replacing plastic, bamboo products might be the future. Utensils made from bamboo are functional, comfortable and perfect for picnics, camping, and travel because they are light and 100% biodegradable. Add a sharp knife to cut veggies to your list, and you’re good to go!
3. Camp stove
In need of a new camping cooker? Okay, but how about an electricity-generating wood camp stove? Say goodbye to your gas canister and unleash the power of BioLite’s technology. The award-winning stove creates a vortex of smokeless flames for a portable campfire that can cook your meals AND charge your gear at the same time.
Never use sunscreen that is not reef-safe again. Ever. Conventional chemical sunscreens contain a long list of ingredients that are harmful to coral reefs and your body. Help save the planet and only buy unscented, oxybenzone-free, mineral-based sunscreens from now on.
Keep in mind that everything you bring and use can move through the soil and end up in the groundwater. That’s why biodegradable toiletries are must-have essentials! Soap and shampoo bars made of natural ingredients and in plastic-free packaging are great for camping.
Your toothpaste should also be free from chemicals that harm the environment and instead of using a plastic toothbrush, bring a biodegradable one (hello again, bamboo!).
As already mentioned, a solar power charger has almost zero impact on the planet and allows you to charge your electronics anytime, anywhere (well, almost anywhere. You obviously require some sun to recharge it). To make your eco-friendly camping trip perfect, opt for one that has a flashlight included. Some even come with a compass. Let the adventures begin!
7. Travel towel
A travel towel can be squeezed into the tiniest of spaces (ideal for the backpackers among us), dries within a few minutes in the fresh air and has the perfect multi-tasking properties. Use it for showers, swimming in lakes or the ocean, sunbathing, workouts, or yoga sessions. Before you buy a travel towel, make sure it’s from a sustainable brand. There are pretty awesome initiatives out there, some, for example, produce travel towels from recycled plastic bottles. This is also a must-have item to add to your list of campervan accessories!
Everyone who has bought an eco-friendly mosquito repellent before, probably already knows that the most important thing is to look out for deet-free products. But there are also other natural options that are known to keep the little beasts away. Among them are essential oils, such as citronella, tea tree and thyme oil.
Remember to prepare food before you go on your eco-friendly camping trip. If you don’t have any food storage containers at home yet and you would like to make a smart future investment, a quick search on the internet will present you with endless options.
You can either go for stainless steel, glass or even bamboo. Some of the containers are 100% plastic-free, whereas some contain a little bit of plastic, such as a silicone seal or plastic snaplock lid. Find what suits your needs best and don’t leave the house without it again.
This is my personal favourite and while a hammock is not necessarily essential for your eco-friendly camping trip, it definitely adds a lot of value to it. Prepare for lazy days and good naps!
I hope you found this guide on how to plan the ultimate eco-friendly camping trip helpful. There is one more thing you can do before, during and after your trip: Spread the word! The more eco-conscious campers there are, the better are our chances at conserving our precious planet.
This is a guest post by Leoni, a Cape Town-based writer and co-founder of Softback Travel. When she’s not creating content, you’ll most likely find her in the ocean or on a mountain, and never far from a coffee source. Other than that she loves to hitchhike – always an adventure and good for the ecological footprint.
READY TO SAVE MONEY FOR TRAVEL?
Get access to my free eBook filled with tips and tricks to help YOU save money to travel the world.