In my mind, summer means several things. For starters, hailing from the southern U.S. as I do, it means heat, and its ever faithful companion, lethargy. It also means watermelon, consumed with juicy, exquisite gusto and dripping-down-the-elbow abandon. Summer means late-night dinners, and twilight dinner parties. It means immersion in water, be it creek-side, pool-side, lake-side, or ocean-front. Finally, it means camping. Setting up shop under the stars, telling tales around the campfire, wondering what things are going bump in the night outside your tent, and retiring and rising with the sun.
My youth, adolescence, early adulthood, and early mid-life (pretty much my whole life, now that I consider it) have been punctuated by immeasurably memorable camping escapades. There was the early childhood church group trip to Crabtree Falls, where my older brother got a fishing lure caught in his hand and I spent the better part of the evening succumbing to food poisoning. There was the outing, in junior high, at Cliffs of the Neuse, when it was so hot that the same brother and I dug a hole in the ground, lined it with a shower curtain (which, inexplicably, we had on hand), filled it with water from the nearby hand-pumped spring, and dove (er, more so, sat gingerly) into. There was the junior year of high school trip, comprised solely of friends-and mayhem. There was the college trip, full of co-workers from the French bakery where I worked, and loads of pastry and liquor (and exquisite hangovers!). Finally, there was the weeklong cross-country trek in 2001, with my oldest, dearest friend Bonner, as she relocated from Asheville to San Francisco for graduate school. It was August. There was a nationwide heat wave. Her car had no a.c.. The brakes almost burned out coming down a steep grade in the Badlands of South Dakota. The transmission on the Honda went kaput in Boise. We camped the whole way. It was one of the greatest camping trips of my life (and one in which my father is absolutely convinced a best-selling novel-and its accompanying blockbuster film-lie in wait).
Lately, lots of folks I know have been camping. Friends and family both near and far are packing up the gear and blazing trails into the great wide open. If you’re feeling the siren song of the camping maiden, I say, don’t resist. Succumb to the lure of life outdoors. To that end, I’ve rounded up some gear and tips for my “Small Measures” post today discussing several ways to green-up camping trips.
CLICK HERE for the rest of ashley’s green camping tips and gear ideas after the jump!
Outdoor gear outfitter extraordinaire REI has a wealth of eco-minded products available to today’s camper. You can view a number of those items here . I’m particularly interested in the Big Agnes Diversion Recycled Insulated Air Core Sleeping Pad , which is made entirely from recycled materials. Furthermore, a number of REI stores rent gear. What could be more eco-friendly than reusing the same sustainably produced items again and again? Pacific Outdoor Equipment similarly offers a green minded sleeping pad . Theirs is made from bamboo, recycled aluminum (for the valve), and a hemp draw cord.
The aforementioned Big Agnes , based out of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, offers a variety of eco-friendly sleeping bags and tents in addition to their sleeping pads. The Salt Creek 2 tent is made from recycled materials and also omits the use of certain noxious chemicals often used in tent manufacture. If you’re looking for solar-powered flashlights, hand-crank radios, portable lightweight camping stoves, bamboo utensils, and portable energy generators, check out this link from Modern Eco Homes where you’ll find a bounty of low-fi goods for green camping.
If, like me, you enjoy a nice sweat whilst camping and hiking but don’t want to be a mess of stench and grime for the duration, check out this PVC-free solar shower from Seattle Sports. Now you can get your camp on while managing to stay so fresh and so clean . While you’re at it, you might want to consider Burt’s Bees All-In-One-Wash for sudsing up all of your assorted and sundry bits in one fell swoop!
For those amongst us who need a bit of Joe to find their motivation standing around an early morning campfire, this stainless steel French press ought to do the trick. To find other great campsite culinary accessories, visit this expertly compiled post from Mindful Mama , which is packed with useful information for camping with children, as well.
Two other products you might find useful in your eco adventure include this stellarcope for checking out the nighttime show overhead and, for U.S. campers, Woodall’s North American Campground Directory . Weighing in at a hefty 2000 pages, Woodall’s is the guide that got me across the U.S. and back. During our road trip, Bonner and I would drive as long as we possibly could, see where the day took us, open up Woodall’s, find the state (and then city) we ended up in, and select from the camping options Woodall’s detailed as being available there. It was absolutely indispensable and I cannot recommend it enough, especially if you intend to do some serious road-tripping.
Also, if the gear detailed above meets your demands but exceeds your budget, consider borrowing equipment from a camping enthusiast friend. In exchange, you could make them a lovely meal, wash their car, housesit, or offer a free night of babysitting. Additionally, I encourage you to check your local consignment (especially outdoor equipment suppliers) and thrift stores for gently used finds.
Lastly, as the adage goes, when camping or engaging in any outdoor activity, “take only pictures, leave only footprints.” Your time in the woods (or on the beach, or atop the mountain) should go undetected once you’re gone. To that end, here are a few tips for minding your manners outdoors:
-Trash in, trash out. Whatever rubbish you produce, take it home with you or dispose of it properly at the campground’s facilities.
-If at all possible, avoid the use of disposables. Bring reusable plates, cups, bowls, and utensils (as well as cloth napkins) with you.
-Stay on designated paths. Venturing off of trails can potentially imperil the fragile habitats and homes of wild-dwelling creatures. Furthermore, such areas can be treacherous, as they haven’t been maintained by federal agencies.
-Use non-toxic soap for washing up dishes, clothes, and yourself.
-Be certain to extinguish all ashes in your fire pit or outdoor grill before leaving the scene.
-Don’t burn anything toxic, such as plastic or metal, in your fire.
If you have any tried-and-true camping tips or bits of gear, I’d love to hear about them. Otherwise, spray on some of my Mosquito Mist , rub on some sunscreen, and head outside for wild, untamed adventures! -ashley