Eco camping tips to make your next trip an ethical adventure
Cooking up a warming feast on the fire, feeling the heat of the flames on your face and hands as you listen to the embers crackle under the twilight sky. Then, with a full belly, zipping up your sleeping bag as you nestle up like a caterpillar into a cocoon, all the while listening to the sounds of nature having a fiesta in the surrounding trees.
You rise with the morning sun, smelling the dewy grass and appreciating the beauty of everything the light touches, then warming your cockles with a brew in awe of nature all around you. This is camping. The perfect chance to truly immerse yourself in the heart of the natural world.
Understandably, camping is hard not to love, but, it’s in these wonderfully fragile areas that it’s most important to choose sustainable options.
That’s where these eco-friendly camping tips come in. You can spend your nights sleeping under the stars, knowing you’re helping to protect that slice of nature for generations to come.
In this guide you will find:
- How to plan your eco-friendly camping trip, incl. where/ when to go, what to take, transport and sustainable camping gear
- Sustainable camping tips to incorporate into your time outside
- Easy environmental hacks to think about after your trip, to ensure your next camping adventure is a green one
Why is Eco-Friendly Camping so Important?
Camping has become seriously popular, and rightly so. The online world, documentaries, films and books are filled with so much tent-based inspiration, it can be hard not to pack up your camping gear and heading into the wild.
And, whether it’s a one-night nature fix or a multi-day expedition, all us happy campers are spending more time in natural areas than ever before. Spending time in nature is one of the best things in the world you can do, however, these areas are often particularly fragile.
All of our actions have a big impact and when you’re amazed by your surroundings it can sometimes be easy to forget that. Exploring hiking trails, observing local wildlife, camp stove cooking, lighting fires, disposing of rubbish or even going to the toilet… it can be easy to cause damage without realising.
As Mufasa famously says in the Lion King:
“it’s our duty to protect these places whilst we’re here”
Wise words from a wise king!
That’s Where These Easy Environmental Tips Come in
This eco camping guide will help you protect your surroundings and make your tent time a beautiful experience for everyone.
A bit of planning, a few considerations and some ethical alternatives can go a long way – it’ll all become second-nature after one sustainable camping trip – so becoming an eco camper is surprisingly easy.
Learning how to be more eco friendly isn’t hard: these steps are simple, won’t cost more money and trips won’t take longer to plan. Actually, they’ll often add to the adventure and save money whilst protecting the awesome environments you’re exploring – it’s a win-win situation!
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Stage 1: How to plan an eco-friendly camping trip like a pro
1. Pick the right camping location
This is super important as your camping location will be your temporary home, whether it’s for one night or several. If campsites are an option then these are your best bet. Designated areas with facilities for you to pitch with ease, knowing that you’ve found a great spot with none of the leg work – winner winner!
If you’re in the wild, where campsites aren’t really an option, these are some points to consider:
- Find a natural clearing or perhaps a spot where you can see someone has camped previously – I’ll go into this in more detail later
- Make sure you don’t camp in a protected area or somewhere that may damage or disturb the local wildlife and vegetation
2. Consider the time of your camping trip
An important environmental tip is to consider whether you’re going camping at the right time. Certain areas may be in high-season in for some months and lots of visitors could put a strain on the environment.
Consider going to such places in low season or choosing a different location if it’s an extremely popular destination. Finding an alternative camping destination could make your trip a whole lot more exciting!
It’s also important to consider the local wildlife in the area. If, for example, it’s the mating season in a particular place it may not be a good idea to camp, as it could disturb the natural order of things. It could also end up with you on the receiving end of a horny deer!
3. Are you using green transport options?
How you travel to your chosen camping spot can help make your trip a sustainable one. How far do you have to travel? Could walk or cycle? If not, think about greener transport options such as public transport or lift-sharing.
If none of these are an option, perhaps you could offer a lift to another happy camper? You’d be surprised how many keen outdoorsy folk that might be grateful for a lift (we’re often in this section of society!).
4. Pick sustainable camping equipment that will last
Besides being key for comfort and safety, the production of outdoors gear has a massive environmental impact. This is why it’s CRUCIAL to choose eco-friendly outdoors brands and green camping gear that will last. Maybe this means spending a bit more money to start with but you be guaranteed to save money in the long run. A cheap tent ain’t so cheap if you have to replace it after every trip… Do some research, read reviews and pick the best option.
