Updated: May 20
Summer is finally here! I don’t know about you, but I’ve been daydreaming of my next camping trip since I got that first whiff of spring in the air. There’s just something so rewarding about breaking free from the weekly grind, for an adventure-filled weekend spent outdoors. Maybe it’s finding the perfect spot to set up your epic camp site. Or the cozy campfire huddles with s’mores and good company. Or even just that feeling of waking up early to the sound of birds chirping and the morning sun peeking through the treetops.
Whatever it is that you enjoy most during your time camping, there are ways to show Mother Nature just how much you love her back. Some of the simplest things we do while we’re camping may be affecting the environment in a negative way. But by using a few simple tricks, we can work towards being more eco-friendly campers.
1. Plan ahead
Overcrowded parks take away from the sense of peacefulness and solitude usually enjoyed during time spent outdoors. Plus, overcrowding can be extremely harmful to wildlife in these parks. Large amounts of people usually lead to large amounts of trash and destruction at the end of the day. A few ways to avoid overcrowding:
Avoid weekends, major holidays, and peak seasons. If you’re truly looking for a calm quiet getaway, planning a trip slightly off-season will help you avoid these annoyingly large crowds. It's a win-win situation, really!
But if you absolutely must spend your holiday out in the woods-
Call the campgrounds and ask. The employees there know better than anyone if 4th of July weekend is a DISASTER every year. Opt for camping somewhere a little more secluded instead of the go-to spot for everyone and their mom.
2. Be aware when picking a site
Being the camping expert you are, you know just how important it is to find that special spot in the woods to call home for the weekend. It has to have a large enough space for you and your crew, be a safe spot to build a fire, and come with a spectacular lakeside view. But one additional thing to consider is the vegetation at this site. To avoid flattening and damaging the landscape:
Set up your tent on compacted soil or sand, instead of vegetation. Camping can be rough on the back and laying your tent on top of wildflowers or grass may seem like the comfier option. But just this little bit of impact for an extended amount of time can cause the vegetation to die out and take years to recover. For an added layer of comfort, sleeping pads can do wonders. Therm-a-rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad ($185) is equipped with quick inflating and temperature regulating technology. The extra comfy, ultra-light sleeping pad is designed to give you better sleep quality, even in your most rugged camping spots.
3. Stay on marked trails
Hiking can be a great way to take a deeper look into your surroundings during a camping trip. It’s both physically and mentally rewarding to take time wandering and observing wildlife. Which is why so many people love hiking. But whenever we step into natural ecosystems, we need to be aware of our presence and tread lightly. It’s not only dangerous for you to go on an unmarked path, but it can be damaging for the vegetation and wildlife in the area. A few things to keep in mind:
Plan your route. There’s insurance of safety and respect for nature that come with using tried and true trail maps. Instead of ripping through vegetation and scaring the bejeezus out of unsuspecting wildlife, find a designated route. If you’re staying at campgrounds, ask the office for a trail map.
Use a hiking app. Yes, there’s an app for that. AllTrails is a great app for giving you access to over 100,000 trails all over the world. It’s easy to plan and navigate with and you can even get detailed reviews from others who have used these trails. Using an app is a great way to be sure you won’t miss the must-sees during your exploration.
4. Be mindful with fire
Campfires really set that particular ambiance we love when we’re spending time outdoors. Roasted marshmallows, the crackling sound, the smell of toasted wood. Buzz-kill alert- campfires put out tons of toxic gasses that are harmful to the environment. Although they can be a necessary part of our camping experience, there are ways to minimize the negative effects due to fires:
Keep the fire small and contained. If there is already a designated fire ring, use this. Keep a moderate-sized fire. No need for a beastly bonfire. Also, I’m sure this goes unsaid, but DON’T LEAVE FIRES UNATTENDED! Or Smokey the bear will come looking for you.
Gather already fallen wood. Instead of going all Davey Crockett on some live trees, pick up dead branches and twigs to build your fire with.
Think about what you need fire for. If it’s for warmth and gatherings, nothing beats a traditional fire. But if it’s daytime and all you need is to heat up those baked beans, minimize your use of fire by using a camping stove. The award-winning Biolite Campstove 2 ($113) is a compact electricity generating, wood burning stove. Not only can you cook meals with this stove, but you can charge your devices by its’ ability to turn fire energy into electricity. There's no need for propane, all you need is a few pieces of wood and you’re good to go!
5. Reduce Waste
It’s something we as outdoor enthusiasts hear time and time again- "leave it better than you found it". Don’t leave your trash strewn across the place. It should all be common sense by now. Many of us practice this already, or at least should practice this. But there are still more ways we can avoid overflowing the park’s trash bins with our waste from the visit.
Pack your food in reusable containers. My friends always thank me when I whip out the already prepped veggie tray. Just grab one of your old Tupperware containers and fill it with some pieces of broccoli, carrot slices, cherry tomatoes, and snap peas. Quick and easy to do at home, convenient for snacking during your camping adventures. You can do this with homemade trail mix as well.
Use reusable cutlery and dishware. You can find whole sets of these for a good deal on Amazon. Just be sure when sanitizing to use eco-friendly dish soap, like Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap($7 on drbronner.com).
Try a water purifier. Disposable water bottles can both be harmful and have a bad taste, due to the chemicals being released when the plastic gets warm. Plus, this is one-time use packaging, which is not doing the planet any favors. Instead of lugging gallons of water around and tossing out dozens of empty plastic bottles, turn to your nearest natural freshwater source and let a water purifier do the rest. Geopress Purifyer ($89.95) water bottles need only 8 seconds to transform 24 ounces of water from any source into clean, drinkable water. It protects from pathogens, pesticides, chemicals, heavy metals, and even micro-plastics! Pretty amazing, right?
I hope your summer is filled with lots of fun-filled adventure. Just don't forget to show Mother Nature just how much you appreciate her! Happy camping, my friend!
Sign up for The World is Our Playground Newsletter
Join a community of outdoors enthusiasts and get helpful advice, tips and tricks. Be the first to hear about the newest outdoor gadgets. Sign up today!