Green Your Camping Trip
Mother Nature is calling your name! It’s no secret that great weather prompts outdoor adventures and inspires exploration of the wonders of our natural surroundings. And one of the best ways to experience the great outdoors: camping!
If you’re planning a camping trip for the warm weather months, we’ve got you covered. Here are our green tips for making the most of your outdoor experience, while taking care to leave a healthy environment when you pack up and head home.
- Pick a local park or campground. The less distance you travel, the more fuel you’ll save – and, of course, a shorter trip in the car also means more time to kick back and enjoy the main event. To find a National Park near you, check out National Parks Conservation Association’s online park database with park listings by location and theme.
- Rent or borrow your camping gear. There’s no need to waste money and resources on shiny new equipment when you can borrow great stuff from your camp-enthusiast friends, family and neighbors! You can also pick up gently used items from a second-hand store or rent center. Depending on where you’re going and for how long, all you may need is a borrowed tent and a cooler. Remember, less is more when camping or hiking because it means you have less to haul in and out of the wilderness.
- Follow those trail markers. Straying from the trail on your hike can be tempting, especially when you’re seeking a perfect camera shot or a glimpse of wildlife. But traveling off the beaten path can do more than get you lost; trekking off-trail can be harmful to native plants and can cause soil erosion. Be sure to resist the urge to remove plant life or brush from the trail you’re visiting, too.
- Keep the flame contained. If you choose to build a fire, make sure to use only established circles. Keep your fire to a manageable size and always have water on hand to douse the flames when you’re finished. And while it may seem obvious, don’t burn any plastics, food packaging or metals; those need to go home with you for proper disposal. Brush up on more fire safety tips with an old favorite -- Smokey Bear! Check out the Smokey Bear guide to building and extinguishing perfect campfires.
- Light up your nights with eco-friendly options. LED flashlights and lanterns are a great green camping choice since they require less power and last longer than non-LED lights. Manual wind-up or shake flashlights are also long lasting and battery-free!
- Pack reusable dishes for your cookouts and campfires. You can pick these up at your local second-hand shop, too! If you’re an avid camper it’s a good idea to have a set of camping dishes as well as a wash basin and biodegradable soap for cleaning up. Wash dishes at least 100 feet from streams, ponds, and other bodies of water. Planning a picnic for your getaway? Check out our tips for packing a green and delicious picnic.
- Take a break from your beauty routine. Personal care and beauty products can be pretty toxic to the environment. So skip the makeup and perfume for a few days as you take in the sweet sights and smells of your surroundings. Also keep in mind that if your only bathing option is a natural body of water, it’s best to leave ALL soap and products behind. But don’t skip the sunscreen! (Tips for picking a healthy one are here.)
- Always leave your campsite better than you found it. Any scout will tell you that this is the golden rule of camping! Keep a reusable bag with you throughout your trip to pick up any trash or debris you find along the way. Recycle what you can and properly dispose of the rest. You’ll find fantastic guidance on the principles of “Leave No Trace” from our friends at Leave No Trace, the Center for Outdoor Ethics.
- Learn something new! Camping is the perfect opportunity to get to know native plants and animals and the issues they face in their local environment. Take advantage of programs offered at your camp destination and do a little research of your own. Check out your local library (or those camp-enthusiast friends again) and pick up local field guides to use as a reference on your hikes and adventures. Learn how you can share your observations and photos with National Wildlife Federation’s online Wildlife Watch program!