On top of this, finding ethical outdoors equipment has been made that much easier with certificates from companies like Bluesign, Fairtrade or vegan symbols. These symbols on items let you know the manufacturer is conscious of making eco-friendly products.
Brands such as Kathmandu, Patagonia, Black Diamond, North Face and Vaude are leading the way with their pledge to sustainable gear. As the demand for eco-friendly gear increases, as does the supply so we the consumers have the power!
If you’re looking for something specific check out our guides:
- Camping Packing List and Checklist PDF
- Vegan Sleeping Bag Buyer’s Guide
- The Best 2 Person Tents Compared
- Vegan Hiking Shoes
- Hiking Packing Guide
- A Complete Guide to Sustainable Outdoor Clothing and Gear
5. Sustainable food and water choices
You’re camping which means at some point you’ll get hungry and thirsty. If you’re camping throughout an active outdoors trip, packing the right grub will be seriously crucial to keeping you in tip-top shape. There are several things you can do to keep your trip sustainable when it comes to your food choices:
- Shop local as this means your food will have a lower carbon footprint.
- Keep it vegan – one of the simplest ways to make sure you’re fueling up on sustainable nom.
- Make your own – again keeping that carbon footprint low
- Invest in good food containers and a water bladder. This cuts out the unnecessary waste of single-use plastics.
- Try going as waste-free as possible
- Take some biodegradable rubbish bag for your waste, then be sure to dispose of it properly.
- Take water purification tablets – a lot of the straw and filter options on the market use plastic and need to be replaced after time. Opting for these tablets means there’s no waste and you can stay hydrated whilst adventuring.
For more inspiration and ideas for your next camping trip, check out our guide on the best vegan camping food.
6. Pack eco-friendly sunscreens, insect repellants and ointments
At the end of a long day, after carrying all your gear and food on your back, you’re bound to be pretty tired, not too mention sweaty. You’ve got your eye on that crystal clear water that’s glimmering in the afternoon sun, just fantasizing about having a dip. And why wouldn’t you? You deserve it!
If you want to jump in without a second thought, be sure you’re wearing eco-friendly creams and ointments. Ensuring what you’re smothering on your bod is river and ocean safe will mean you can strip off and jump in, without having to worry about damaging the underwater ecosystem.
These eco-friendly sunscreens and natural insect repellant will have the essentials covered when you’re exploring in the great outdoors. You can also buy biodegradable toothpaste – an eco-friendly solution to oral hygiene!
7. Before you’re out the door check you have EVERYTHING!
Whether it’s for a night or more there are some essentials required when camping. Checking you’ve got all you need means you don’t need to make unnecessary purchases in a hurry or buy things like single-use plastic. Plus, there’s no point buying all that great outdoors gear if you’re not going to put it to good use on the trail!
If you’re itching to explore in the outdoors, check out our ethical adventures planning guide to help you plan your next trip
Stage 2: Going on your sustainable camping trip
1. Pick the right camping spot
We can all picture the ideal camping spot: nestled amongst the trees with the moonlight glimmering as the lake ripples nearby, perfectly situated with your tent door overlooking the valley and front row seats for that sunrise view…
There’s no reason you can pick a camping spot like this, just bear in mind a few considerations:
- A designated campsite will be the most sustainable option.
- Pick a spot with naturally cleared flooring, such as somewhere you can see someone has camped before.
- Avoid moving or damaging vegetation to pitch your tent.
- Avoid spots where rain could gather as this could lead to a soggy sleeping bag – not fun.
- Camp away from the trail for your own peace of mind and to not disturb others.
- When setting up your hammock be sure to tie on to sturdy trees.
There are plenty more tips in our Guide to Camping for Beginners
2. One of the most important eco friendly rules: leave no trace!
A biggie that’s the simplest to put into practice: take everything you brought back with you.
Rubbish anywhere is a big no-no and a serious eyesore, but, in the outdoors, this is even more crucial. Even a tiny piece of litter can do a whole lot of damage to the environment and local wildlife. This also includes biodegradable things like toilet roll or fruit remains – bin it!
3. Don’t be rubbish with your rubbish
With that being said, what do you do with all your rubbish?
- Bring biodegradable bin bags to carry around unwanted waste until you can dispose of it.
- When camping leave your rubbish somewhere safe so that animals can’t get into it.
- Dispose of your rubbish in designated bins and close the lid to stop animals from getting in and eating anything they shouldn’t.
