Camping is the ultimate way to be at one with nature, but it can also be surprisingly detrimental to the environment. As you prepare for your next camping trip, keep these tips in mind to keep your impact to a minimum.
1. Create as little trash as possible
I feel like I’m pretty good at minimizing my trash-production when I’m at home. I take out my kitchen trash maybe once a week, but when camping, I found myself filling up 1-2 trash bags in a single weekend. It’s tempting to buy more pre-packaged foods for camping than you would for at-home because they’re easy. I’ve found, however, that those individually wrapped string cheeses and tiny packets of trail mix make a lot of waste. Buy food in larger quantities, like blocks of cheese and bulk bags of trail mix from a warehouse store, or your grocer’s bulk bins, and store in reusable plastic containers. Rather than using paper towels like they’re going out of style, get a couple of quick-dry towels and wash them out and hang them to dry after a use.
2. Be aware of the products you are using
Many products like sunscreens and bug sprays can be harsh on the environment, especially if you’re doing any swimming in natural bodies of water. Dish soap is another big one. Buy biodegradable so that you can safely dump your dish water without harming the ecosystem. For more on this topic, check out this blog on biodegradables!
3. Pack out your #2
Whether you’re backpacking or just dispersed car-camping, it’s a chore when nature calls. The rule of thumb used to be to dig a six-inch deep hole and bury it, but as more fragile wild places gain popularity, burying has become a problem in many areas.
Some places now require that you pack out your #2, but if your goal is to truly leave no trace, you should be packing it out, no matter where you go.
Products like Restop have made it easy to pack it out without possible leaking or smell. They even make it safe to throw your waste in any trash can!
Don’t forget to pack your dog’s #2 out as well! You can learn more about the effects of Dog poop on nature here.
4. Avoid overuse
When possible, choose a campsite that’s obviously been used by others before you. There’s no need to go creating new fire rings and trampling vegetation to create a new site when existing ones can be utilized. If there are many other people in the area, avoid camping there. A busy weekend in a dispersed area can wreak havoc on the vegetation, that will take a season or more to grow back, as well as stressing the roads, bodies of water and wildlife.
5. Burn local wood
Campfires are inherently not eco-friendly, but sometimes there’s nothing that quite compares to sitting around a crackling fire and roasting marshmallows.
If you choose to have a fire, make sure that you’re burning local wood. Pine beetles have devastated forests across much of the US in recent years and moving wood risks spreading the infestation. Stop at a gas station or grocery store in the nearest town to where you’re camping to buy a bundle, or gather dead and fallen wood from around your campsite to burn to minimize impact.
And always, always remember to leave your campsite better than when you found it!