How To Camp on a Budget with Minimal Impact (but Plenty of Comfort)

green camping

How to camp, whether you’re planning a journey into the backcountry (or just some car camping at a nearby state park): These eco-friendly techniques will help save money and keep Mother Nature just as you found her.

The city is scorching and everyone is restless. A long weekend approaches, and you’re ready to get out of town for some much-needed respite away from work, the phone and the Internet. It’s time for a camping trip.

Whether you really like roughing it (think 30 mile backpacking trip in the wilderness) or prefer “glamping,” camping is a great way to get some fresh air in the lungs, burn some calories, and spend some uninterrupted quality time with the ones you love.

But don’t head to Wal-Mart for disposable cups and propane tanks just yet. The best way to respect the great outdoors is to practice Leave No Trace camping:  be prepared, respect the trail and anyone you meet along it, and most importantly, leave each place you visit exactly as you found it. That means producing as little waste as possible, and taking whatever trash you do create with you when you leave.

With a little pre-planning and a few select gadgets, Leave No Trace camping is a piece of cake. Here are our favorite tips for planning an eco-friendly camping trip.

camping gear

Borrow or Buy Used Gear

If you’re an infrequent camper, you might not have enough sleeping bags, water bottles, tents, or backpacks to go around. Before rushing out to buy new stuff that you’ll only use once, ask friends or family members if they have anything they’d be willing to loan. If nothing turns up, check out peer-to-peer sharing sites like Craigslist, yerdle, Freecycle, or Swap It Green to see if anyone has gear they’re willing part with, possibly in exchange for something you’re not using.

camping cooking supplies

Use Reuseables

When packing cooking supplies for your camping trip, try to bring as many reuseable dishes, utensils, and storage containers as possible. To that end, avoid processed foods altogether. These “foods” are the boxed, canned, bagged, treats that are so convenient to grab, but not so healthy. And they just produce waste packaging that you’ll have to haul around for the rest of the trip (Leave No Trace, remember?). Bring washable plates, beverage containers, cutlery and napkins, reuseable bags for gathering up trash, and pack foods you’ll prepare in resealable glass or plastic containers.

biolite campstove

Burn Clean

Campfires (when allowed, always check with the Forest Service about fire bans in your state) are often restricted to prepared sites with fire rings to prevent accidentally setting the forest ablaze. Charcoal is terrible for the environment and a pain in the butt to lug around. If you are going to invest in new camping equipment, think about a high-tech stove like the Biolite (pictured above). The Biolite campstove can cook your meals with nothing but twigs (so you don’t have to go all lumberjack on the trees) and eliminates the need for heavy, expensive, polluting petroleum gas. Best of all, it converts heat from the internal fire into power for your mobile gadgets (if you bring them along, of course).

camping shoes

Tread Lightly

Rugged surroundings make most people reach for the biggest hiking boot they can find, but don’t! Big, heavy boots can tear up the ground and damage plants encountered on your journey. “If you’re out on a hard trail hike, then wear your hiking boots,” recommends Post Consumers. “However, if you’re just spending time in your campsite, then soft-soled shoes are your friends. They’re also the planet’s friends.” Great options are TOMS Shoes, outdoor sandals like Chacos or Tevas, running shoes, or heck, just your bare feet!

Images: Einir Pritchard, mgspiller, fboyd, Biolite, organisciak

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