Outdoors

Leave No Trace: Tips to Reduce Your Environmental Impact While Camping

environmental impact

Have you ever seen a raccoon sorting through a bag of neglected garbage at a campsite? If so, you understand the importance of keeping an eco-friendly mindset when camping.

Wildlife shouldn’t be eating our garbage. It isn’t healthy, and it’s not a good look for the campers who left garbage outside unattended. Don’t make the same mistake. With a little preparation, you can camp without having a big impact on mother nature.

Let’s go over some useful tips to reduce your environmental impact while camping.

Control Your Garbage

Keep garbage and recycling separate. Remember, garbage has no place on trails or in campsites. This includes food scraps.

When on a hike, bring along a plastic bag to hold garbage. Then you can put any food scraps into the bad to dispose of at waste containers. Our food isn’t healthy for wildlife.

The same goes for your campsite. Don’t throw food scraps into the woods near the campsite. Always dispose of them in garbage containers. This is better for the animals, and it’s better for you and your fellow campers. Nobody wants critters digging around their campsites at night.

Give your campsite a good “once over” before you leave it every day. When it’s time for you to leave, make sure you take everything that you brought to the campsite with you. Never dispose of garbage by burning it in a fire ring. This also attracts animals and leaves an unappealing mess for the next campers.

Watch Your Water

Water is our most precious resource. Keep that in mind when you embark on your camping journey. Swimming in certain bodies of water is hazardous to the ecosystem. Mind the signs and stay out of streams and ponds unless you’re sure it’s okay to swim in them.

The same goes for bathing. You don’t want to leave harsh soaps and chemicals behind in the water. Make sure your soap and other personal care items, like toothpaste, are biodegradable.

When washing dishes, stay in designated dishwashing areas around your campsite. If you’re in the backcountry, wash your dishes at least 200 ft away from water sources like streams and rivers.

Try to use as little soap as possible when washing dishes and make sure it’s the biodegradable kind. When you know you’ll be dumping your dishwater, remove as many pieces of food as you can to keep from attracting animals.

When planning your camping trip, bring a reusable water bottle for everyone in your party. Also, bring a large, refillable jug, like the Reliance Fold-A-Carrier Collapsible Water Container, to fill with potable water. That way, everyone can fill their water bottles from it.

Don’t buy disposable, plastic water bottles. They are terrible for the environment. The same goes for other types of drinks too. Water is, by far, the healthiest drink, so stay away from juices and colas that also come in disposable bottles. If you must have something other than water at your campsite, save the cans and plastic bottles for recycling. 

Reuse, Don’t Dispose

No matter what you decide to bring with you, always opt for reusable instead of disposable gear. We mentioned this earlier with water bottles. However, this concept applies to lots of camping items.

Use dish rags that you can wash, dry, and reuse instead of disposable items like sponges and paper towels.

It’s tempting to use paper plates and plastic utensils when you camp. They’re easy to throw away, but they’re also good at clogging up landfills. Bring along a separate set of dishes for everyone in your camping party. Wash and reuse them after every meal.

Buy your food in bulk and then separate it out into smaller, washable containers. Bulk food means less garbage to go in the dumpster when you’re done. Waterproof containers are great for the environment, and they’re also essential to keep animals out of your food supplies.

Remember, the Critters Were There First

Always keep the native wildlife in mind when you camp. Consider your time in the campsite like that of a renter. You’re only borrowing the area for a few days. Then return it to the animals just like it was before you got there.

Never feed animals when you’re camping or hiking. When animals start to rely on people as a source of food, it becomes more dangerous for them to live in the wild.

You should never approach animals in the wild. Larger animals can easily attack you if you’re not careful, and you can harm smaller animals easily.

Beware of what you leave lying around on your picnic tables and fire rings too. Birds can easily swoop in and grab food left out on tables. This isn’t good for the bird, and it’s not fun for you either.

Use Caution with Pets

Pets are great camping companions, as long as you follow a few rules. Never take pets on trails where they aren’t allowed. Most national parks ban pets from their trails. Before you go on your camping trip, do some research. Only bring pets to areas where it’s safe to take them around.

Always carry bags to pick up pet droppings. Remember, you want to leave the trails exactly as you left them. That includes not leaving behind dog poop. No hiker wants to step on that in the middle of a trail.

The same goes for the campsite. Always pick up after your pet when you’re in the campground. Dispose of pet droppings in designated garbage cans. Your neighbors will thank you for it. Also, make sure your pet has some basic obedience training under their belt before you go camping. Barking dogs are not pleasant in campsites, and they scare away wildlife if you’re on a hike.

Get your pet decked out in camping gear by visiting our website! We’ve got everything you need to make a camping trip fun and safe for your pets.

Practice Campfire Courtesy

Most of what we’ve already talked about is part of good, campsite etiquette. There are a few more rules to remember that impact your fellow campers and the environment.

Always heed fire warnings. If the area you’re in is under a burn ban, never light a campfire. The people in charge of implementing a burn ban know what they’re doing. You don’t want to take that risk.

Purchase firewood that’s local to the camping area and approved for state and national park use. This ensures you’re not bringing any invasive species into the area.

Make sure you build your fires in designated fire rings only. Once it’s lit, never leave a campfire unattended. Also, don’t make a fire if the winds are high. It’s too risky that it might catch on the neighboring trees or brush.

Lastly, put your campfire out at night before you go to bed. Before you start your fire, make sure you know how you’ll put it out. If you don’t have access to plenty of water, you should know how to put it out without water. Before you go off to bed, make sure it’s completely out and cool to the touch. Even one hot ember can cause a forest fire. 

If you follow the suggestions outlined above, you should be able to reduce the impact you have on the environment and still have an enjoyable experience camping.


How do you reduce your environmental impact while camping? Leave a comment below!

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