Greener Camping

15 Ideas for Your Next Camping Trip

October 18, 2020
By: Team Keystone

You camp for lots of reasons, but being outside and enjoying our natural world is probably at the top of that list. Breathtaking painted deserts, prismatic hot springs, giant redwood forests, crashing waterfalls, or simply a quiet corner of a campground with fresh air and the sounds of wildlife. Taking it all in, this is why we go outside. 

Taking care of our earth is important. Leaving no trace - matters. 

In that spirit, we thought we’d share a few ways that you can help reduce your impact and enjoy an environmentally friendlier camping trip.

1. Self Sustaining Power

Think solar power and rechargeable batteries. Especially for headlamps and lanterns. Big or small, solar is becoming more and more of an option these days. From powerful, folding solar power chargers, to fifth wheel roofs covered in solar panels, the power of the sun is a great source to energize your camp. Another option is to purchase a unit that is prepped for solar and install your own custom solar later. Really, the options are nearly endless when it comes to solar outfitting. 

Hand holding blue bowl underneath tap in stainless steel sink.
2. Careful water usage 

When it’s time to wash dishes, use a natural, biodegradable soap. Our go-to is Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap. Why? Because not only is it great for dishes, it can be used for your hair, body, face, pets – the PERFECT go-to for packing savvy campers.  Don’t forget to keep you energy consumption down by using warm (NOT HOT) water.  While we’re on the subject of water, Keystone’s Alpine brand just introduced new on-demand water heaters. They use less energy and make it easy to hurry up and get in and out of the shower or quickly wash dishes. 

Install a shower head that puts in some extra work. Eli Logue and Anna Wilson from Beautiful and Bizarre use the Ecowater Spa shower head, which reduces toxins in water and decreases water consumption by up to 30%.

Get more time between laundry days with a dry wash re-wear spray like this Lavender & Argan Oil Dry Wash Spray. 

3. Coffee (hold the electricity)

Consider an Aeropress for coffee. This one is mega popular in campsites everywhere. Our friend, The Flipping Nomad, uses one every single day. It works like an upside down french press, basically. Although you can use any store-bought coffee, whereas with a french press you'd be better off sticking to coarse-ground coffee. Speaking of french press, those are also an excellent non-electric coffee option. But, if pressing isn't what you want to do, you can always go with a pour-over. We think this one looks like a piece of decor. And if cold brew is more your style, there are so many options! You can even get one that makes coffee right into a mason jar.

Someone pouring boiling water into aeropress coffee maker.
4. Reusable stuff

Make the move from plastic cutlery, disposable cups and plates, paper products to their reusable counterparts. We love this great bamboo utensil set from To-Go Ware. Bamboo is a terrific earth-friendly non-toxic material for dinnerware too. Melange offers reusable bamboo dinnerware that’s so cute you may end up using it at home and in your camper. Use reusable water bottles like a Hydro Flask or a Nalgene water bottle, and get a good thermos for your coffee. Really, you can pick up things like this at any supermarket.

5. Keep plastic out of it

Don't bring along things that come in plastic wrappers or bags. Instead, snack on fresh fruit or granola that you prepare and store yourself. You could throw together a trail mix with nuts and dried fruit. Here’s where it comes in handy to have a floor plan with great storage.  Our environmentalist friends, Eli and Anna, use a Zero Water pitcher - a water pitcher with a built in filter providing clean drinking water. This cuts down on expenses associated with purchasing water, and cuts down on plastic waste when used with a reusable water bottle, cups and when preparing meals.

Try to keep plastic out of the campsite altogether, and recycle any plastic you use. An alternative is a beeswax food wrap. We love to use Mason jars for everything because they are so pretty! Plus the glass is such a great alternative to plastic, because it can be reused and sanitized countless times. 

6. Better paper products and alternatives

Bring a couple cleaning rags and try not to use paper towel for everything. Eli and Anna love using a shammy around the house. Choose a 100% biodegradable toilet paper which will break down completely in your holding tank.

7. Sort your waste

Pack out trash/compost.  There are some brilliant compost and trash systems you can purchase, and while pricey, are well worth the investment to reduce waste. Bring a few reusable trash bags, one for garbage and one for recycling, and another for compostable items. Make sure they are disposed of properly. Pack only what you can take in and out. You can even contribute to cleaning up public lands by partnering with companies like Thor and KOA who have the “pick up America” campaign, which is designed to encourage people to pick up trash in nature.

