Ways to make your next camping trip more sustainable
Camping out in the bush or by a beach is surely a green way to go. Isn't it?
Posted on 17.02.2020
If you’re looking for an eco getaway, camping out in the bush or by a beach is surely a green way to go. Isn’t it?
As with everything us humans do, camping does have an impact on the environment — but if you put some thinking into it, you can minimise that.
Two camping enthusiasts share their tips on making your next camping expedition a greener one.
Before you go, make better choices with gear
Before you head for the hills, you’re going to need some camping gear.
Tammy Logan is a zero-waste blogger and mum of two in Gippsland, Victoria. She suggests if you’re camping for the first time, try hiring or borrowing gear from friends in case you decide the outdoor life is not for you.
If that’s not an option, try for pre-loved.
“Getting [camping gear] second-hand is really a good idea for sustainable camping,” she says.
If you do decide to buy a tent, Geoff Tosio, a Scouts leader and camping shop sales manager, says to opt for higher quality gear that will last you decades.
All lightweight and most modern tents are made of nylon or polyester fabrics with plastic coatings to make them waterproof.
If you’re car-camping and can take a bulky tent, you can still find cotton-canvas ones that don’t have plastics for water-proofing.
Most tents come with small repair kits and you can get repair kits in camping store, so don’t chuck it away if you get a hole.
“One time we had a crazy wombat rip through the tent to try and get to the food that we had stored in there,” Tammy says.
“I just had to stitch it back together.”
Most sleeping bags are made from nylon or polyester — fabrics that keep the water out as much as possible.
Some have down filling which is compostable when you’re done with it, and it gives more warmth for less weight, but you might not be keen if you have allergies to feathers or if you don’t like how it’s farmed.
And if you’re overnight hiking in rugged terrain, down isn’t always practical.
“Down can actually get wet and clump and not be as warm, so when you’re mountaineering … use synthetics,” Geoff says.
If you borrow or hire a bag and feel a bit icky about it you can get a thin cotton or silk bag liner that can be easily washed.
When it comes to camping mattresses, it is hard to avoid synthetics and plastics, so again, look for good quality.
“We’ve just got the self-inflating roll up ones that we got from a camping store like 10 years ago, and so they’re very hard to pop,” Tammy says.
If you’re car-camping, you can just take some of your regular bedding with you rather than buy a whole new setup that you hardly ever use.
Tammy says she takes her regular pots and pans from her kitchen when they go camping and uses hard plastic plates and bowls that she’s had for years.
“I won’t replace any of my gear with new stuff until it’s completely irreparable and useless,” she says.
If you’re going overnight hiking, you’ll need some lightweight cooking gear.
Opt for gas or liquid fuel cooking equipment so you don’t destroy the nature you’re in by chopping trees down.
Even using fallen branches for cooking is changing the environment.
“Little critters and animals live in and feed off little insects that live in that wood,” Geoff says.
A compact liquid-fuel cooker also doubles as a plate and bowl, reducing the gear you have to carry and use.
Be mindful of what detergents you take into the bush — opt for more environmentally friendly ones and never wash up in a river or stream.
“Stay well away from the stream at least 40 or 50 metres away and tip your suds over there,” Geoff says.
If you’re camping in an area that allows campfires, bring some wood with you so you don’t have to crash around in the bush and destroy an animal’s home.
Don’t burn your rubbish as plastic coating on cardboards make for some pretty toxic fumes and the ash left over will still have plastics and toxins in it.
And always follow any fire restrictions and make sure campfires are cool to the touch before you leave.
Tammy says she likes to plan out what meals they’ll have when camping so she only takes what she knows they’ll eat.
Instead of packaged meals, she likes to make things ahead of time, like muffins, biscuits and slices, and take fresh fruit and vegetables in an esky.
Freezing a big stew or curry ahead of time is a good way to bring a fancy cooked-meal that also doubles as an ice block in the cooler.
On multi-night bushwalk, Tammy says she uses a home dehydrator to makes meals that she packs into reusable silicon snap-lock bags.
“It’s reducing the amount of stuff you take with you in the first place,” she says.
If Tammy does buy pre-packaged food, she goes for packaging that can be recycled and keeps recycling and rubbish separate at the campground so she can take both away to be disposed of when they get home.
Tammy says she tends to camp at sites that have long-drop composting toilets, so just taking recycled toilet paper that comes in paper wrappers reduces her impact.
If they do go further out into the bush, the family takes a shovel or trowel to bury waste and toilet paper so animals and other humans don’t stumble upon it.
“Hardcore people would actually pack that out as well. But I’ve never done that,” Tammy says.
It’s important to know what the rules are in the area that you’re walking or camping, as some places in Australia require you to take all your waste — yes, your poo — with you so as to not damage the environment.
Geoff says if you are burying your poo, make sure it’s at least 100 metres from any water course.
Enjoy the nature you are trying to preserve
There are options like solar panels too, for things that need electricity to run or recharge, but going without the tech for a few days tends to be the more environmentally and human-friendly option.
“I kind of get a bit annoyed when we go camping with people and they play loud music from their car or from their phones,” Tammy says.
“What I love about camping is the noises in the bush that you can tune into and deep conversations that you can have with people when they’re not attached to their phone.”
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