Travel & Touring | Camping & Caravanning

By: Kirsty Petrides

If you’re looking for a sustainable getaway, camping is a great option. But as with everything humans do, camping does have an impact on the environment.

So it's important to live by the 'leave no trace' principles, to ensure your camping trip doesn't disrupt or damage the beautiful nature that drew you there in the first place.

So whether you're a seasoned pro or first-time camper, here are some top ways to plan an eco-friendly expedition, and help you make sure you leave everything as you found it.

1. Camp on durable surfaces

As tempting as it may be to go completely off the beaten track, a footstep means different things to different environments. Camping on a gravelly river bank may not cause much environmental disruption but doing the same thing on fragile soil or on young grass certainly will. Trampling causes vegetation damage and soil erosion, and the time it takes for it to recover can take anywhere from one year to 25 years - so choose your locations mindfully.

2. Take out what you take in

Rubbish left in a national park can take hundreds of years to degrade, may get eaten by wildlife, or get blown away in the wind and pollute a nearby water source. Furthermore, the whole point of going camping is to experience the tranquility of nature, and there is nothing tranquil about turning up to a campsite littered with other people’s rubbish. So pack a large cardboard box or biodegradable garbage bag so you can collect and sort your rubbish, then dispose of and recycle it when you get home.

3. Reduce your waste altogether by packing smarter

You can reduce the amount of waste in the first place by bringing items with little or no plastic packaging, or removing unnecessary packaging on items before you go. Taking a pack of muesli bars? Remove the cardboard box and just pack them loose. Also, avoid disposable items like plastic cutlery and plates, and bring regular ones form home instead – it's very easy to give them a quick wash after use.

4. Limit chemical use

While it is definitely great to bring real dishes instead of disposable ones, it’s not so great to fill your washing tub with Morning Fresh and then throw it on the ground once you’re done with it. Those chemicals will be directly drained into the soil or can end up in water sources, damaging the natural environment. So opt for natural, biodegradable washing products, soaps and toothpastes. Wilderness Wash is an all-purpose cleaner that can be used as dishwashing liquid, soap and shampoo.

5. Bury your business

Proper disposal of human waste is important to avoid polluting nearby water sources, and the best way to do it is to bury it. Pack a trowel or small shovel and dig a hole at least 15cm deep and 200 feet from the closest water source to bury your business. Hot tip: this does not include your toilet paper, you'll have to pop that in a plastic bag and take that home with you. To be extra mindful, dig a separate hole to be your liquids pit and dispose of things like used dishwater and toothpaste. Just remember to pick an elevated spot where water would not normally go during rainfall or runoff - the idea here is to keep what you’re burying out of the water.

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6. Minimise campfires

While the thought of huddling around a campfire roasting marshmallows is idyllic, you should only set up a fire if you know how to do so. Bushfires destroy thousands of kilometres of bush each year, with many of them being carelessly or accidentally lit by inexperienced campers. Winging it when you’ve never tried it before is not a good idea, particularly in WA’s warm climate where bushfires are a real threat. If you are having a campfire, make sure you obey fire bans and restrictions, and ensure you do it in a safe, open area.

7. Use, rent or repair where possible

One of the best ways to be sustainable is to reduce your consumption. Before buying a new piece of gear, consider buying pre-owned, renting it or repairing the stuff you do have. The longer you can keep a product in use, the longer you’re avoiding the impact that new product manufacturing has on the environment.

Inspired to go enjoy Mother Nature?

RAC members save up to 20%* on campsites and accommodation at RAC Parks & Resorts.

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*Terms and conditions apply. Member rate varies according to season. See full website for details. 
Last updated: February 2020