Here is a list of some ways you can minimize impact when camping.
How far away is your destination and how do you plan to get there?
It is common for people where I live to pile into an over-sized vehicle and drive 4, 8 or even 12 hours to their destination. We all know that this is not an earth-friendly thing to do.
Consider the following to reduce your impact:
- rent heavier equipment from an outfitter close to your destination so you carry less weight on the drive there
- choose closer destinations, especially for shorter trips
- carpool when possible
- investigate alternative travel options (bus or train)
- if you don't already drive one, rent a hybrid vehicle for the trip
- ensure that your vehicle is well-maintained and the tires are properly inflated
- drive efficiently (gradual starts and stops, proper gear shifting, etc.)
- plan your stops ahead of time to avoid lengthy delays in finding washrooms, etc. in unfamiliar areas
- pack a lunch and/or snack for the drive; you can control your food choices and number of necessary stops better this way
- when carrying a kayak on a vehicle, use cockpit covers to reduce drag
If you live in Ontario, consider using Parkbus for transportation to and from your camping destination. Parkbus runs shuttles from Toronto and Ottawa to popular camping destinations. They also have partnered with Mountain Equipment Co-op to offer discounts on gear rentals. http://www.parkbus.ca
Your home away from home is a place you borrow from nature.
- respect the areas you visit as you would the home of a friend
- travel and camp in small groups--if necessary, split up a larger group into smaller ones for your trip
- only camp in designated or well-established areas
- leave the site as you found it: do not dig trenches, hammer nails into trees, collect rocks or plants, cut boughs for sleeping, etc. or otherwise alter the site in any way
- the best souvenirs from wilderness trips are photos and memories
How do you plan to handle waste?
Camping waste comes in several forms. Food wrappers, "bathroom" waste, graffiti, and garbage, clothing and gear items left behind are the things my family and I find most often.
- bring less waste in the first place: buy less-packaged items, re-pack what you can, and remove packaging from new items you bring
- pack out what you pack in: don't rely on items to biodegrade, no matter what the label may promise, it is likely to take much longer and have a negative impact if you just toss them aside or leave them behind--ALWAYS PACK IT OUT!
For more detailed info, see How to Sh*t in the Woods by Kathleen Meyer.
- always use any facilities provided; if there are none, choose an area well away from a water source and the main tent and campfire area, and away from any trails. Dig a shallow trench and bury your waste in the top 15 cm of soil
- toilet paper should be burned or packed out unless there is a proper facility (thunder box, outhouse, flush or composting toilet) in which to dispose of it; even buried toilet paper has a way of migrating and ending up as tree decorations most of us would rather not see
- Feminine hygiene equipment: Best choice is a reusable silicone cup, such as a Diva cup that you empty (in your latrine area) and wash as you go. Next best choice is 100% cotton tampons packaged in cellulose that do not come with applicators (health food stores carry these). Avoid any products that have excess material and/or plastic of any sort. Pack out or burn used materials (but do not burn plastic!) . Remember that the smell of blood can attract animals, and proceed accordingly.
- diapers must be packed out, no matter what kind you use; old-fashioned flat (unfolded, single-layer diapers you fold yourself) are easiest to wash and dry quicker than pre-folds and other sewn multi-layer versions; dispose of waste water in your latrine area (well away from waterways and campsites)
- cook only what your group will eat, and save or burn any leftovers
- wash your dishes well away from any water source, and dump your dish water well away from any water source
- if you fish, burn the inedible parts or leave them on a rock far from any campsites for birds to scavenge; be sure to pack out as much fishing line as you pack in, use lead-free weights and never use live bait
- do not feed the wildlife; wildlife fed by humans becomes annoying and unpredicatable, can become dependant on handouts, and can lead to the death of animals
- hang your food or make it animal-proof according to your location
- use a small portable stove for your cooking: deadfall is not wasted in nature and is used for habitats for plants, animals and fungi until it breaks down and its nutrients enrich the soil; also, a portable stove is more efficient at heating than a wood fire
- check if fires are permitted in your area before you set out
- limit or eliminate your use of campfires
- do not rely on fires for your cooking (use a portable stove)
- use a candle lantern for evening light
- only burn dead wood and burnable waste
- avoid moving firewod from area to area as eggs & larvae from invasive insects may be spread inadvertently
- keep all fires small; sticks and twigs you gather should provide plenty of fuel
- burn your fire in the established fire ring
- only add the fuel you can burn completely to the fires; when you are done, only ashes should be left
- be sure to burn any fires away from rocks or other natural features that could be marked by the fire
- never surround your fire with river rocks--water absorbed inside can cause the rocks to explode when heated
Lost and Left Items:
For more information about low-impact camping, read Soft Paths by Bruce Hampton and David Cole, or visit the Leave No Trace Canada website
- do not hammer nails into trees, cut down living trees, plants or bushes, or in any other way desecrate the areas you visit
- pack out uneaten food and wash dishes and bodies well away from water sources
- always do a second and third site-check to be certain you haven't forgotten anything (we always seem to find a pair of socks on our trips)
- carry a separate bag for garbage, and possibly another for recyclables
- cigarette butts do not constitute tobacco offerings to the Great Spirit; these do not readily biodegrade and need to be thoroughly extinguished and packed out
- whenever possible, pack out garbage left by others
- when purchasing small tools (especially rope, pocket knives and pot scrubbers), choose bright colours that will be easily seen and are therefore less likely to be left behind
- Avoid spreading your belongsings all over the campsite--keeping your camp neat and organized will help reduce the chances of leaving items behind