Sustainable Camping Guide

Cal Bailey
Jul 23, 2023

There are many reasons we love camping, not least of which is the emotional state it can invoke. Being surrounded by the gorgeous colours and scents of nature and breathing in the healthy negative ions can’t fail to be addictive. That latent inner wildness can rise to the surface and reconnect us with our own nature. Everyone should make a regular commitment to spending time away from concrete jungles and environmental pollution in favour of immersion in a natural, nourishing environment.

There is one important thing to remember though. We tend to have quite an impact on our environment, so camping mindfully is giving back to nature. By adopting sustainable practices during our camping trips, we mitigate negative impact on the land, instead encouraging it to flourish. It is so easy to coexist with nature so that both sides reap the benefits; by taking a little time to prepare ahead of our camping trips, we do our bit for the earth with a free conscience.

Check out our tips below on sustainable camping practices:

1.  Share vehicles to reduce your carbon footprint  

Before getting on the road, think about how you might be able to reduce your CO2 emissions. If it is possible to share a vehicle or two instead of a whole group taking individual vehicles, this is a great start. You may not be able to use public transport because of your heavy load, but you could consider hiring a large van for your group, perhaps even saving on fuel costs collectively.

2. Prepare and freeze planned meals ahead of your trip

Waste reduction is an important focus when it comes to sustainability, and this certainly applies to food consumption. Most people will have to think about what they’re going to eat during the trip anyway, but instead of throwing in as much as possible to cover all hunger eventualities, you could pre-plan most meals in advance.

If there’s a group of you, ask everyone to share meal ideas and preferences, then gather some funds and assign the shopping duties to one person. This stops people from doubling up on food items; if you only bring what you all need, you’ll not only lighten your load but produce far less waste in terms of food and packaging too.

Another way to do it might be for each group member to cook one or two meals for the group and then freeze it for heating up on site. Packing meals in portion sizes is also a good idea as you will only open what you need at the time, stopping the whole lot from going off more quickly. A necessary piece of kit is a cool box and ice blocks, so if everyone has one of those, you’ll be covered.

3. Cook with care  

Cooking is probably going to be a necessity on your camping trip, especially if you have pre-prepared a few meals. You might be able to use a portable barbeque or a camping stove, using sustainable charcoal - charcoal is carbon neutral.

If you do need to start a campfire, first be sure to check that there are no fire bans, and that you’re not staying in an area affected by droughts. For firewood, always choose dry seasoned wood from a sustainable source. Try to collect it before leaving for your trip, as the wood sold near campgrounds isn’t always seasoned. Dry, seasoned wood means less smoke and pollution; it also heats your meals more quickly, which is great news for hungry campers after a day of activity!

Be sure to read up on making small, hot fires that can be easily contained. Also read up on proper extinguishing, and rather than using a fire to provide light, use solar powered lamps.

4. Organise your rubbish carefully

If you’re concerned with sustainability, you probably already recycle at home. A camping trip need not be any different – it just means organising rubbish carefully and disposing properly of what can’t be recycled. Rather than buying disposable plates and cutlery, if everyone just brings one set each, you can simply rinse them off after each meal.

Most camping trips produce some level of rubbish, but although there might be bins available where you’re staying, there’s nothing to say they won’t be full. Rather than relying on this, take a few recycling bags or bin bags with you and separate your rubbish into labeled bags as you go. This way you’re also doing your bit for the local wildlife, as the habitat will remain unpolluted.

5. Conserve water  

Given that we all have a seemingly endless supply of water in our homes, we may not give a lot of thought to how much we use. There’s nothing like a camping trip to make you aware of that! You’re going to need drinking water, but rather than filling a number of plastic bottles, you could take one or two large water containers with a fitted tap. These are useful for dispensing washing up water too. Take along a bucket and fill it with a reasonable amount of water, then do all your washing up in that after a meal.

If you’re not using camping shower facilities, you might be able to bathe in a local river or lake. That’s a wonderful way to connect with nature too! Otherwise, use your bucket to wash yourself as you would with your washing up. Minimise water consumption by using a flannel rather than pouring water over yourself.

6. Be chemical free  

We all know how it feels to be itching relentlessly from mosquito bites – and nobody can be blamed for wanting to avoid that! However, it’s possible to love both nature and your skin by going chemical free. There are natural insect repellents for sale, but you can also make your own or use certain plants. The same goes for sunscreen! Nature always has the answers.

Even our shampoos and soaps work best for us when natural. Similarly, when you’re washing natural, organic products off your body, these don’t harm the earth. It also helps to note that silicone isn’t biodegradable, so checking labels for this equates to eco-friendliness. The general rule is that what is good for your body is good for the earth, and vice versa. Don’t forget to let your camping group know!

7.  Appreciate wildlife from afar

Animals, birds and insects can be beautiful and fascinating, for sure. However, it is kindest not to try to interact with them or feed them. The less they engage with humans, the less likely they are to become dependent on them. If you want to look closely at the wildlife, take a camera with a powerful zoom on it and take some shots. This is a lovely way to remember your trip, and photography is a fun activity.

8. Follow local and national guidelines

Most countries have their own guidelines regarding camping. We recommend doing your research when planning your camping vacation and making sure that you are following local and national laws and recommendations. This is especially important if you are considering freedom camping/camping in the wild. For example, New Zealand has a great camping website with lots of dos and don'ts for campers as well as links to camping Apps showing where you can camp.

July 23, 2023
5 min read