Those who like to camp usually do so for one reason above all others: a love of the outdoors. Many view it as an opportunity to get away from the modern world and get back in touch with what it means to live without the amenities of day-to-day life. While the beauty of the outdoors might be a reason we travel into them, it can be easy to forget the importance of maintaining that beauty.
Regardless of whether you're a car camper or a fan of backcountry excursions, there are things you can do to alter your habits and make your camping excursions more environmentally friendly.
What's car camping?
If you're not familiar with this term, car camping is about what it sounds like – camping alongside your car. Across the country there are countless opportunities to stay in one of these types of campgrounds, including private facilities and public parks. The most well-appointed offer visitors an established fire pit, a picnic table and a tent box all within arm's reach of your parking space. These campgrounds also often provide modern facilities such as bathrooms and showers and sometimes even have a store on-site in case you forgot to bring marshmallows for your s'mores. These campgrounds provide an outdoors experience without leaving everything behind.
What's backcountry camping?
Again, a lot can be inferred about this kind of camping from its name alone. Backcountry camping involves getting away from the road network through plenty of hiking with all you need to survive in tow. This type of camping requires more specialized gear than a car camping trip, and it can be considerably more demanding physically, but the farther you get into the wilderness, the more likely it is that you will find true peace and quiet.
Steps for making your excursions more green
Whether you are an avid car camper or can't wait to break out your hiking boots any chance you get, there's probably room for you to grow when it comes to practicing sustainable camping.
Above all, the cardinal rule for camping is to "leave no trace." Basically, this means campers should have as little impact on their campground as possible. The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics actually outlines seven leave no trace principals, such as plan ahead, dispose of your waste appropriately and respect fellow campers and wildlife. The center has created guidelines for front-country (car camping) and backcountry excursions, making it easy to embrace responsible camping no matter what kind of camper you are. Before you even begin to plan your next trip, be sure to visit the center's website for more information.
As a part of leaving no trace, campers of all types should consider the impact of the gear they will be using on their trip. If you're going car camping, consider leaving the generator at home. Electricity generators that burn fossil fuels give off harmful carbon monoxide and create substantial noise pollution. Rather than watching TV after the sun goes down, try telling stories around the fire instead.
If you're planning a backcountry trip, take some time to think about how you're going to store your food. Leaving foods in their store-bought packaging often means leaving them in unnecessary layers of trash. Once you've planned your menu, portion out only what you need and store your foods in reusable plastic bags or containers. The more trash you take into the woods, the more likely it is some litter will be left behind.
These suggestions are just the beginning, but it's important to think about the impact of all of our actions on the environment. The next time you camp, pay attention to your footprint and with a little hard work you shouldn't have any trouble leaving no trace.