8. Better bug and sun defense

The best thing you can do is use physical protection like clothing, hats, umbrellas or natural shade provided by trees to avoid the sun. Long-sleeved clothing and pants will help avoid bug bites as well. Sunscreen and bug spray can be tremendously harmful to the environment. Sunscreens containing oxybenzone are harmful to marine life, and can cause problems inside your own body. Opt instead for a mineral sunblock, like Sun Bum brand products. In bug spray, ingredients like permethrin or permethrin-treated products can be toxic to aquatic life. But there are some very effective, natural options out there. Repel Lemon Eucalyptus - containing oil of lemon eucalyptus - is approved by the EPA for up to six hours of protection against mosquitoes. Pick some up at most drug stores. 

Straw hat, scarf and sunglass hanging on white beadboard wall.
9. Go with environmentally friendly cleaning and personal care products

Go green with cleaning products, too, because whatever goes down your drain ends up in gray tank which is often emptied into a sewer. Remember what you use will likely make its way into nearby lakes and rivers. Go biodegradable with your soaps and toothpastes with products from companies such as Seventh Generation, and one of Eli and Anna’s favorites: Love Home and Planet. Other ingredients to look out for and avoid are BHA and BHT, Dibutyl Phthalate, synthetic fragrance, siloxanes, parabens and phthalates. Definitely do not bring an products with microbeads into the environment. You know what, we’re just going to say it. You’re camping. Skip showers and get a little dirty. You have our permission.

For lists of the very best products to use, visit EWG.org. The Environmental Working Group is dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. This non-profit, non-partisan organization is famous for their ingredient-highlighting content, including robust guides to bug sprays, cleaners and sunscreens. 

All natural and biodegradable holding tank treatments are an option. This one from Happy Campers has more than 1500 positive reviews on Amazon, scoring it a five-star rating. And always stick to guidelines when emptying your black tank.

10. Rent your gear instead of buying

Consider using rented camping gear, such as kayaks, backpacks and anything really! When you buy used or rent, you’re helping to prolong the life of an item and avoid the impact new items have on the environment. Maybe you invested in something nice you no longer use or you aren’t using it as much as you thought you would – consider donating it.

11. Peddle or paddle instead of motorized travel

We know how much people love their golf carts, but for less of an environmental impact, a bicycle is the way to go. Plus it’s better for you to get in some cardio as you travel around the campground. Same principle for water fun - kayaks, canoes, paddle-boards, peddle-boats, anything manually powered is better for the environment than motor-powered watercraft. 

12. Better campfires

We hate it (because we love campfires), but campfires are a source of air pollution. Try to be conservative with campfires and keep them small. If you use dry wood, it burns hotter and releases fewer pollutants. Make sure that fires are completely out when you’re done. Stick to assigned fire pits and don’t just burn wherever you want. A really great option is to use a camping stove instead. It’s also better to bring your own firewood, or purchase from a campground – rather cutting down wood yourself.

Couple relaxing on a hammock in front of campfire with a grate cooking steaks and vegetables in cast iron skillet
13. Hike mindfully

You’re outside! TIME TO BE FREE! But hold up – you still need to be mindful that everything around you is a living thing and you don’t want to cause harm. So take it easy. :) Do your very best not to disturb the land. Stick to blazed trails and don’t go traipsing all over the plants. (Do we sound like your grandparents, yet?) Try not to level the land if you setup a tent, and maybe leave the steel toed boots at home if you can help it. Wearing soft-soled shoes alleviates ground damage.

Two women walking thier dogs in the woods.
14. U-DON'T HAUL

Did you know you don’t have to own a truck to haul an RV? We took this tip from Eli and Anna of Beautiful and Bizarre. They prefer a small vehicle, but they love their Sprinter, so they pay someone to haul it for them. Maybe you like to own and drive a compact, hybrid car, but you really want to be part of the RV community, well, you can hire help to have that home on wheels towed for you. One of the largest RV transportation companies to offer this service is Horizon Transport. They cover all of the US and Canada.

15. Keep your RV cooler - naturally

Open up that awning and park in the shade. Both help your RV to stay cooler. This way you'll use less power and stay comfortable. Keystone RVs have deeply tinted windows and white roofs - this helps immensely with keeping your camper cool. Also if your RV has a better insulated floor, like Keystone's new Hyperdeck™ flooring, the unit will be better temperature controlled without the use of excess A/C.  

Just like when you're at home trying to cut down on home heating costs, same applies to camping. Bundle up! Instead of pumping up the furnace or making a huge campfire, throw on the blankets and layers.

Most of all, just remember the impact you can make – for better or worse.

You’re WAY better off taking an RV than flying. RVs rule, airplanes drool. Just kidding, we actually realize air travel is essential, but if you’ve decided that your next vacation is going to be in an RV, we think that’s a WIN. 

Have fun, be safe and clean up after yourself… and thanks for considering a greener camp.