How to Pack for a Low Waste Camping Trip

Whether you're able to safely get into the wilderness for some backpacking this summer or just setting up camp in your own backyard, we love camping for several reasons: soaking up lots of sun and fresh air, communing with nature, connecting with your people (or yourself) by the campfire, and sleeping under the stars. They all have a way of refreshing the soul.

We also love that going camping or backpacking encourages you to strip down to the bare necessities. We have fun thinking about how our early ancestors used to live and see it as a way to reconnect with our roots. And there's seemingly no better time to reduce waste than when you're smack dab in the environment you're trying to preserve. Here are some tips to help you pack for a low waste camping trip!

Food - Keeping your meals simple and wholesome is ideal when you're bringing all your own food and won't have the luxury of a full kitchen.

  • Think about how long you’ll be camping or backpacking and avoid overpacking food. Be precise with your portions for the number of people you'll be serving. This is not the ideal time for leftovers.
  • Try to cook one-pot meals and split between as many people as possible to minimize excess packaging and dishes.
  • Check the bulk section of your local grocery store for package-free food options like trail mix, granola, oatmeal, and other snacks. You could even bring grains like quinoa or rice to cook. If you are car camping and can bring a cooler, you can also get fresh produce to make some clean, healthy meals.
  • Have a cast iron skillet? Bring it along for easy cooking over the fire without having to buy anything new! (Ideal for car camping because of the weight.)

Toiletries - Who wants to haul a huge bag of creams and sprays with them in a tent? Keep it simple and bring products that will pack a punch. 

  • Scoop some coconut oil into a small jar to use as an all-purpose moisturizer or to soothe angry sunburns and blisters. (You can also use some for cooking!) Or bring along some All Salve!
  • Use a bar soap that works for your face and body, like the Onyx Detoxifying Cleansing Bar or Face, Hand & Body Soaps!
  • Skip the chemicals and use a plant-based insect repellent proven to work like this DIY lemon eucalyptus spray or this Insect Repellent.
  • Protect your skin with a mineral-based and reef-safe sunscreen, and you can start with this list! 
  • Make sure you do any washing, whether it be dishes or your hair, away from any water sources, even if your soap is biodegradable. Soaps, shampoos, sunscreen, and insect repellent can be harmful to wildlife in the water, so don’t get any ideas about scrub-a-dub dubbing in a creek.

Gear - Find items like tents, hammocks, chairs, and even kitchenware that you'll be able to use year after year.

  • Bring reusable water bottles, cups, utensils, and plates. Stainless steel and bamboo are both light and durable and perfect for camping or backpacking. 
  • Use rechargeable batteries for headlamps and lanterns.
  • Prioritize items that will stand the test of time, especially when buying new. It can be tempting to buy the cheapest option, but we've learned that outdoor gear is often a "get what you pay for" kind of product. The great thing is that investing in higher quality products now will pay off big time in the end as you won't have to replace them nearly as often. Also, keep an eye out for brands and retailers with great lifetime warranties and return policies. Some brands like North Face and Columbia will take back items after you've got all the life you can out of them and either repair them for you or replace your used item with a new version for free if they didn't last a lifetime.
  • Don’t camp that often? Consider borrowing bigger ticket gear like tents, hammocks, camp stoves, and backpacks from friends or family before investing in your own. You can also rent or purchase used gear from local outdoor stores like Next Adventure in Portland or A16 Outfitters in San Diego. REI and Patagonia can also be great places for “pre-loved” outdoor clothing and gear PLUS they both do repairs too!

And don't forget to brush up on the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace before you head out! Minimize your impact on your environment by disposing of waste properly, planning ahead, camping and hiking on durable surfaces, and leaving everything exactly as it was before you got there.

Have any other tips? Share them in the comments below! 

Read Community Manager Sam's Low-Waste Camping Tips here



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