By Alyssa Vincent
Camping is a great way to escape the daily grind, unwind, relax, and access great fishing and hiking spots. As fun as the outdoors can be, however, it’s important to minimize your impact on the environment. There are a lot of things you can do, from picking the right camping spot to properly disposing of your waste. Here are five things you can do to minimize your impact while still escaping in the great outdoors.
1. Pack Up Your Junk
You would think this would be common sense, but campsites have huge litter problems. Whatever is brought into camp should be packed out. Always try to leave the campground in better shape than you found it by picking up trash from others before you leave.
“Manmade products can take months or even eons to break down,” said Jason Ketterick, education and training programs manager for Tread Lightly!. “It’s also important to take all food out of the campsite so animals don’t trek to that location. Don’t burn your food or trash either, because the campfire isn’t hot enough to incinerate it and soon animals will come to think of the campsite as a grocery store.”
2. Go Solar
While bringing electronic gadgets may seem counterintuitive to the camping experience, it’s always a good idea to have some items just in case of an emergency. And when camping in an RV, solar energy is definitely the way to go over gas-powered generators.
“Many national parks don’t allow gas generators,” said James Atkin, a spokesman for Goal Zero, a portable solar company. “They’re noisy and terrible for the environment. Solar energy is a great, clean alternative.” (Check out The Campsite’s review of a Goal Zero solar panel and battery pack).
3. Camp in the Right Location
It’s always a good idea to camp in existing campsites at least 200 feet away from water, trails and other camping locations. Set up your tent in a non-vegetated area, and keep detergents, toothpaste and soap 200 feet away from streams and lakes, because those materials may throw the ecosystem out of balance.
4. Burn Responsibly
Pay attention to fire restrictions and use existing fire rings when possible. Instead of cutting wood directly off a living tree, use fallen timber. This not only prolongs the life of the tree, but provides a more enjoyable fire. When extinguishing a fire, let the wood burn down to ash, then pour water over it and stir. Dirt can also be used to put a fire out when water is not available.
There are alternatives when safety restrictions prevent you from starting a campfire. Extra clothing helps you stay warm, lanterns provide light and camping stoves allow you to cook.
“We’re not telling people not to have a fire. Just enjoy it in a responsible and safe manner,” said Ketterick.
5. Watch Out for Hitchhikers
No, not the hitchhikers who hold up their thumbs along the side of the road. The hitchhikers I’m talking about are much smaller. They are seeds and organisms that cling to your vehicle and gear. If you fail to wash them off, they can transfer to other places you visit. In extreme cases, dangerous parasites like giardia hitch rides from one location to another. That’s why it is extremely important to wash gear and vehicles after each trip.
If you’re one of the many people who will visit a state/provincial or national park this year, it’s important to consider your impact on the environment, and do your best to minimize damage.
“If all of us do our part, our favorite recreational sites will be around for many years to come. Whether you enjoy camping, hunting, riding ATVs or hiking, we all need to enjoy the outdoors responsibly,” Atkin said.