How to Avoid Single-Use Plastics When Camping and Hiking
Camping and hiking are great ways to reduce stress and connect with nature. However, these activities often involve lots of disposable plastic items that end up polluting the environment. As an environmentally-conscious camper or hiker, you can take steps to avoid single-use plastics while still enjoying the great outdoors.
Research Leave-No-Trace Principles
The most fundamental way to avoid plastic waste while camping or hiking is to embrace Leave-No-Trace principles. These guidelines promote responsible outdoor recreation through strategies like:
- Packing out all trash – Never litter or leave trash behind, even biodegradable items. Always pack out what you pack in.
- Properly disposing of waste – Use designated trash and recycling bins when available or pack it home if none available.
- Leaving areas as you found them – Avoid impacts like trampled vegetation, contaminated water sources, and erosion.
Following Leave-No-Trace principles demonstrates respect for nature and helps preserve beautiful outdoor spaces for the future. It should guide all your decisions about reducing plastic while camping or hiking.
Plan Meals to Avoid Disposable Dishware
Many campers and hikers rely heavily on single-use plastic plates, cups, and utensils for meals. However, with some planning, you can easily avoid these.
Pack reusable dishware like metal plates, cups, bowls, and cutlery. Choose lightweight options made from titanium, aluminum, or silicone. Use a mesh bag to carry dirty dishes while hiking.
Prepare food that doesn’t require dishes. For example, sandwiches, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and energy bars. You can wrap sandwiches and snacks in reusable containers or beeswax wrap. Rinse produce in the original packaging.
Share dishes with others in your group. Assign each person their own reusable plate, cup, and utensils to use for the trip. Take turns washing dishes.
Use Alternative Personal Care and Hygiene Products
Plastic bottles and toiletry containers are other common camping offenders. Try these plastic-free personal care alternatives instead:
- Bar soap and shampoo – Look foroptions wrapped in paper or cardboard. Use a soap saver bag.
- Bamboo toothbrushes – Swap out plastic toothbrushes for compostable bamboo options.
- Reusable razors – Safety and straight razors have replaceable blades, avoiding plastic waste.
- Refillable sunscreen – Decant into reusable silicone or glass bottles at home before trips.
- Reusable menstrual products – Try silicone menstrual cups, reusable pads and liners, or organic tampons with cardboard applicators.
Carry Reusable Bags and Containers
On camping and hiking trips, you’ll need bags and containers for gear, food, water, and other items. Avoid disposable plastic versions by bringing:
- Reusable shopping/grocery bags
- Resealable silicone bags or beeswax wrap for food
- Reusable water bottles and canteens rather than disposable plastic bottles
- Metal tins or glass jars for storing food or small items
- Canvas or hemp bags instead of plastic zip-top bags
The key is planning ahead and purposely leaving behind any single-use plastic bags, wrap, or containers.
Rent, Share, or Buy Used Gear
New outdoor gear often comes wrapped in plastic packaging. To avoid this waste:
- Rent gear from outfitters rather than buying brand new items. Many offer tents, sleeping bags, pads, stoves, and other gear.
- Share gear with others in your group so you can avoid duplication.
- Buy used gear from consignment stores, classified ads, or yard sales. Gently used equipment is inexpensive and prevents new plastic production.
Finding ways to reduce buying new disposable plastic gear allows you to make more eco-friendly choices.
Lead by Example
An important final step is leading by example. Demonstrate plastic-free camping or hiking to inspire your companions. Encourage others to try alternatives from reusable dishware to biodegradable personal care items. Together we can all help eliminate single-use plastics from the natural places we love.
Camping and hiking practices like Leave No Trace make these activities more sustainable. With some planning and commitment, we can easily avoid almost all single-use plastics while spending time in nature. Our small changes collectively make a tremendous positive impact.