8 tips for the most sustainable camping trip

A fire crackling away and keeping your feet warm while you roast a marshmallow.

The stars brighter than ever above you.

The fresh air.

The sun rising over the horizon and the sounds of Nature waking up for a new day.

 

Camping trips are truly the best way to enjoy Nature and disconnect from the fast paced world, to find some peace and recharge your batteries.

And if you think back at all the months we spent confined in lockdown for the recent pandemic, its no surprise many people are now looking at camping holidays for the first time. 

Camping trips are probably the most sustainable way of travel but we put together a list of tips, good for both first time campers and for the expert ones, to make your next holidays the most eco-friendly ever!

If you scroll all the way tot he bottom, we have also included a list of ideas for places to visit next in Australia, divided by State. We are blessed to live in a Country so diverse that there is an option for everyone... and if you want to share your favourite spot, leave a comment below!

 

1. Choose the right equipment

Before you run to the nearest camping store and get fully accessorized, ask yourself how likely you’ll be planning repeated camping trips and which equipment you’ll actually need.

If you are not a regular camper, a good idea for your first trip is to ask around and see what you can borrow from your friends.

When you are ready to buy new equipment, make sure to invest in durable and sustainably made products rather than cheaper alternatives.

After all, you’ve survived the first camping trips with your borrowed gears so now you can be sure you’ll put them to good use for many years to come!

The first thing you’ll be looking at will be your tent. If cotton options is too heavy and a silk one too expensive, minimise your impact by choosing tents made with 100% recycled materials. Pay attention to the waterproofing coatings used which must be solvent-free and toxic dyes-free.

The latest movement is for solar tents, made out of a solar-charging fabric that catches sun’s energy and can also re-charge your electronic devices. Quite cool, if you ask us!

The next most important pieces of equipment will be your sleeping bag, and the big debate will be choosing between a down sleeping bag (more eco-friendly) and a synthetic sleeping bag (vegan and cruelty free). Both options have their pro and contra, if you choose to go for the synthetic one, make sure to pick something made with recycled materials.

Lastly, you might check out eco-friendly camping stoves or a portable grill to cook over your fire (check out Biolite) and if you feel fancy you can look at portable showers (which operates without batteries or power but using with air pressure) and solar panels to keep your emergency phone charged (check this one out).

  

2. Pick the right time

Going camping is very much as visiting someone else’s house: you’ll be respectful of how they live, won’t damage the place and won’t visit at the wrong time.

When choosing when and where to go camping, make sure to find out if it’s mating season for the wildlife in the area so to not disturb the animals but also ensure a much more peaceful experience for yourself!

It’s a good idea to also avoid camping during high season as many visitors at once might put a strain on the surroundings and to find some spots still considered suitable for camping but less known and a bit off the beaten track. See next point on this.

 

3. Nature is not a souvenir

Those pretty shells, small rocks and flowers are not intended for your home décor so avoid taking anything away from the beautiful surroundings you find yourself camping in.

Similarly, try to stick to designated trails and camping spots, they have been chosen for a reason.

Yes, the view might be prettier a bit further ahead, a tree might look perfect for your hammock or a branch is in your way.

However, that area might be more fragile that what it seems: it might be in the process of reforestation, be home for protected wild animals or flowers and your stay will be disturbing the natural way of things.

So, avoid damaging foliage or levelling the ground for your tent and leave everything as you found it.

 

4. Meal prep and water supply 

Food waste is always a big no-no but when it comes to camping trips it has even more serious implications. If you end up with leftovers, spoilt milk or scraps of food, you won’t want to drag it around with you but unfortunately there might not be options to dispose of it safely.

Even if you are lucky to find a bin, it’s not nice to dump your rubbish in the middle of Natural Reserve, which could fly away with strong wind or picked and dispersed by birds.

Some would say you could bury it but some animals such as Dingos are known to dig to take out your food waste and eat it. And this is detrimental to their natural diet (plus you’ll also be damaging the soil by digging holes).

Luckily there are some options to limit your impact:

  • Do some research on local markets and producers: your food will be fresher, most probably even organic and free of unnecessary packaging and with lower carbon footprint. Plus you’ll help smaller farmers.
  • If you want to start prepared, make your own food at home and store it in re-usable food containers. If you choose to make something like stews or curries, freeze them and they’ll act as ice blocks to keep the rest of your food supply fresh.
  • Remember to pack some snacks such as home-made granola bars, muffins or dehydrated fruit to keep you going during your hiking and invest in some resistant Beeswax food wraps (like these) or opt for compostable cling wrap.
  • Pack a stainless-steel water bottle (will keep your water fresh for longer) or a water bladder and avoid single use plastic bottles. If you need a bigger water supply, opt for water purification tablets or for a bigger 10L water pack to limit your plastic waste.

 

5. Pack eco-friendly personal care products

If you are lucky enough to be camping next to a crystal clear river or the sea, you’ll probably can’t wait to jump right in but make sure you are wearing eco-friendly sun screen and insect repellent (like this one). In this way you’ll make sure to not damage the underwater eco-system.

You’ll also need to wash yourself: never do so directly in or near water and never use regular hand or dish soap as the phosphates they contain can promote algae growth in lakes and streams.

Choose a natural and biodegradable soap and wash yourself at least 50mt away from any water. These soap trial sizes are perfect to bring along without the usual weight.

If you can use your soap also to wash your hair is even better, if not, opt for one of these shampoo bars, smaller than normal shampoo bottles and plastic free.

