For avid campers seeking sustainable solutions for camping and backpacking, there are numerous products available that can help make your trip energy neutral. In addition, there are basic actions you can take to reduce the footprint you leave on the earth. Camping is about getting back into nature and enjoying the stunning beauty of the woods, mountains or other areas. Unfortunately, it has for many people become common practice to haul as many amenities with them camping as they would find at home. The effect is that they bring many of their high energy gadgets and other wasteful products with them. This completely undermines the spirit of camping. To get back to the spirit and make it a more sustainable activity, consider some of these ways to reduce energy use.
It makes no sense to load up a car, truck, RV or trailer with hundreds of pounds worth of gear, equipment, toys or anything else and haul it several hours to a campsite. You’re better off staying at home. If the kids can’t find a way to be entertained without half of the garage items, why go camping? Portable television sets and microwave ovens are some of the more ridiculous things to bring along camping. Gas-guzzling recreational equipment can be fun, but between the fuel required for them and that which you put into your vehicle, you will spend almost as much as you would in a whole month at home.
Camping, then, should not be about hauling your home with you, but getting away from all of the amenities of home. Plan a nature-filled camping trip and leave the toys at home. If you’re going with another family, carpool. If you are not encumbered with children and are avid bicyclists, consider riding to your campsite. However you get there, do so conscientiously and don’t attempt to pack up all the distractions of home and bring them along.
If you plan on showering while you camp (always nice), invest in a solar hot water bag. It’s portable and easy to use. You simply fill it with cold water in the morning and set it in the direct sun all day. It has a thin solar panel attached to it which helps it absorb the sun’s energy. By the late afternoon, you are ready for a shower. They even come with nozzles and hooks for hanging. Portable solar panels for power generation are another option. Because they work best with a lead-acid battery for energy storage, it is best when car camping. Still, the panels will capture enough energy everyday to power razors, radios, electric stoves, etc. and the battery will store the power for a time.
Other sustainable items include solar powered lanterns and lights that charge during the day and emit light during the evening. They offer you nighttime illumination without having to haul propane tanks. Solar powered backpacks can charge portable devices while you walk, and there are even solar powered tents available.
Perhaps even more important than sustainable gear is the practice of sustainable camping. This means leaving nature in exactly the same state that you found it. It is poor form to leave trash behind at a campsite or disturb the natural surroundings of an area. When you wash cooking utensils, don’t use any type of detergent that could seep into the watershed or be harmful in any way. The goal is to leave your campsite without any indication that you were there.
Sustainable camping can be accomplished by using gear powered by the sun, being conscious of how you are getting to the site, and what you are taking with you, By practicing all around sustainable behavior when out in the wilderness, you are doing your part to care for the future enjoyment of the great outdoors.