How to effectively “leave no trace” when you’re camping: Sustainable camping tips from Camp Master

Camp Master likes green. It’s the colour in our logo, the shade we associate with exploring the bush, and the classic hue we made our very first, iconic Camp Master chair. We also stand behind the idea of being green. By that, we mean camping, adventuring and exploring sustainably.

If you’re here, we can assume that (just like us) your favourite place to be, is out in nature. And by practising sustainable camping techniques, you’ll actively preserve the incredible bush spaces we’re so privileged to have easy access to here in South Africa. That’s why we’ve put together a nifty guide to sustainable camping, for easy reference next time you feel like being kind to Mother Nature. She deserves it.

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Why is sustainable camping important?

Sustainable camping is important because it helps to minimise the negative impact camping has on the environment by leaving your campsite in its most natural state and reducing the waste you produce, as well as your carbon footprint. Camping sustainably also helps preserve nature for future generations to enjoy, maintains the balance of ecosystems, and encourages individuals to take personal responsibility for their impact on the environment.

You know how you want all your friends and family to love outdoor adventure the same way you do? By being mindful of your impact on nature, you’re contributing to a world in which everyone gets to enjoy it. Additionally, sustainable camping can benefit local communities by promoting ongoing tourism and supporting local businesses, which is critical to the rural settlements in our country. When you choose to camp in an eco-friendly way, you’re choosing to contribute positively to the health of our planet. You’ll be having fun AND doing good!

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The ‘Leave No Trace’ Principles

The Leave No Trace principles are a set of guidelines, first conceptualised in the 1960s in the United States. These guidelines were created to minimise the impact of outdoor activities on the environment.

They encourage outdoor enthusiasts to be responsible and mindful of their impact on the environment, ensuring that natural areas remain preserved for future generations to enjoy. We encourage you to follow these seven golden rules next time you head off on an adventure.

  1. Plan ahead and prepare.
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  3. Dispose of waste properly.
  4. Leave what you find.
  5. Minimise campfire impact.
  6. Respect wildlife.
  7. Be considerate of other visitors.

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Choosing eco-friendly campsites

One of the most significant choices you can make in your sustainable camping effort is where you choose to stay! Selecting a low-impact campsite involves a few considerations, which you should bear in mind when picking a spot:

  •   Look for established campsites – Use already existing campsites whenever possible to minimise your impact. Look for campsites with designated fire rings, designated tent-pitching spots, and other amenities to reduce your harm to the natural area. This may prove difficult on wilder expeditions, but it’s very achievable for the casual camping trip. South Africa is choc-full of incredible sites for you to explore!
  •   Choose a durable surface – When selecting a campsite, choose a durable surface such as gravel, rock, or sand. Avoid fragile ecosystems like meadows, wetlands, or vegetation-covered areas. If you’re crushing or disrupting anything, pick a new place. That environment was there before you!
  • Stay away from water sources – Camping near water sources can have a significant impact on the ecosystem. Avoid camping within 200 feet of lakes, streams, or other bodies of water to reduce the harm you cause to aquatic habitats. Especially if you’re upstream from a water catchment point or settlement, careless treatment of water sources could harm people, animals and plants alike downstream.
  •   Avoid disturbing wildlife – Avoid camping in areas where wildlife may be impacted or disturbed, such as game trails or nesting areas. You wouldn’t want strangers pitching a tent in your lounge, so give the fauna and flora in your camping area the same respect!
  •   Take out what you bring in – Yes, even your rubbish! Leave the campsite cleaner than you found it, and pay it forward to the next campers who might want to use the area. We know it can feel like a schlepp to be really meticulous about cleaning up after a weekend of fun, but if everyone is mindful of the space they’re leaving behind, our natural spaces will stay pristine.

Reducing your carbon footprint while camping

Aside from your immediate effect on the environment you choose to camp in, sustainable camping also means reducing your carbon footprint. Climate change threatens to drastically harm the adventure spaces you love, so making these easy changes to your camping procedures is crucial to keeping your favourite spots awesome:

  1. Use eco-friendly gear

Choose camping gear made from sustainable materials and avoid single-use products whenever possible. Later in this guide, we’ve added a list of some handy reusable swap-outs for consumable products with Camp Master gear, so keep reading for a quick fix – available at a Game, Makro, or Builders’ Warehouse near you.

  1. Bring reusable containers

Instead of using disposable cups, plates, and utensils, bring reusable containers that can be washed and used again. Not only will this reduce the amount of rubbish you have to take out with you, but it will also reduce expenses if you’re a frequent adventurer, and keep you mindful of cleaning up, so you won’t have such a big job when your excursion comes to an end. Don’t forget to bring a container for your leftover braai meat – it makes a great addition to a hike breakfast the next day!

  1. Take it easy on campfire cooking

We all know that one of the best parts of a camping trip is the campfire. However, after a long day outside, waiting for a fire to burn down to embers to cook food on can take ages, and while campfires are enjoyable, they can have a significant impact on the environment. Why not build a roaring, short-duration fire and cook up your evening meal on a gas stove?

