Tips for Making Your Camping Trip as Natural as Possible
Nothing inspires green living like spending time in the great outdoors! Whether what you see is still pristine or it's trashed and polluted, when you're surrounded by trees, plants, wildlife, rivers and streams, you're reminded of just how important it is to preserve these natural wonders. So in every possible way, make eco friendly choices associated with your outdoor activities, and minimize the carbon footprint you leave behind.
- Use Eco-Friendly Backpacks, Tents and Bags
- Use Solar or Hand-Crank Accessories
- Wear Natural Gear
- Solicit These Green-Gear Companies
- Eat and Clean Green
- Green Your Outdoor Hygiene
- Use Natural Sunscreen
- Leave No Trace - Pick Up Your Trash
Look for Eco-Friendly Backpacks, Tents and Sleeping Bags
If you're camping or hiking in a dry climate, you can opt for canvas cotton or hemp backpacks and tents, as they need not be water-resistant. Army surplus stores are a good place to find them. However, wet climates will require water-resistant materials, which means some synthetics. The key is to look for those that are PFC- and PVC-free, preferably made from recycled materials.
As for sleeping bags, water resistance is generally less important (unless you are sleeping outside under the stars in a rainy climate). So definitely go with a cotton or hemp sleeping bag, or one made from recycled plastics. Return to Top
Use Solar and/or Hand-Crank Accessories
Instead of accessories powered by batteries, try those that run on renewable energy power, such as solar and hand crank flashlights, lanterns and radios; and solar showers. If you must use battery-operated equipment, opt for rechargeable batteries. Look for YoGen, Hymini and Voltaic chargers that run on renewable energy, ranging from a manual pull system to wind and solar. Return to Top
Wear Green Attire
Follow the same green guidelines outlined for all eco-friendly fashion.
Buy your gear secondhand. Of all the things you can buy used, none seem better-suited to secondhand than outdoor gear. If you can find it in pristine condition, that's great, but outdoor gear is going to get roughed up anyway so minor scuffs and imperfections shouldn't matter. Plus, when you buy secondhand, synthetic tents, backpacks and sleeping bags will have lost much of their toxicity levels. Look for used outdoor gear at Craigslist.org, Freecycle.org, thrift stores and garage sales. Return to Top
Solicit These Green-Geared Companies
If you're not opting for secondhand, the following list of companies are a good place to start when shopping around for brand new, eco-friendly outdoor gear:
- Lowe Alpine
- Jack Wolfskin
As always, look for products made in the USA so as to minimize the carbon footprint associated with shipping in products made overseas. Return to Top
As with the meals you are eating every other day of the year, choose organic foods for your outdoor excursions. The less packaging and preparation the better, as there will be less to clean up. It is also essential that you minimize the impact of cooking your food outdoors.
For environmentally-friendly outdoor eating:
- Plan meals that require no cooking, like sandwiches, salads, dips, veggies, fruits, nuts and granola.
- If you are going to cook a meal, invest in a propane grill or, better yet, a solar cooker. As the name implies, a solar cooker cooks your food by absorbing and concentrating the heat of the sun. There are a number of solar ovens on the market, or you can make one yourself.
- If you opt to cook over an open fire, do so in a designated fire pit. Keep the fire small and manageable with a source of water nearby. Though you may be able to collect twigs onsite for kindling, bring your own firewood as trees in most areas are protected, with good reason. Never burn any manmade materials as the smoke produced can be toxic.
- Serve food and drinks with unbreakable "bio-plastic" dishes as opposed to plastic or styrofoam disposable options. The same goes for utensils.
- Recycle food packaging. If there is no recycling bin onsite, take it with you for recycling at home.
- Designate a container for food waste and take it with you for your home compost bin.
When you make eco-friendly cleaning choices at home, you are preventing harmful chemicals from washing down the drain, into our sewers, and making their way to our rivers and streams. So the closer you are to nature - when hiking, camping or picnicking - of course, you want to make similarly eco-conscious decisions. Any trash left on the ground or chemicals poured into soil or water will immediately and directly have a negative impact on the ecosystem.