4. Have consideration for your surroundings
These natural places have remained this magnificent due to preservation, so, join the gang and try to be aware of your actions. Despite how pretty those flowers may look in your vase or how inconvenient it is that those branches are in your way, try to avoid damaging the surrounding foliage.
Stick to designated trails and camping spots where possible and just be mindful of how you explore because, after all, we’re the visitors in these beautiful landscapes.
5. Light fires responsibly
You’ve been trudging up hills all day, you’re boots are aching and your shoulders are sore. You can’t wait to chuck off your bag, fling off your shoes and settled down for some grub around a blazing fire. It’s one of the treats to sleeping outside. However, it’s so important to light fires responsibly.
First and foremost check whether you’re allowed to light fires in the area. There’s most likely a good reason why they’re banned so use your noggin here. If it’s in the summer months, you’re surrounded by dried up twigs and leaves, then it’s obvious a fire is a no go. When lighting fires only do so if you’re confident in your knowledge and skills, as you don’t want to be responsible for a forest fire.
Check out these useful beginners tips if you are allowed fires in the region.
6. When nature calls, how you gonna answer?
Camping means you’re outside for a prolonged period of time. Chances are you’re going to need to pee or poop, so some camping toilet tips are not going to go amiss:
- Don’t do your business within 200 feet of a food or water source as this could ruin the resources in the area.
- No pooping on the trail – nobody wants that!
- Dig a small hole, do what you need to do, then cover it. Some areas require you to take your business with you so make sure you check before you go.
- Take any toilet paper away with you – it doesn’t belong there so couldn’t damage the ecosystem, and be very dangerous if any of the local wildlife mistake it for food.
7. Respect the local wildlife
As with the environment, respecting the local wildlife when camping is paramount. What may seem cute, fluffy and hugable is a wild animal, one that may feel the need to defend itself against you. Observe from afar and make sure you’re flash is off if you take photos. Importantly, don’t feed animals either, your cookies may be tasty but they ain’t natural to anyone but other hikers.
Similarly when you’re encasing yourself in your sleeping bag for the night with the pitter-patter of rain on the outside of your tent, the flurry of bugs coming alive at night and the faint toot of an owl you feel truly wild. The last thing you want is someone blasting out some pop tunes on their speakers or over-hearing someone’s conversations about what they had for breakfast. If you don’t want to hear it you can be sure the local wildlife doesn’t want to either, so keep unnecessary noise and lights to a minimum so nature can be as it’s intended. Trust me, it’s better that way.
9. Washing your crockery in the wild
Wipe off any excess food before washing and make sure you use biodegradable soap at least 200 feet from a water source. If the area you’re in allows greywater dumping (wastewater) then tip wastewater on a different plant each time. If however greywater dumping is not permitted then bring a container so you can dispose of any dirty water properly.
10. Pave the way of eco camping for others to follow
Now you have a whole repertoire of tips you can get camping like an eco pro. Get out there and show off your skills and encourage others to do the same!
Stage 3: Keep up the sustainability after your camping trip
1. Unpack and store gear properly
It’s all well and good spending ages looking for quality sustainable gear but if you don’t look after it properly it’ll wear out prematurely and won’t be so sustainable after all. Clear off any excess mud from your boots and store them somewhere dry, not out in the rain. Dry our your tent and store airbeds blown up to keep them in tip-top shape. Looking after your gear will ensure it lives a long life and in return, it’ll look after you in the great outdoors.
Check out our guide on how to maintain and repair your gear to help it last for adventures to come
2. Shout about sustainable camping from the rooftops
Now you’re an eco camping expert be sure to spread the word. Encourage your pals to employ some of these sustainable tips for their next trip, or inspire a friend to go on their first ethical adventure and show them the ropes. Maybe even think about an eco-friendly gift which could inspire an adventure?
This eco-conscious mindset doesn’t end on the trail so bring this way of life into your daily routine!
Eco Camping Tips for Adventure Seekers
On your next camping trip try to incorporate some of these eco-tips. Don’t feel you have to tick them all off at once if it’s a little daunting. Aim to master one, then add another, and another… before you know it you’ll be a professional eco camper!
Camping is the best way to truly feel immersed in the natural world. After a night under the stars, you feel like a true adventurer in the wild. This time outside will have you feeling so much appreciation for the natural world you’ll feel compelled to protect it.
Are there any other things you do to be an eco camper? What do you think is the most important thing to consider when spending time in the outdoors? Tell us in the comments below!