Camping out is a great way to return to nature. So, why not make it as natural as possible? Green camping and hiking are not only good for the earth, they enhance the experience of “getting away from it all.”
Packing-How to Decide What Hiking or Camping Gear To Take
Planning what to pack is the first step to green camping. Here are some environmentally-friendly tips on what to take on an outdoor adventure:
- Leave the plastic water bottles behind. Instead, take a refillable water bottle to cut down on recyclables.
- Similarly, take reusable dishes and flatware.
- Opt for one of the organic bug sprays to avoid exposure to unwanted chemicals that are bad for people as well as for the environment. Or even better, use an organic citronella patch or candle instead of spray.
- For sleeping bags, lamps, tents, stoves, and other such items, consider environmentally friendly products such as sleeping bags made from hemp, bags made from soda bottles, or “green” tents. Or, consider buying used gear–not only as another way of recycling, but as a way of saving money. See Outside Magazine for greener options when it comes to camping gear.
- Use flashlights that have long lasting batteries such as LED flashlights, or consider kinetic, or hand crank flashlights that don’t require batteries at all. Solar lamps are also a good option. Whatever the source, it’s important to have a lamp or flashlight that won’t fail when it’s needed most. No one wants to be away from the campsite in pitch dark.
- Finally, be sure to pack a well-stocked first aid kit. To the extent possible, include antiseptic gels, sunscreen, and other applications with 100% natural ingredients, that are paraben-free. If a recyclable pouch or container is used, it will be important to make sure the items inside are in kept in waterproof containers.
Observe Designated Camping Sites, and Stick to The Beaten Trail
The purpose of having designed camp sites is to protect plant and wildlife. So, be sure to choose carefully where to camp, and the follow guidelines and rules posted.
When hiking, too, it’s important to stay on designated trails. It’s not only a way to protect the habitat but it’s also for the hiker’s safety. Snakes sense vibrations and are less likely to be a threat on obvious trails. Off the beaten track, they may be startled by a hiker, and strike.
Follow Green Camping Guidelines for Building Campfires
Who doesn’t like building a campfire on camping trips? But follow these guidelines so that it poses minimal risk to the environment.
- Be judicious when building a fire. Use branches that are on the ground instead of cutting fresh ones from the tree.
- Use a space that’s already been used to build a fire rather than clearing new ground.
- Although campfires make good incinerators, make sure they are not used for plastics, foil, or other materials that release toxins in the air or don’t burn completely.
- Build small fires sufficient to provide warmth, light, and to prepare food, but resist the temptation to build a roaring campfire.
Leave No Trace, and No “Grey Water”
Another way of saying this is to take out what you take in, leaving the environment in the same state it was before using it for camping or hiking.
More specifically, it means not dumping such things as cold coffee or food scraps. The same goes for soapy water, or other liquids that are harmful to nature, that go by the term “Grey Water.” Instead, Grey Water should be disposed of in the proper manner-by capturing it in some type of container and taking it out when you leave.
By being mindful, it’s possible to enjoy the great outdoors and leave it in the same (or better) state than how it was found. Ultimately, green camping is potentially more gratifying as well. The closer one comes to using it naturally, the closer one comes to nature itself.
Five Winter Camping Tips
Having the right clothes, tent, and sleeping bag, getting the necessary permits, and watching for good and bad weather can make a winter camping trip a comfortable and fun time.
Winter Camping Clothes
Wearing the right clothing on a winter camping trip can make all the difference. When the temperature drops the key to staying warm is to layer up. Wear a synthetic base layer to hold in heat. A polyester mid-layer will help wick sweat away from the body so moisture doesn’t have a chance to cool it down. The outer-layer if clothing should be weather resistant to ward off anything from rain to heavy snow. A hat, socks, and gloves will all hold heat in well for the extremities. Always remember to cover exposed skin if the forecast predicts temperatures dropping below freezing. Finally, avoid cotton. Referred to as “Killer Cotton” by outdoor enthusiasts, once wet it doesn’t dry easily and can be a catalyst for hypothermia.
Four Season Tents
The tent is home when camping. When choosing a tent for winter camping ensure it has a rain fly or is a weatherproof single-walled tent. To keep condensation from building up on the inner walls of the tent make sure it has ventilation flaps that allow airflow in and out of the tent. Many tent manufacturers will give their tent a three or four season rating. If expecting snow a four season tent will be needed.
A Good Winter Sleeping Bag
If a tent is home when camping, a sleeping bag is the bed. When the mercury drops a warm sleeping bag will prevent a sleepless night. Check the temperature rating on the sleeping bag and confirm it is rated as low or lower than the forecast for the night. A mummy-style sleeping bag with a hood will hold much needed heat inside the bag. Down is an excellent insulator and is generally warmer than synthetic materials. But use synthetic if there is a chance the bag might get wet. Synthetic dries much quicker than down. A sleeping pad will also put a barrier between a camper’s body and the cold ground.
Winter Back Country Permits and Campground Closings
Before setting out on a cold-weather adventure, first ensure all the ducks are in a row. If the plan is to head to a remote back country location a permit will be needed. At the very least check with the ranger station or forest service and let them know the plan. If staying in a campground, make sure it will be open. Some campgrounds close during the colder months or have restricted hours.
Winter Weather Forecasts
Watch the forecast closely. Winter weather can change quickly. Check the weather online or with a ranger station right before leaving. If there are serious doubts about preparedness just wait. Bad weather can not only affect the camping experience, but also the driving experience. It is important to know the road conditions for the area.
Winter camping can be extremely rewarding if a few precautions are taken. Planning in advance and bringing the right gear and clothing will help any camper stay toasty, relax, and enjoy the beauty.