This week we offer a guide to clean camping. From meal time to personal hygiene, we share our tips to spend a few days and nights in Nature with a very minimal impact.
It’s been a couple of weeks since our last blog post, and I’ve been inspired to write about clean camping as I spent most of February in Nature. First on the road as I drove from Mudgee, NSW to Belgrave, VIC; And then in the forest on a friend’s property near Traralgon, VIC.
In case you missed it, you can read more about my permaculture work in Mudgee here, and about the concept design of my friend’s property here.
Camping and living outdoors can be great, especially in summer near a creek, but it can sometimes be challenging to stay completely eco-friendly and leave nothing but footprints.
Over time, we’ve learnt or come-up with a few solutions.
- Starting with our food shopping, we favour local, seasonal, unpackaged plant foods. Our shopping basket will mostly contain fresh fruits and vegetables, and individually picked as opposed to pre-packed. When we choose varieties that need to be packaged, like green beans or loose salad leaf mix, we use those mushroom paper bags. Often, we can reuse the same bags a few times and so we don’t have to grab new ones every time we shop.
- Also, as we don’t have a fridge in our car, we got used to buy less and more often during the warmer season to avoid wastage of foods that don’t hold the heat.
- And when we buy packaged items, we try to opt for recyclable options like beans in cans or pasta in carton; Unless of course we are near a bulk food store and can buy those things unpackaged as well.
With these habits, we managed to significantly reduce the amount of rubbish that we create, and it is then easy to keep it in a small bag until we find a red bin. You can also say goodbye to plastic bin liners, as our online shop offers small-size biodegradable and compostable bags.
- As for meal prep, we dispose of the fruit and veggie scraps in the same mushroom paper bags we used while shopping. You can also add paper kitchen towels or other paper-based product in the bag; this will help to balance-out the carbon:nitrogen ratio.
- When the bag gets full or starts to smell, we dig a small hole in the ground and bury it. The mix will usually decompose and turn into soil quite quickly, maybe in a couple of weeks. I don’t recommend doing this with animal-based foods like meat or dairy. The reason why is they can contain or attract bacteria such as Escherichia coli (Ec), they can also rot and smell if not buried deep enough, and they usually take more time to break-down.
Cleaning & Dishwashing
- When cleaning-up, we don’t systematically use detergent and most of the time, rinsing the dishes with clean water proves sufficient. For pans and other elements that would be too oily or too dirty, then hot / boiling water usually works really well.
- However, when you do need to do some serious dishwashing, then you can use non-toxic options such as our dishwashing soap or a DIY dishwashing liquid made from soapberries. We also range biodegradable and compostable scourers and sponge clothes.
- We all feel better when fresh, even when camping, living outdoors and feeling a deep connection with Mother Nature. And in order to keep her clean and free from toxins and pollutants, I got used to making my own toothpaste. It is super easy and super natural: 1 tbsp of bicarb soda, 6-10 tbsp of melted coconut oil, and a few drops of peppermint essential oils. You can vary the amounts to your personal taste, and you can choose a different essential oil such as sweet orange or clove if you prefer.
- If you’re not at all into DIY options, then you can try our peppermint toothsoap. It’s also completely natural and is handcrafted with love in VIC. I must warn that it can have a bit of a soapy taste at first, however most people quickly get used to it. It cleans the teeth really well and the tiny little box will last you a few months. Tobi and I are both using one at the moment, as we prepare to fly to Europe in a couple of days. Perfect travel format.
- Ah, what is best than bathing in a water stream in summer? Not many things, indeed! The act of just diving into freshwater is very refreshing and often, we’ll be able to do that for a few days and stay fresh and clean without using any soap.
- When we exercise more, whether running or gardening or building or else, and consequently sweat and need a deeper clean, then we sparingly use some eco-friendly soap that contains only natural ingredients. I’d use only on my armpits, intimate parts and feet. You could either use directly in the water stream, or fill-up a basin with water and find a private spot to wash. The reed beds and other water-loving plants act as natural water filtration systems as the water flows downstream so you won’t leave much trace at all.
- I should also mention that I stopped using shampoo a year or so ago. I’m very happy with water only, especially when staying in Nature. At home, I sometimes use a diluted solution of ACV (Apple Cider Vinegar) mixed with a few drops of lavender and/or rosemary essential oil. The ACV has a similar pH to your hair and will act as a conditioner. The only time that I’m using shampoo is after applying henna on my hair. And as minimalists, we have found a body & shampoo bar that we range on our eco-store in 2 different fragrances: orange eucalyptus, and lavender rosemary.
- If you find yourself doing some wild camping with no toilet around, choose a private spot at least 50m away from any body of water. Take a hand trowel with you and dig a hole at least 15cm deep for your deposit, cover with eco-friendly toilet paper as well as with any twigs and leaves that you may find around. This will help balance the carbon:nitrogen ratio and the breaking-down process. Bury with a decent amount of soil on top. There’s nothing gross about that. It’s organic matter in a closed-loop system and all other animals on Earth do it every day.
- Last but not least, a very honourable habit of clean camping is to walk around your spot and pick-up any rubbish that previous campers might have left. We like to do this the vast majority of the time and leave our spot cleaner than we found it. It is our way to be thankful for the beautiful experience and give back to Nature and the camping community.
Can you think of any other situations when you wondered about eco-friendly camping practices? If so, feel free to share your experience with us.
Till then, happy camping everyone, and remember the popular quote: “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.”