Fortunately, the same green cleaning solutions you use at home can work outdoors too:
- Vinegar, water and a few drops of tea tree oil for washing dishes and cleaning off picnic tables.
- Baking soda for scrubbing hard-to-clean debris off picnic tables and food off dishes.
- Though recycled paper towels are better than the conventional variety, opt for reusable organic cotton dish cloths and towels instead.
- In disposing of water used for cleaning, be sure to do so in an area that is not close to a source of drinking water or on top of plants.
Though these suggested cleaning solutions are eco-friendly, it is best to minimize their direct infiltration into water sources and vegetation. Return to Top
Green Your Hygiene
Getting dirty comes with the territory when you're working or playing hard outside. Yet just when you're feeling your dirtiest is when you should minimize use of beauty products. Even if you normally use eco-friendly shampoos, conditioners and body soaps, they still contain a number of ingredients that need not be absorbed directly into soil, rivers, streams and oceans.
When outdoors, stick to the most basic, least-invasive personal hygiene care:
- For washing your hair, clean with baking soda. Sprinkle on liberally and work through hair and into the scalp. Brush out excess powder.
- For cleansing your skin, use a solution of apple cider vinegar and water. Pre-mix the solution and store in a spray bottle. Mist directly onto your skin and scrub with a wet wash cloth. Natural baby wipes are certainly a convenient alternative, but one-time use disposable products of this nature should ideally be avoided.
- For moisturizing your skin, use plain old olive oil. (Your sunscreen can help moisturize too, which is addressed separately below)
- For cleaning your teeth, brush with baking soda. You may dip the brush in hydrogen peroxide first for stronger cleaning action.
- For treating sunburn, apply pure aloe vera gel. You can buy it in a jar or tube, or use directly from the an aloe vera plant.
- For insect repellent, follow this recipe:
- Tea tree oil
- Lavender oil
- Peppermint oil
- Carrier oil (olive, sunflower, jojoba)
- For every 2 tablespoons of carrier oil, add 10 to 25 drops of essential oil. You may use all three of the essential oils listed above, or just one. If you do use all three, do not exceed the 25-drop maximum. Instead of carrier oil, you may use witch hazel, rubbing alcohol or vodka, using the same measurements. Pour into a spray bottle and mist your body, careful to avoid sensitive areas such as eyes and mouth. Note, if you are pregnant please consult your doctor before using this or any other essential oil recipe.
- For toilet paper, use the recycled variety. If there are no toilets onsite, throw your toilet paper in the trash and bury your waste.
There is one area in which a commercial personal hygiene product is an essential - sunscreen. The key is to choose from the healthiest, most eco-friendly options out there, as most sunscreens are anything but good for you. They may block UVB rays that prevent burning, but most do not protect from UVA radiation which is one of the biggest contributors to skin cancer. Plus, there is the threat of dangerous nano-particles in sunscreens absorbing into the skin and, in turn, your blood and organs.
According to research conducted by the Environmental Working Group, the following list represents the safest, most eco-friendly sunscreens on the market:
- Soleo Organics Sunscreen Organic chemical free sunscreen, SPF 30+
- Badger Sunscreen, SPF 30
- Keys Soap Solar Rx Cosmetic Moisturizing Sunblock, SPF 30
- Purple Prairie Botanicals Sun Stuff, SPF 30
- Marie Veronique Organics Creme de Jour Tinted, SPF 30
Note, they are all limited to 30 SPF. Anything above that generally only protects your skin an extra 1 or 2 percent - a minimal benefit far outweighed by the 2 to 3 times more active chemicals necessary to provide the increased protection. Return to Top
Pick Up Your Trash
Whether it's yours or not, if you see trash littering the landscape, pick it up. Instead of petroleum-based trash bags, use veg-based BioBags. These biodegradable bags come in various sizes and are compostable as well. Return to Top