We have always been inspired to traverse the world around us in any way that we can. From our earliest hunter-gathering roots to the present day, we have used horses, cars, planes, ships, and more to explore. At some point, we collectively put up homes and settled more permanently. Though we set down roots, nature has never lost its allure.
What it has lost is some of its innate purity. Some national parks have been found to have pollution levels comparable to major cities. This pollution comes from nearby industries and the hordes of campers who visit them every year. The time has come for a more ethical way to camp.
Enter eco-camping. Eco-camping is an ethical, sustainable practice to reduce waste and keep our parks secured. Olivers will be highlighting why this practice is essential and how to easily embrace it.
Eco-camping is an environmentally sustainable approach to camping. This means a couple of things.
Eco-camping, first and foremost, relies on reducing the environmental impact of your group in your excursion. This is a far more involved process than simply clearing your trash. It requires conscious preparation for your trip as well as ethical practices when you arrive.
There is no way to reduce your environmental impact to zero. Eco-camping serves to keep this impact at a level where it does not interfere with the park. Thankfully, once you know how to practice eco-camping, it is easy to put into effect.
Eco-camping protects our environment for generations to come. The reasons why so many flock to the most popular parks each year include impressive climbing and unparalleled beauty. Without preservation, these can be lost.
There is a centuries-old movement to return many of our national parks to the Indigenous people who inhabited them. In several cases, these parks are still inhabited or are directly adjacent to reservations. Regardless of ownership, conservation efforts in many of these sites are carefully monitored.
Where campers do not practice sustainable camping, areas may be closed or be limited in access. This is for both the safety of the park and the safety of guests visiting them. When animals become habituated to people, it can lead to dangerous and potentially deadly encounters. When people engage in polluting activities, it can damage local flora and fauna.
The human factor should also be considered. For local Indigenous tribes, certain areas may be important historical or even religious sites. If Indigenous-owned land is not respected, it should be closed off to visitors.
The reasons behind eco-camping are countless. After all, many of our largest parks have received constant levels of interest for generations of adventurers. The next important step is to prepare and actualize your next great camping journey.
The Impact of Travel
The first step in eco-camping is choosing where and when you want to go. The following are the major concerns you should have when deciding which site to visit:
How popular is the park I want to go to? How much funding and attention does the park receive in terms of conservation efforts? When is the busy season for the site in question, and how does that affect it?
There are plenty of sites popular enough that even people who never go camping will recognize them by name. Depending on how well-funded the site is, conservation efforts may not meet the needs of constant public usage. However, this can lead to a build-up of pollutants and an overexerted ecosystem.
Luckily, there are a few ways to avoid this:
The busy season for many parks depends on their geographic location. For camping as a whole, summer is immensely popular due to warm weather and schools being out for families. Every season has its own benefits to traveling, from warm summer nights to crisp summer air.
Check out what areas of the park you want to visit, if any, are off-limits during certain times of the year. Nesting habits and weather can impact both of these.
Also, check the apparel you bring. If it’s the rainy season, cotton may get soaked. If it’s cold, certain synthetics may offer less protection than you’d like. Consider garments made from merino wool for moisture protection and thermoregulation in any temperature.
Being conscious about choice when you travel can have a net positive impact on your trip. Traveling during a park's off-season can minimize the impact large camping groups have. It also provides a slightly more secluded, personal experience.
Once you’ve decided where and when you will go, it’s time to pack for your trip. While litter is an easy pitfall to avoid, the whole of what you bring with you matters. Insect repellent, sunscreen, and toiletries are all essentials, but you should be aware of the impact they can have.
Avoid products that are filled with artificial chemicals that may leave traces of pollution in the environment. If you have a DIY spirit, many natural products can be made in the comfort of your own home. For sunscreen, you’ll want to look for products that use minerals instead of chemicals. These include titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
For soap, you need to be slightly more careful. Just because a soap is natural doesn’t mean that it is environmentally friendly. Lye is one of the most common ingredients in all soaps. In the process used to make soap, called saponification, lye is mixed with fat to create soap. Because it is transformed into soap, there is no lye left in the mixture.
In mixtures that do contain lye, it can change the Ph levels in smaller bodies of water and harm organisms. Free-flowing bodies can regulate this, but be careful of large groups using lye-based soaps in standing water. If you want to be totally safe, you can use biodegradable wash towels when camping.
For your actual camping gear, you should invest in high-quality pieces. These will last longer and be less likely to break and leave detritus at your base camp. If you ever find yourself no longer wanting them, they can easily be sold or given away to be reused. This helps cut down on product waste.
Setting Up Camp
Choosing where to set up your campsite is the next step, now that you are packed and ready to go. Though there is something to be said for the road less traveled, choose a spot that shows signs of use. This will allow you to situate yourself in areas that have already been used. This provides two benefits.
First, you will be able to set up camp without disturbing as much of the area itself. Secondly, you will be able to set up camp easier, with some clearing has already taken place. Choose somewhere just slightly off the beaten path, so you have a private place to be.
Do be careful not to drift too far away, however. Trail markers highlight deliberately made paths to guide you through the space. Hike and explore during the day as much as you’d like, but be wary of disturbing local flora and fauna with semi-permanent setups.
When camping, you’ll likely be using some form of technology. Try to use solar power or other sustainable sources as an alternative to fossil fuel generators wherever possible. This can include solar generators and other pieces or pre-charged power banks for mobile and portable devices. One of the biggest threats to maintaining our parks is air quality, and this helps protect them.
Being a good steward of your space means leaving it in a better condition than the way you found it. The same bags used to maintain your own trash can be used to gather items you find along the trail. Not all waste is intentional, but plenty of it is not biodegradable. Gathering pieces found naturally as you explore can help clear the park for future campers.
Setting Out and Stepping Back
Eco-camping re-evaluates the way we examine our relationship with the sites we travel to. Even though the memories we make may last forever, we are only ever visitors. Plenty of campers have visited before us, and plenty will visit after. The only constant remains the beauty of vast, untouched landscapes, so long as we preserve them.
For all the benefits new technology brings, pollution is a serious problem caused by industrialization. Thankfully, industries and society as a whole are beginning to become significantly more aware of how existing impacts the environment. More importantly, awareness exists of how to reduce that impact.
Olivers believes in being the best you can be. This means operating ethically, with an eye always towards excellence. It means chasing the newest adventures, tips on living at your best in every context, and high-performance activewear. It means never compromising when the future of yourself or your planet is on the line.
Travel, pack, and journey through trails responsibly. The result will be places that you can visit for years to come.