With the long weekend fast approaching, and a summer full of camping opportunities (especially with free entry to national parks) coming up, we thought we would make a post about how you can camp with as little impact as possible! Most of these tips are pretty general but are more specific to different types of camping, so just keep that in mind! The goal overall though is to get you thinking about how you can make your camping trip as sustainable and low-impact as possible!
- Follow the golden rule of interacting with nature: “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints”.
This is an old rule of course and I’m sure if you’ve ever done anything outdoors, you’ve heard someone say it, but it is the most important one, in my opinion, and sort of encompasses the respectful way we need to treat nature when we are visiting it. Remember that anything that you do when camping is disturbing the natural order of things so try not to remove anything like sticks, rocks, or insects and don’t leave anything behind, like garbage or extra rope. Try to leave everything the way you found it. Mother Nature will thank you!!
- Pack as little waste as possible.
Plan what you’re going to eat and repackage it so you only bring what you’re actually going to eat. Bring reusable containers, plates, cutlery, and bags rather than disposable ones. Also, bring towels and cloths that you don’t mind getting a little dirty for doing dishes and cleaning up instead of paper towels or wipes. If you do bring any garbage, pack it up with you and dispose of it in a garbage unit later.
Water is super essential when camping (obviously) so bring a reusable water bottle! You can then bring a water pump that is easy to use and filters your water straight from the lake so it’s safe to drink. You can also bring a big jug of water that you can refill with drinking water (better for car camping) and then refill your personal water bottle from it. Or, you can always boil your water if you want to pack as little as possible and if you’re okay with taking a little bit more time.
- Respect the water
This is different from my previous tip because it is all about taking care of natural bodies of water when camping. Most people don’t know that biodegradable soaps can’t actually be dumped right back into the water (Check out this article for more details: sectionhiker.com) so if you’re bathing, washing dishes, brushing your teeth, etc., a good rule of thumb is to dig a hole about 200 feet away from a water source and dump your soapy, used water in there. Also, try your best to reduce the food waste. If you happen to have some and don’t have access to a safe garbage or car, you can bury the food into a hole rather than dumping it in the water. Another great way to avoid polluting the water is to use a canoe or a kayak when out on the water, rather than a motor boat.
- Plan Ahead
Make sure to take a look at a map and plan out where you want to go. Follow the trails and avoid “bushwhacking” as much as possible. Not only does this help to prevent you from getting horribly lost, but it helps to minimize damage to the local ecosystem from people walking everywhere.
If you’re camping in a campground, burn only the wood provided to you by the campground to reduce the risk of spreading invasive species. Only use established fire pits and don’t let your fire rage too high! Keep some water or sand nearby, just in case it gets out of control. If you need to, build your own fire pit by digging a shallow hole and piling up small rocks to contain it (watch for tree roots when digging- if you start burning tree roots by accident, it can spread up the inside of the tree and start a forest fire). If you build your own fire pit, don’t leave it behind, take it apart as much as you can. And finally, if there is a burn ban, don’t start any fires!
- Respect wildlife.
If you’re bringing pets, keep them on leashes so they don’t disturb the wildlife. It’s also important to pack up all garbage and food in your car or in a bear pack. Here’s a good resource for how to set up a bear hang and your campsite: theultimatehang.com
If you need new gear or are missing some, consider borrowing it or buying used equipment to reduce the amount of new stuff you need to buy.
- Reducing car usage
If you’re going far away, carpool! If you’re car camping, reduce the amount that you use your car. For example, use a hand pump to blow up your air mattress, or grab everything in one trip so you don’t have to run to the store. Planning is essential!
- Finally, be safe and have fun!!
The Ladies of Sustainability ❤