One of the biggest reasons we choose to go camping is to be in nature. We want to be surrounded by the trees, the cacti, the animals, and maybe our friends or family.
For most of us, protecting these environments is just as important as the time spent in them so that we can continue to enjoy and explore our wild areas.
Sustainable camping practices and high-quality, eco-friendly gear can help you get the most out of your outdoor adventures. If we all do our own small part each day, we can help ensure our public lands are taken care of.
In the outdoor community, we talk frequently about Leave No Trace practices and which gear is best for the environment. Brands are increasingly coming out with products that reflect their customers’ needs for sustainability and environmentalism as well as ruggedness and durability.
In this article, I’m going to share some of the best ways to go eco-friendly when camping along with which gear to invest in when you’re looking to create mindful a camping kit.
If you start Googling the best eco-friendly camping gear, the most environmentally-conscious brands, or the most sustainable products, you’re going to get a lot of results. Bamboo-this and recycled-materials that, “no chemicals used here” and pledges to be more green and fair trade all over the place.
This is great and I’m so happy that brands are making the effort. And yet, you don’t need any of that stuff to get started.
Honestly, the most eco-friendly camping gear you can use is the gear you’ve already got in your possession.
Use the plates and cups and silverware from your kitchen (this is always a better option than opting for the single-use, disposable, plastic utensils and plates). Use the sleeping bag you’ve had for ten years, borrow the one from your neighbor. That wonky old tent isn’t flashy and sleek and new but it keeps the bugs and the rain out so go ahead and use it.
The second-best option for eco-friendly camping gear is to get your stuff second-hand. Go to your local used gear store and stock up. When your friends and family get new stuff, take the old gear off their hands. Check out what used camping gear we’ve got listed on the Rerouted website that would suit your current needs.
Some stores even have gear rental programs you could look into. Renting gear is great if this is something new that you haven’t done before! It’s cheaper than stocking a whole bunch of stuff for an activity you’re not sure you’re going to even like.
Keeping things out of landfills is one of the best ways to go sustainable and eco-friendly with your camping purchases.
That said, there are a number of gear companies making new, eco-friendly camping gear in the most sustainable, fair trade, and environmentally and socially conscious ways. So if you’re already a seasoned camper and want to get camping-only gear so that you don’t have to do the packing shuffle or if you already have your own gear that needs to be replaced and you want to focus on environmentally-friendly options, I got you.
When it comes to meal time, you’re going to find a lot more eco-friendly product options. This is one of the easiest areas to go green. As long as you’re not using disposable plates and utensils, you’re already greener than most new campers.
Let’s break down some of the most common camp kitchen set-ups:
This cookset is built to last with tough stainless steel. It’s sure to help you cook up tasty, nutritious meals for years to come, meaning that you’ll have less waste and gear turnover with its long lifespan. When the time comes and its lifecycle is done, the set can be recycled.
To-Go Ware is an all-around sustainable, eco-friendly camping gear company. They are Climate Neutral Certified, B-Corp Certified, and a 1% For The Planet Member.
This utensil kit is made from hardy and lightweight bamboo. The case for the kit is made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles.
This is a good addition to any sustainable camping gear collection!
Instead of using single-use saran wrap or foil or plastic bags, upgrade your camping kit with some reusable beeswax wraps. These work just as well as their plastic counterparts but are longer-lasting and made with organic fibers, wax, and oils. Even better? At the end of their lifespan, they are compostable or can be used as firestarter!
*Note* Do NOT leave organic material behind thinking it’ll biodegrade. Peels, seeds, rinds, cores, etc don’t degrade fast enough to make this a viable solution. What ends up happening is that this organic trash (yes, it’s trash) will dirty up the place and make it look gross. It’ll attract wild animals who will become reliant on it and lose their fear of humans. This can cause encounters that leave humans or animals injured or even killed. Pack the food in, pack ALL of the food waste out.
When you’re in the market for a complete set-up, this is a great option. With everything you need from plates and bowls to lids and cups, the Light My Fire Mealkit comes with everything you will need.
And even better, each piece is made from biobased plastics and are 100% BPA-free. The spork and cup are made from bioplastics from GMO-free corn and sugarcane, respectively. The other pieces of the kit are made from sugarcane with wood fiber-based bioplastics.
Chemical-filled fire starters and lighter fluids release toxic gasses into the air - and potentially into your food if you’re cooking over the flame.