Don’t forget to pack your toothbrush and a couple of eco-friendly toothpaste tablets which again will save you space and water.

 

6. Light fires responsibly (and sustainably)

The first thing to need to check (even before starting your trip) is if you are allowed to light up fires in the area you plan to visit.

Have a look at this wonderful blog which will give you tips for camping in fire-ban season (including choosing the right spot and how to stay informed about possible fire emergencies nearby)

When lighting fires, make sure you are confident in your knowledge and skills and follow these advices below to make sure your fire is as much sustainable as possible:

  • Don’t make the fire bigger than you need wasting forest resources for it.
  • Don’t us all the kindling around you, other campers will need them too. These beeswax firestarters are a great idea to limit kindling's usage altogether.
  • Only use dead branches you find on the ground and don’t cut branches off for your fire.
  • Don’t burn man made materials or rubbish, as even coated carboard containers will release chemicals and toxic fumes and the left over ash will have toxins in it.
  • Never leave your fire un-attended.
  • Make sure to extinguish your ashes properly, before going to bed and before leaving by:
    • Letting the fire burning down as much as possible.
    • Pouring several small amounts of water (or sand) until ashes are entirely wet
    • Use a shovel to stir ashes and embers and make sure they won’t catch fire again with a bit of wind after your leave.

 

7. Wash responsibly 

Similarly to personal washing, be sure you first wipe off any excess food and then wash your crockery at least 50mt away from any water source and if the area you are in allows dumping of greywater, then tip your wastewater on a different plant each time to limit the impact it’ll have.

If greywater dumping is not allowed, make sure you have a container to properly dispose of it later on.

Make sure to use biodegradable dish soap (like this one) and to avoid cheap cookware which will release chemicals when you cook and wash them (such as PFOA and PTFE). Opt for cast iron and stainless still options which are more durable and can be used over coals and open fires (always check the product details).

If space is a problem, opt for collapsible bowls and mugs, but if you are lucky enough to have your camper with you make sure to pack all your dinnerware and some great dish washing sink tablets as well.

  

8. Leave no trace

Always in life but even more so when camping, you only have two options for your rubbish: bin it immediately or take it away with you to properly dispose of at a later stage.

Go waste free as much as you can (with all the options we suggested so far) but for when you can’t, camping is not an excuse to skip recycling.

  • Bring at least two rubbish bags with you, one for general mixed waste and one for recycling to help sort your waste out when you are back home.
  • Use only home compostable bin bags (like these) so if you have to bin any waste you can be sure your bag will eventually degrade and leave no trace.
  • Make sure to close the lids of waste bins so that wind and animals can’t get in.
  • Leave absolutely no trace at your camping site.

Now…what are you going to do when nature calls?

  • Dig a hole at least 50mt away from any water source
  • Do your business and cover it properly afterwards so that it will decompose quicker.
  • Best practice is to bring a paper bag with you to take away your toilet paper back with you as it can be dangerous if animal finds it and mistake it for food.
  • Investigate reusable cloth wipes, that can be washed and stored in a sealable pouch when dry to be reused again.

 

Now that you are all packed, have a clear idea of what to do and are ready to start you next adventure, see below a list of some amazing places to go camping in Australia.

Ours is such an incredible Country for outdoor trips that we are sure there are plenty of secret spots we left out... if you feel you want to share yours, leave a comment below!

 

 

VIC

Great ocean Road – one of the most spectacular scenic drives in the World

Phillip Island – Penguins Parade

Grampian Mountains – Hiking destination

Yarra Valley – Wine tasting, cheese and chocolate

 

NSW

Jervis Bay - holds the record for the world's whitest sand beach

Mystery Bay – turquoise waters, rocky coves, surf beaches and fishing

Pebbly Beach – share your brekkie with wild kangaroo

Eden – whale watching

Lake Wallace – Blue Mountains

 

QLD

Whitsundays - Swim with sea turtles and rainbow-coloured fish

Fraser Island – 4x4 drive on white sandy beaches

Cape Tribulation – where the rainforest meets the great barrier reef

Babinda Boulders – Swim in Rock pools surrounded by the rainforest

Fitzroy Island - turtle sanctuary and snorkelling

 

NT

Ayers Rock / Uluru – Real outback in the Australia’s Red Centre

Kakadu National Park – cascading waterfalls, sandstone gorges and ancient rock art

  

WA

Rottnest Island - get a selfie with Quokkas!

Broome - sunset camel rides and walking along the dinosaur tracks

Exmouth - Ningaloo reef for snorkelling

Francois Peron National Park – Turquoise sea and pristine white beaches with a backdrop of red rocks (4WD only)

Monkey Mia – for a chance to feed dolphins

Margaret River – Wineries, tastings and best destination for surf

Albany – Elephant Rocks and green pools

Esperance & Cape Le Grand National Park - rugged coastal peaks and white sandy beaches voted the best in Australia (bonus: Kangaroos on the beach)

 

SA

Barossa Valley – Wine capital of Australia

Kangaroo Island - A mix of attractive small townships and fascinating wilderness

Eyre peninsula - Aquatic experiences and Australia seafood frontier

 

TASMANIA

Freycinet National Park – several amazing beaches to choose from

Overland Track - Australia’s premier alpine walk.

Lake Gordon + Lake peddler – Trout fishing and kayaking between ghost trees

Mount Field – escape to enchanted forests and see the Russel Falls

 

Cover photo by Laurine Bailly on Unsplash

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