Top tips to help make your next trip a zero waste adventure
Camping trips with my dad as a kid would involve lugging around a whopping camping stove and a gas cylinder to match. Along with preparing everything from scratch, back then meal times really did require a lot of time and effort. Fast forward a decade or two and you can simply boil a premade backpacking meal and be chowing down in a matter of minutes. Oh, how times have changed.
Things are definitely simpler now with ultra-light tents and high-tech gear but is this convenient approach to the outdoors all it’s cracked up to be?
On adventure trips, when your life is condensed into the bare essentials for living: shelter, food and water, it can be a very minimalistic way of living. However, all those tiny tubes of toothpaste, food packaging and hand wipes start to add up, quickly find themselves on the way to landfill or stuck polluting the environment.
I’ll be honest, planning a low-waste trip does take time and consideration but isn’t the whole point of spending time outdoors making the most of your surroundings? Makes sense to protect it then, right? And, once you’ve learned a few tips, tricks and swaps from this article it’ll all come easily.
AN IMPORTANT NOTE* Going zero waste isn’t about perfection and shouldn’t be all or nothing. If you can only manage to adopt one of these tips for your next trip then that’s great. Incorporate two and that’s even better!
Life is all about baby steps, baby. Don’t be discouraged and adopt changes little by little. It’ll become second nature and before you know it you’ll be the one sharing your own zero waste adventure tips with your chums!
So if you’re keen to reduce your use of disposables and single-use plastics, here’s how…
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Tips for your zero waste adventure
1) Meal prep and planning for your trip
Homemade backpacking meals are not only loads cheaper, they’re often healthier and taste better. It doesn’t need to be complicated and it can actually save you time on the trail so you can just combine and consume. Plus, who doesn’t love homemade snacks!?!?
Making your own munch is a super simple step that massively cuts down waste so it seems like a no brainer! Check out our vegan backpacking tips, vegan hiking grub and vegan camping meal guides for some zero waste backpacking meal recipes and ideas.
2) Use reusable containers
Gone are the days of cling film and foil because let’s face it: they’re a nightmare to try and reuse. Instead, invest in a good hiking food container and you’ll never look back!
Reusable containers can simply be washed and used again and again. Invest in one that’ll last and you might never have to buy another. You might already have something suitable in the cupboards?
If you’re specifically after a lightweight food container for backpacking, these collapsible tubs from Sea to Summit are ideal as they pack down and have a tight seal lid to avoid any leakages (because no one wants leftover curry leaking on their sleeping bag…). You can find it here in the UK and the USA).
Another container tip: Buying things in bulk, like peanut butter, seeds and oats at home then decanting just the right amount into portable containers saves a whole lot of faffing in the wild, will avoid single-use plastics and food waste.
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3) Go zero waste with a reusable water bottle
When exerting yourself you need to take on a whole lot of water so a refillable bottle will keep you hydrated and stop tons of plastic water bottles going to landfill and polluting oceans.
A plastic-free bottle with a sports top is convenient and reduces your use of plastic in the outdoors, winner! These are from Klean Kanteen, a B Corp company that has signed up for 1% for the planet and is climate neutral. (You can find it here at Alpine Trek in the UK and REI in the USA.)
When hiking or backpacking we always take a water bladder as you can fit more in and it’s a lot easier to keep hydrated whilst exploring. The Osprey 3L is great as it holds enough so you don’t have to keep worrying about refilling it (find it here in the UK and USA).
4) Steer clear of single-use options and instead take reusable cutlery
Switch out flimsy single-use plastic cutlery for some reliable reusable cutlery to cut down on waste in the outdoors.
If you’re just spending the day outside or you don’t have to worry about weight, just stealing a knife and fork from home will do the trick. If however weight and convenience are a consideration, these sturdy metal sets are just the ticket (you can find it here in the UK and in the USA).
5) Take a water filter on your trip
Your water bottle isn’t any good empty. Carrying a water filter with you will allow you to make the most of the natural water sources available to you, avoiding purchasing anything stored in plastic. (Check out this one here in the UK and USA).
6) Be sensible when nature calls!
Poopin’, peeing, doing your ‘business’… no matter what you call it, we all have to answer when nature comes knocking. Knowing how to do your business properly is a skill for life!
How to pee in the woods:
- Find a spot at least 60 meters away from a water source
- Soft spots of earth, especially covered in pine cones are good as they absorb water quickly
- If you use toilet paper be sure to take it away with you even better use a reusable pee cloth and never worry about what to do with your rubbish. (You can find pee clothes here in the UK and USA)
Tips for pooping in the wild:
- Find a spot away from the trail or campsite, at least 60 meters from a water source
- Dig a hole with a small trowel covering it up after with the earth you dug out. These stainless steel foldable trowels are ideal for cat hole digging and come in pretty handy on a campsite (buy here in the UK and similarly in the USA.)
- As always any toilet paper you use, take with you in your pocket or a small compostable bag (dog poop bags or other compostable bags are a good bet and you can find some here: UK and USA)
- Some protected areas require you to take your poop also so be sure to check the area before you go
7) Zero waste feminine care during your adventure
Whilst we’re on the subject of ‘downstairs business’ let’s talk about periods. Around the world, sanitary products cause LOADS of single-use waste that is often not recycled and creates crazy amounts of environmental issues. Those days are now a thing of the past and there’s now a whole bunch of products to suit your lady garden and help keep your time of the month zero waste.
Some products in the UK:
In the USA you can get Diva Cup which is another awesome reusable menstrual cup.
8) Use soap and shampoo bars for plastic free camping
Kicking up dust on the trial, getting muck on your face and sweat dripping from your brow makes you really appreciate that clean feeling at the end of the day. Opt for plastic-free soaps and you’re one step closer to a zero-waste adventure.
If however you’re feeling lazy or need some soap in a hurry (don’t worry J can relate) here’s some options for you in the UK:
- Shampoo and conditioner bars
- Soap bar
- Facial wash bar
- Dishwashing soap bar (because your dishes need washing too)
- Laundry soap bar (that you can also use on your hair and body if you’re planning a lightweight and plastic-free backpacking trip)
If you’re in the USA some options for you:
9) Repair and maintain your gear to make your trip sustainable
Sure it’s not something you generally put into practice in the wild but looking after your gear will add years to its life, resulting in less waste going to landfill. The clothing industry is responsible for thousands of tons of waste being sent to landfill every year so looking after what you have is the best way to make it last.
We created this complete guide on how to repair and maintain your outdoors gear including tips and instructions.
If you want to ensure your time outside has as little impact as possible, getting sustainably made and sourced gear is a great way to start. Finding it, however, can be a bit of a conundrum. This guide to finding ethical outdoor gear, complete with how to spot sustainable brands and a which brands are really doing their bit for the planet contains all you need to know.
9 Zero Waste Adventure Tips for Your Outdoor Trip
As I said, don’t feel you need to make these changes all at once, baby steps, remember! Think about one aspect of your trip at a time, then when you feel you’ve got that down you can think about reducing another thing. Keep your time outside enjoyable and work towards lower-impact adventures bit by bit.
If there are other ways you’re working to reduce your footprint in the outdoors or you have some other ideas let us know in the comments below, it’s always great to hear what your guys are up to in the wild! Until then, happy exploring eco-warriors.