These strikeable fire starters are made from a sugarcane byproduct (who knew sugarcane had all these amazing uses?!) and it is completely non-toxic. There’s no need to bring extra matches which cuts down on the number of things you could potentially forget on your next camping trip. The pieces will burn for up to 7 minutes which should give you plenty of time to pile on the kindling and make sure the flames are strong enough to keep lit.
*Note* Do not burn your trash. Most of the trash we create is a pollutant to the air and the soil.
Don’t burn your aluminum cans, plastic anything, or really most of the stuff you take camping. Pack it in, pack it out. I know having a bag of nasty trash in the car on the ride home isn’t fun but polluting and littering are even less fun.
If you’re living a sustainable, eco-friendly life, you’re likely already using Dr. Bronner’s. Their formula is made with organic oils and all-natural ingredients which means it’s easy on the environment and an excellent option to take on camping trips.
*Note* Yes, use biodegradable soap. No, don’t use it directly in your nearest creek, river, lake,
pond, body of water. Wash your dishes at camp, dig a hole, and pour the biodegradable soapy water into the hole at least 200 feet AWAY from the water source. The soap is meant to biodegrade but using it or disposing of it directly into the waterways can damage the local flora and fauna. It needs to be processed and filtered and put through the earth first.
Where your kitchen items are going to be fairly simple to take to the eco-friendly zone, tents and the like can be more tricky.
It’s not impossible to find recycled and eco-conscious tents and sleeping gear but it is more of a challenge. For this segment of your camping collection, I’m focusing on brands that make high-quality products (so that you have to replace them less frequently) with as much environmentally-friendly nuance as possible.
Tents can be hard to find created in sustainable fabrics and processes. I chose Mountain Hardwear’s Mineral King Tent for this section because of the company’s amazing lifetime repair warranty for their products. Being able to repair a zipper or snag in the fabric is an excellent way to lengthen the tent’s lifespan and keep it out of landfills.
They also keep their products free from flame-retardant chemicals which is better for you and for the planet.
The North Face is known for creating high-quality goods that last a lifetime. This sleeping bag is made out of entirely recycled materials aside from the zipper and that means that the sleeping bag is basically getting two lifetimes in one. The materials had a life before they became the bag and now they get to come with you on your adventures in the wilderness.
Big Agnes is another company long-committed to environmental protection. Their TwisterCane Sleeping Pad is made from 60% sustainably grown & harvested sugarcane (sugarcane! Again!) which helps reduce CO2 by capturing the carbon as it grows.
According to co-founder and President of Big Agnes Bill Gamber, the materials for this sleeping pad “will help lower the energy consumption, water use, and chemicals used for production.”
Depending on how you camp - whether you’re a minimalist or a glamper - you may be able to find more and different products that suit your eco-friendly preferences. I’m going to share some of my favorite products and brands for all the extra camping stuff here.
The Kula Cloth is the first reusable antimicrobial pee cloth for anyone who squats when they pee. This little piece of art and fabric can help you significantly reduce how much toilet paper you use, especially when camping, hiking, or out in the backcountry.
The company also prioritizes using non-toxic, eco-friendly materials that are manufactured and milled sustainably in the US.
Known for their colorful packs and garments, Cotopaxi is always an eye-catching statement piece. The secret behind their bright gear? They create with the fabric remnants of other outdoor gear companies.
That’s right. They take the leftovers and make new, colorful, unique products with them.
They are also B-Corp Certified and they donate 1% of their profits to education initiatives around the world focused on environmental good.
Patagonia has long been known for being a key player in sustainability and politics. It is a company known for putting its money where its mouth is.
Patagonia makes high-quality gear that lasts a lot longer than much of the competition and they do their best to keep the garments and gear out in the world. They have an excellent repair program in which you can send in just about any Patagonia-made gear that is in need of repair and have it fixed and re-usable in no time.
The Worn Wear program is a new platform where you can even shop for used gear which saves you money and saves more products from going to the landfill.
There are ample resources online when it comes to finding products or principles to keep your camping adventures as eco-friendly as possible and I hope this is a valuable resource for those of you doing the research.
When you’re looking for new gear of any kind, be sure to use what you have, repair as necessary and able, and then make mindful decisions about new purchases. Our used camping gear section has an ever-evolving collection of goodies and there are always new products coming out from mindful and sustainable brands.
Do your part to keep our wild spaces clean and protected so that we can keep enjoying them for decades to come.