Action Tips: Camping Green

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How to have a green camping trip

Every summer thousands of backpackers head into the wilderness. All that activity takes a toll on our forests and on what you see when you get there. Here are a few tips on how to camp a little greener.

Plan ahead

  • Before leaving home, strip the packaging from your food items. You can re-pack everything in zip-lock freezer bags that will last for many trips and can double as garbage bags on the way out of the woods.

On the trail

  • Stay on the path when you’re hiking. Cutting through from one part of a winding path to another creates erosion and can destroy fragile plant life.

The grounds

  • Camp in established sites. If there are none, then camps in a spot that’s at least 200 feet from lakes and streams. You can also minimize your environmental impact by camping on rock, gravel, or dry-grass terrains.

Keep the suds

  • Wash dishes and your body with non-toxic, biodegradable, phosphate-free soap. And please, don’t put soap into the water. Instead, bring the water to you.
  • Water spigots are filling up your water containers, not for washing your dishes or your hair, and certainly not for dumping. Dirty dish water can contain all kinds of bacteria. So please discard it in designated areas, away from fresh water sources and not in the bushes.

The flame

  • It’s best to cook on a small, lightweight camp store, but if you must have a fire, use established fire rings, and keep the fire small. Collect only fallen wood (if even that is allowed), and don’t bother with anything you can’t break with your own hands. You may even want to consider bringing your own firewood because gathering timber from around the campsite may threaten the forest’s future. When fallen trees and branches decompose, they return nutrients to the soil, feeding the surrounding trees and vegetation.
  • Don’t burn plastic, metals or woods that have been treated with chemicals.
  • If you use an outdoor grill, dump the ashes in your fire pit or dispose of them in designated areas. Just remember to douse a campfire with water completely when breaking camp.

Handling your business

  • Many campsites have bathrooms, but if you’re out of range of a latrine, find a secluded place at least 200 feet from the nearest water source. Dig a hole 4 to 6 inches deep and do your business.
  • It ain’t pleasant, but toilet paper should either be burned or packed out. To pack it, put a small piece of an ammonia-soaked sponge in your bag to help kill bacteria and odor.

When it’s time to run

  • Scour your campsite before packing up. Leave no litter behind. That includes food. Although you may not find leaving food items in your campsite littler, others may. Corn cobbs and chicken bones do not disappear overnight. And food left behind attracts insects.
  • When in doubt, try to leave the wildness as you’d want to see it.

A few more tips

  • Never tie your dog to a tree. This can damage the delicate bark and lead to the tree’s premature death. You’re better off using a screw-in stake.
  • Don't strip branches off trees for marshmallow sticks or to support a sagging tent.
  • Eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging by learning how to use a map and compass.
  • Bring resealable bags to remove your waste with you – human waste included.
  • Look but don't touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts you encounter while climbing. And certainly don’t build structures, furniture or dig trenches as you ascend.
  • Don't collect rocks, plants and other natural objects you find.
  • Steer clear of wildlife. Don’t follow, approach or feed wildlife. Not only does human food endanger the health of wild animals, but repeated feedings can alter their natural behavior, making them reliant on humans and vulnerable to predators.

Camping is fun. It should be a pleasurable visit to the natural world. By being responsible, you can keep that way for everyone else.

Sources:

Nomadik Outdoor Life Guide- http://www.nomadik.com/camping-hiking/green-camping-hiking/

Planet Green- http://planetgreen.discovery.com/travel-outdoors/eco-camping.html

Green Home- http://www.greenhome.com/info/articles/getting_away/36/

Total Escape- http://www.totalescape.com/tripez/camp/eco.html