It’s nearly summer… which means more time spent outside! Whether you’re camping, hiking, backpacking, doing #VanLife, or just road tripping, it is important to be mindful of the impact you create on your journey – and ensure you #LeaveNoTrace. This means packing up the waste you produce, and leaving natural spaces as untouched as possible. Join us below as we jump into what “Leave No Trace” is all about, and our favorite eco-friendly essentials for camping, hiking, and getting into nature (without leaving a trace!)
The concept of Leave No Trace has roots in backcountry exploring – but has been modified and adapted over the years to be used in a variety of settings, from local parks, to your own backyard, to remote adventures. There are 7 Principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead & prepare, travel & camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, and be considerate of other visitors. For the purpose of this blog, we’ll be focusing on planning ahead & preparing, and dispose of waste properly – but you can dive into the 7 Principles more here.
Whenever possible, we suggest packing reusable items that can be packed up and taken back home with you. This will reduce the amount of waste produced while on your adventure – and allow you to reuse the same products again and again for future trips. Because it is likely you’ll have limited space for packing, always look for multi-purpose items! Let’s start with some of our favorite gear.
A good towel is essential for any adventure! Great for cleaning up messes, drying off hair and clothes, sitting and laying on top of, and anything else you can think of, this towel is made from recycled polyester – making it quick drying and super absorbent. It comes with a stuff sack, and packs down to the size of a wallet, which makes it easy to toss in your favorite travel bag.
If you’re carrying around a water bottle, baseball cap, or anything that you need readily at hand, we suggest investing in a carabiner. This S-shape carabiner hooks your essentials to your backpack, belt loop, or camping gear – ensuring it isn’t lost at the bottom of your bag. It can hold up to 25 pounds, and has a flat, low profile that makes it great for travel.
A good bandana is our favorite multi-purpose pack, especially in the somewhat post-pandemic times we live in. Made from 100% organic cotton, this bandana can be used as a face covering, handkerchief, head scarf, sweatband, on your dog, for a touch of style, and so much more. Plus it is lightweight, durable, and breathable, and United by Blue removes 1 pound of plastic from our waterways for every purchase.
Going on a shorter adventure or day trip? Our go to is a utility style fanny pack to hold just the essentials. It’s made from durable recycled polyester, and has adjustable nylon straps, a secret interior pocket, and a padded mesh back. It will fit your phone, wallet, keys, dog treats, snacks… whatever you need to keep on-hand and at the ready.
If you need a bit more packing space for your journey, you can’t go wrong with any Cotopaxi backpack. They repurpose durable nylon scraps produced from other factories that would be going to the landfill – and create unique, funky, and well-designed bags for hiking, camping, and traveling. This one has features like ultra light mesh shoulder straps, an internal sleeve divider and hanging pocket, a zippered front pocket, adjustable sternum strap, dual side mesh pockets, and a whole lot more.
Whether you just need a snack on your hiking trip, or plan to pack food for a several day journey, it is important to have the reusable mealtime essentials you need so that you don’t produce single use waste. If you’re starting from scratch and need everything for your trip, this meal kit is an amazing all in one set. Made entirely from bioplastics from corn and sugarcane, it comes with a collapsible cup, spork, cutting board/strainer combo, two food storage containers, and a plate and a deep bowl (and a storage bag!) It is lightweight, easy to clean, BPA free, and durable. Although it is not included in the kit above, this brand also makes a Biobased Travel Spice Shaker, which is amazing for making camping meals more flavorful without wasteful paper seasoning packets. If you only need a plate and not a whole set, check out this Stainless Steel Camping Plate!
We all love finger food and snacks – but after a long day of hiking, it can be nice to sit down and have a meal with true utensils. This utensil kit has 2 stainless steel straws, 1 silicone straw tip, 1 stainless steel spork, and 1 set of stainless steel chopsticks, all packaged in a recycled polyester case with a carrying loop you can clip to your bag.
Still using single-use plastic water bottles? Not only are they terrible for camping because they leak and get warm easily, they create a ton of plastic waste. A good insulated water bottle like this one can be easily refilled – and keep warm drinks warm, and cold drinks cold… and won’t spill all over your stuff. This one features a loop top that can be easily paired with your favorite carabiner!
We’ve put this fan-favorite in the mealtime category… but let’s be real, it can do just about anything. A twist on the classic Stasher bag, this pouch features a recycled aluminum carabiner to hook to your belt loop or backpack. The silicone is dishwasher, microwave, oven, and freezer safe – and is leak-proof. Use it for food storage, a wallet, a dry bag, toiletries, you name it.
Last but not least, coffee! A good day on the trail can’t start without caffeine. This zero waste portable coffee filter is reusable and made in the USA from GOTS Certified organic cotton. It is lightweight, easy to pack, and features a curved metal handle for easy pouring…. And delivers robust, crisp coffee with no paper filter taste (or waste!)
Wearing sunscreen is important every day – but even more so when you’re out exploring! Mineral sunscreens like this one are made from reef safe ingredients, and won’t damage ecosystems if they wash off in rivers, lakes, waterways, or oceans. The metal tin ensures sunscreen won’t accidentally spill in your bag, and the formula (with just 6 ingredients!) is water resistant for 80 minutes. Protect your skin, protect the planet.
Accidents happen, and keeping a first aid kit in your camping gear or car is essential. But… most first aid kits use a lot of single use items to stay sanitary. These compostable bamboo bandages are sterile and single-use – but are compostable and biodegradable at the end of their life, unlike conventional bandages. Great for small knicks and cuts, the bamboo fiber is breathable yet durable. Just pair it with a natural Ouch Ointment like this one from Tierra & Lava! Although they are compostable, please always pack them up with your supplies after use, and properly dispose of them when your adventure is over!
If your adventure is going to take several days, you’ll want to bring your favorite toothpaste tablets and a bamboo toothbrush! These zero waste, plastic free tabs from Unpaste are amazing – you can grab as many as you’ll need for your trip, and pack them separately to reduce how much weight you’re carrying. The packaging is compostable, and the tablets are vegan and cruelty free. Just chew, brush, and your teeth will be left sparkly and clean!
Give your scalp and hair a refresh… no shower required. This powder shampoo is slightly different from a dry shampoo, or a traditional shampoo, because it is a concentrated powder that can be activated by water. Just pour about a 1/4 teaspoon into your hand and add some water, then rub it between your palms to get it foaming and massage into your scalp!
Although these are some of our favorite products, there are tons of products you can use while exploring nature to ensure you #LeaveNoTrace. Always plan ahead, invest in reusables, and pack up any waste you do create. What are some of your favorite tips and tricks to reduce waste while camping or hiking? Let us know in the comments below!