Camping season is right around the corner, which means that now is the time to begin planning your rustic getaways. After you have selected the destinations for your spring and summer outdoor vacations, a careful look at your equipment may be in order. You should also refresh your memory on the important steps to take to care for the environment as you camp.
Follow these methods to make your camping trip eco-friendly, to care for the natural habitat of your campsites and keep it fresh for future campers…
1. Stick to the trail. The key to camping without leaving a trace, making your camping trip eco-friendly, is to stay on marked trails:
- Always camp and hike on ‘Durable Surfaces’, or established campsites and trails, and try not to create new sites or trails.
- Do not wander off the trail. This is important not just for your personal safety, but also to avoid damaging or disturbing the natural environment and wildlife.
- If you are camping in a primitive of backcountry setting where durable surfaces do not exist, keep your campsite as small as possible and keep new trails as minimally-invasive to the environment as you can by walking single file.
2. Keep it clean. Not only should you pick up all trash and litter from your campsite, but you should plan for cleaning and disposal as well:
- A great way to reduce your camping waste is to use reusable dishes and silverware, but in addition, you should bring soap that is biodegradable and safe for the environment. Toxic dish soap can kill the natural animal and plant life if it gets into their ecosystem.
- Remember to pack plastic bags for trash and recycling, so that you have everything you need to remove litter and any other items as you leave.
- Don’t forget the proper methods for human waste disposal! For campsites without access to restrooms or composting toilets, you will need to find an appropriate spot to create a toilet. It should be at least 200 feet away from other campsites, but especially water sources. Dig a hole that is at least 6 inches in depth. Bring along your own toilet paper, and paper bags to put soiled TP into for proper disposal.
3. Stock up on the right light and water sources. You may be tempted to bring battery-powered flashlights and bottled water, since these products are convenient and inexpensive. However, there are more environmentally-conscious alternatives:
- When you invest in solar-powered lighting you are taking an eco-friendly approach by avoiding batteries, which are toxic in the landfills where they frequently end up. Many solar-powered lanterns are available as inflatable, waterproof light sources as an added bonus.
- Don’t camp with cases of bottled water, since the bottles create lots of waste to pack out and recycle later. A more eco-friendly and economical choice is to use large refillable containers or gallons of water to replenish your canteen.
4. Use eco-friendly structures. Your off-the-shelf tent may be inexpensive, but is probably not the most friendly structure for the environment, since ongoing use will render it unusable after a season or two. Instead, consider more durable camping structures:
- Although the initial price tag of a high-quality dome large camping tent or glamping structure may be alarming, these tents are often made from eco-friendly materials and are designed to last exponentially longer than a pop-up tent purchased from a department store.
- Yurts are growing in popularity, offering cozy and dry camping conditions, regardless of the weather. Some are so heavy duty that they are made to last for years of use, even in harsh weather conditions, so you can keep camping year round.
5. Leave no trace. As the now popular Boy Scouts motto for camping goes, “pack it in, pack it out.” And a newer take on the phrase for eco-friendly camping says, “Take nothing but pictures, and leave nothing but footprints.” Wherever you camp, hike or explore, you should follow practices to leave no trace of your stay:
- Dispose of waste properly by following the ‘pack it in, pack it out’ principle with any food, trash, or equipment – even the biodegradable materials.
- Don’t remove any natural elements, such as shells, rocks or plants.
- Minimize the impact of campfires by using fire rings and always burn your fire down to ash, putting it out completely by scattering the cool ashes.
Image: Arup Malakar