Stop Trashing…Your Camping Trip!
Tips, tricks, and everything in between to fuel that staycation nation adventure stoke and allow you to explore the planet and love it, all at the same time. Read more from outdoor adventurist, Niki.
Hey everyone! I hope you’re all doing well. As we begin to be able to explore and adventure more it’s important to remember to keep seeking ways to stay light on the earth. Below are some of my favourite tips, tricks, and advice for keeping my adventures low-waste and planet conscious.
However, before I begin, I want to acknowledge that it is a privilege to recreate in the ways described in this post, and a privilege to seek low waste alternatives to fuel those recreation experiences. Systemic racism is deeply rooted within our social structures, and for many Black, Indigenous, and peoples of colour, the outdoor industry, recreation community, and low-waste movements are not safe-havens of equality and acceptance. Protecting our planet includes protecting all of its peoples, and the fight for climate justice goes hand in hand with racial justice and the combatting of systemic oppression. At the end of this post, I will be sharing a number of BIPOC outdoor recreation and low-waste influencers, as well as organizations and individuals working to increase access to outdoor recreation. I encourage you to learn about, explore, and support in any way that you can.
Prep Trip Prep: My Number One Piece of Advice
Planning is the number one tip I can give for making low-waste choices for camping. Setting aside time to plan meals, pack efficiently, shop for bulk ingredients, and play backpack or car janga, makes a huge difference in your ability to implement low-waste options and trial and error various products, recipes, and systems. For me, this usually means spending about a week in prep prior to a big trip, and usually a day for a smaller trip.
Specific Tips & Tricks
Purchase bulk grains in cloth bags or containers (oats, rice, dehydrated veggies)
Dehydrate your own vegetables and fruits! You can do this with an oven on low for longer periods of time if you don't have a dehydrator (ex: apple chips: slice thin, lay on a baking pan, slowly dry in oven on low for 3-4 hours)
Toss in some bouillon cubes and spices to your dried dinner mixes for flavour (ex: rice, dehydrated veggies, bouillon cube, paprika and turmeric for a hot camp dinner)
Pack whole foods and beeswax wraps (ex: an apple with half cut into your oatmeal each day, an avocado with crackers and cheese for lunch, a sweet potato to bake in the fire and top with spicy rice)
Oatmeal with spices packed inside my bowl with half an apple in beeswax paper
Alternatives to Plastic Ziplocks
Reusable bags (Stasher brand bags are great and come in a variety of sizes, cloth options are also easy to find)
Tupperware; not too heavy for shorter backpacking trips, excellent for car camping
Metal containers; titanium is a lightweight metal and many options stack together for packing ease
Jars; awesome for car camping if packed with care, a bit trickier for backpacking but an option for shorter trips, especially when packed well with clothing or sleeping bag layers tucked around
Stash things in other things! This is an important packing tip, you can store reusable bags of snacks and meals inside the empty spaces of your pots/pans, stove, pockets of jackets/layers, and squished between the air pockets in your bag after putting in sleeping gear and clothes.
Fill a Nalgene with trail mix; a nice option especially if you use a water bladder, as it frees up your water bottle pockets and is a sturdy container that you can refill with water, or use as a container for any food waste or garbage you may have or find
Beeswax or vegan food wraps; can’t recommend these enough, you can pack a wrap for your first day, wrap up whole fruit or veggies to split between two days. They add so many options.
Small, pliable dry bags or stuff sacks; these can work great for snacks and are lightweight and easily packable when both full and empty
You can also reuse ziplocks you already have on hand by giving them a good rinse or reusing one bag for one specific meal each time, this is an awesome option to reduce the amount of waste you generate, while also making use of what you have on hand and saving money by not buying newer reusable bags if it is out of budget
Bear canisters: great sizing options, and specifically made for backpacking + staying sealed
Pack whole foods and snacks that may smush or bruise into the top part of your pack where it can get some protection (avocados, apples, and any crunchy snacks that could break). You can pack these in wraps that fold down small, or a pliable dry bag to contain any potential spilling or squishing
Opt for containers that are either flat like a plate or tall like a water bottle. These are easiest to fit inside a backpacking bag with clothing and sleep gear stuffed around them, big squares take up a lot of space and don't smush down as well
Use a water bladder, and save the bottles for snacks or a dried meal, you can then put these in the bottle pockets of your bag and free up interior space for potentially more awkward shaped containers
Think about multiple ways to use something, this will help to visualize ways to maintain low waste through multiple camping days. For example, my coffee grounds are in this container, when they’re used I can then put in the other half of the apple I had for breakfast or this Nalgene held my snacks for the day, now I can fill it with water for tomorrow or use it as my trash pail
Dried noodles packed inside my stove, the smaller container holds spices and sauce
Wet wipe alternatives can be a buff or bandana that you soak with some eco-friendly camp soap or use to wash after a few swipes with a bar of eco-friendly soap. I usually bring a buff and a small piece of a bar of soap and use it to wash in the evenings, hanging the buff out to dry overnight.
Many water bottles are now available with built-in filter options, and filters for water bladders, pump filters, and tools like a Lifestraw are available to filter water and as alternatives to the plastic packaging common to purifying products like pristine tabs or drops
Some Personal Favourites and Go-Tos
I always have beeswax wraps, I will often use them to pack a burrito the first day, and for halves of apples from breakfast to breakfast or avocado halves from lunch to dinner. They also keep baked goods fairly fresh, and so I pack something sweet to enjoy
Personally I really like whole foods, they fuel me better and I find them easy to pack and plan meals around.
I have a jetboil stove, which offers a lot of space for packing baggies of ingredients or meals, and I do the same with my pot and bowl set. I am bringing all of these items anyway so I might as well use their empty space for storage!
I tend to pack my sleeping bag loose within my backpack, and then stuff clothing and other gear down around the air pockets it creates. For me this often is most efficient and leaves room for awkward or larger containers and bigger pieces of gear than can’t be squished (like my stove and pot), I also find a bunch of stuff sacks or dry bags is awkward to pack around and often leaves my bag lumpy and the weight unevenly distributed.
I use Nuun electrolyte tablets when I’m running, they come in little reusable tubes that I keep and fill with snacks or matches to keep them dry, these tubes are super light and packable and are usually found inside most of my bags on adventures.
Thermos filled with wine before heading out, the same thermos can then store tea before bed, and coffee in the morning
I hope these tips and tricks can be helpful on your journey to lower waste outdoor recreation! It’s important to remember to always make sure you are safe and supported when pursuing adventure in the wild, and are gentle on yourself as you learn and experiment with new techniques and methods.
Low-Waste and Adventure Influencers + Organizations to Check Out @pattiegonia @novacamp.ca (If you’re in Halifax they rent high-quality gear to fuel your adventures and promote sustainable and affordable adventure) @she_explores (their blog has a number of wonderful articles on sustainable adventure and low-waste travel) @katieboue @naturechola @cerowastecindy (Cindy is an incredible low waste adventure inspiration, featured in an informative article for the Adventure Journal)
@nativeoutdoors (An organization empowering indigenous communities through outdoor adventure products and storytelling for a sustainable world)
@melaninbasecamp (they have an incredible article about how to be a better ally and start working towards change in outdoor recreation)
Niki is an outdoor enthusiast whose passion for recreation and environmental education has led to a career in guiding and instructing from coast to coast. As a guide and educator, Niki is constantly experimenting with and researching ways to make choices in the outdoor industry that can promote a greater awareness of low-waste and sustainable options. She enjoys squishing as much as possible into a backpacking bag, usually by climbing in and stomping on all of her layers. You can follow along with her adventures on Instagram @nikiloretta