You can cook quickly and enjoy chatting around the fire, then get to bed early without burning far too much wood and potentially eating some dodgily braai-ed meat.

  1. Use a solar charger

As South Africans, we all already know that solar power is the name of the game! By bringing a solar charger to recharge your electronic devices instead of relying on traditional power sources, you’re using a clean source of energy without negative carbon footprint implications. If you’re in a more remote area that doesn’t have traditional power points, solar charging is also a much less environmentally harmful choice than relying on batteries, which are difficult to dispose of in an eco-friendly way.

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Tips to minimise waste on camping trips

Because you’re going to be taking out what you’re bringing in, it’s both sustainable and convenient to minimise the amount of waste material you produce on your camping trip. Though we’re certain you’re already mindful about avoiding littering or bringing in tons of rubbish, here are a few creative ways to cut down on that garbage even further:

  • Compost food scraps: Instead of throwing food scraps in the bin, bring a compost bucket and compost them. This can help reduce the amount of waste you generate and create nutrient-rich soil for plants. This is also a sealable container you can take home!
  •  Use solar-powered camping gear: Consider using solar-powered camping gear, such as solar-powered lights and chargers. This can help reduce the number of batteries and other disposable energy sources you use. It also means you won’t be stuck on the last night without any light because you underestimated how many batteries to bring on your adventure.
  •  Bring a portable water filter: Instead of relying on bottled water or boiling water, bring a portable water filter that allows you to drink water from natural sources. This can help reduce waste from disposable water bottles and energy used to boil water. There are a myriad of portable filters available on the market to suit any type of excursion and budget – but avoid the disposable ones, as those will just contribute towards the waste you produce.
  •  Use cloth towels and serviettes: Instead of using paper towels and serviettes, bring cloth towels and napkins that can be washed and reused. This can help reduce waste and save money, as well as allow you to add a little personal flair to all your camping table settings!
  •  Use natural bug repellents: Instead of using chemical bug sprays – even though we love our trusty Peaceful Sleep – try using natural bug repellents, such as citronella candles or essential oils. This can help reduce the amount of harmful chemicals released into the environment, and often much milder on the nose, too. Your tent doesn’t need to smell like the inside of a laboratory to avoid itchiness.
  •  Repurpose items: Instead of throwing away items that you no longer need, find ways to repurpose them. For example, use empty jars as storage containers or turn an old t-shirt into a cleaning rag. You can check out some fun DIY Camping Hacks in another one of our blog articles, here.
  •  Choose low-waste meals: Plan your meals in advance and choose low-waste options, such as one-pot meals or meals that use ingredients that can be used in multiple dishes. This can help reduce food waste and packaging waste. As tempting as elaborate campfire banquets every night might be, you’ll thank yourself for keeping it simple when it’s time for clean-up.

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Safe disposal of grey water while camping

Grey water is the wastewater that’s the product of activities such as washing dishes, cooking, and personal hygiene. Safe disposal of grey water while camping is important in reducing your trip’s impact on the environment and preventing the contamination of water sources. Though runoff might seem innocuous, even slight chemical changes can harm delicate biomes, so greywater etiquette is an essential part of the best practices of sustainable camping. Here’s how we do it:

  1. Using biodegradable soap

Use biodegradable soap to minimise the impact of grey water on the environment. Avoid using regular dish soap, which can be harmful to aquatic life, and can get into and weaken root systems near your campsite, causing erosion.

  1. Disperse grey water

Throw out your grey water at least 100 metres away from water sources to minimise contamination. Use a bucket or a collapsible sink to collect grey water, and then disperse it over a wide area. Don’t just dump it in a puddle. Go on – take a walk for environmental responsibility.

  1. Use a strainer

Use a strainer to remove food particles and debris from grey water before dispersing it. This will help prevent clogs in drainages and stop wild animals from being attracted to your campsite by the smell of last night’s delicious dinner scraps.

  1. Use designated greywater disposal areas

Some camping areas may have designated greywater disposal areas. If so, you’re in luck! Follow the guidelines provided by the camping area and dispose of grey water properly, and your impact on nature will be lower than ever.

  1. Pack out grey water

In areas where greywater disposal is not allowed, take your greywater out with you in a sealable container and dispose of it properly in a designated area. Usually, a drain on the road home will work.

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Sustainable camping substitutes

Now that you’re convinced about the value of sustainable camping and you’re ready to try it for yourself, you might need to get your hands on some extra gear to help the process along. There are just a few of the useful swaps you can make with Camp Master gear:

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When you love something, you take care of it. The bush is no different. By being mindful and aware of the impact we’re leaving on the environments we choose to enjoy, we ensure that others can experience the same wonder we did in nature.

As an avid outdoorsman, it’s your responsibility to minimise the harm you do to the planet while camping and Camp Master products are specially designed to help you do just that! Start your sustainability adventure when you shop our products at a Game, Makro or Builders’ Warehouse near you.

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