The weather is warming up, and here in Canada (and most of the USA too, I'll bet), people are revelling in the warmer weather by spending as much time as possible in the great outdoors. Whether taking off into the woods and mountains for some backwoods camping or setting up "camp" in a friend's backyard, many folks will be eating, sleeping, cooking, and playing outside for the next few months, and a fair bit of equipment is needed for all of these activities. We've rounded up some of the best eco-friendly camping gear available to ensure the smallest possible environmental impact during our outdoor adventures.
Reliable Big Horn wall tent
Reliable Tent & Tipi Company has been making tents since 1945, using canvas and natural materials for a variety of different shelter styles. If you’re looking for a 2-person tipi, or a luxury canvas villa for “glamping“, you’ll find it here.
The Fly Creek 2 Platinum from Big Agnes is one of the most eco-friendly tents on the market, and one of the highest rated as well.
MEC Equatorial bag
Unless you’re “glamping” in some 5-star yurt, chances are you won’t be nestling down between silk sheets. When you’re roughing it, a good sleeping bag can make all the difference between a great night’s rest, and a miserable night of chills and sleep deprivation.
Big Agnes’ Encampment 15 sleeping bag is made of nylon and has a synthetic fill made of 97% recycled material. It’s one of the most vegan-friendly bags out there, and the fact that it’s created with recycled nylon is a big plus.
The Equatorial sleeping bag from MEC is made from recycled polyster, with a cotton/poly sheet side and filled with their Hyperloft synthetic fill (which is made of 50% recycled materials). It’s ideal for warmer weather, and has glow-in-the-dark zipper pulls.
Water Dog Pack by EcoGear
Naturally, you’ll need a great pack to haul all of your stuff while you’re trekking through the wild, right?
The Water Dog Hydration Pack is made of PVC-free and toxin-free recycled materials, and comes with a BPA-free water bladder that you can fill for all day trail sipping.
Made from recycled plastic soda bottles, the BlueLounge Backpack is a great light day pack that can pull double-duty as a daily accessory. Fill it with a few essentials for a day’s hiking, and then use it daily when you’re back in the city.
Jungle Moc Ruck by Merrell
Shoes N’ Boots
The only thing worse than tromping around in the bush with wet feet, is doing so with sore feet. Invest in good footwear and all of your forays into the wild will be far more comfortable ones.
Merrell has a line of vegan footwear for both men and women, so you can choose a style that’s as cruelty-free as it is cozy to walk around in.
Family in Patagonia gear
The type of clothing you need will obviously depend on where you’re camping (and at what time of year), but a few solid basics are good to have no matter what season or location you’re tromping through. If you invest in a few good pieces, they can last a lifetime, and be used solo in warm weather, or layered for autumn/winter camping.
EcoGear’s clothing is made from 100 percent recycled fibres; a blend of 65 percent discarded cotton clippings, and 35 percent recycled plastic polyester.
Cookware and Utensils
The type of cookware and dishes you’ll be using will depend a lot on whether you’re backpacking or setting up in the kind of campground that has hot showers and electrical outlets.
Cookware and Dishes:
All-in-one sets are fabulous, as you can use them both as pots/pans and bowls/plates. A titanium cook set is pretty much ideal for both backpacking and car camping, and you can eat right out of the pots so cleanup is a breeze.
For lightweight backpacking items, you can go for something like Fozzils foldable plates and bowls, which weigh next to nothing and are super easy to clean too. MEC’s GSI Infinity Divided Plates are great too, as there are handy little compartments for different dishes… just in case you really don’t like it when your baked beans touch your veggie burger.
Instead of bowls, you can aim for a heavy-duty camping mug that can hold oatmeal or stew as well as coffee or cocoa. REI’s big ol’ recycled camp mug comes in grey or olive, is made of recycled polypropylene, and can hold just about anything you pour into it.
ToGo bamboo cutlery set
REI has a great set that’s made of an aircraft grade aluminum alloy, and it’s comprised of a fork, knife, and spoon. It’s durable, easy to clean, and can last a lifetime.
Bamboo utensils are super lightweight and ideal for backpacking, and there’s always the ubiquitous spork if you’re a one utensil kind of person.
Remember to wash all of these items after using them, and if you’re camping deep in the woods, store them—and your food—well away from your tent in case animals are attracted by the scent of the scrumptious supper you cooked. Hanging them from a tree is your best bet, and you can also store them in your car if you drove in.
If you’re going backcountry camping and/or hiking, the best foods to take with you are compact in size and weight, but high in protein and energy.
Many (if not most) CLIF and LUNA bars are vegan, and many are gluten-free as well. Other bars such as YAWP and Earnest Eats are fab too. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, you can go for spicy and savory items like vegan jerky, vegetarian pepperoni sticks or dried spiced chickpeas and nuts. You can also prep for your trip with an all-in-one snack box like something from Vegan Cuts, where you’re sure to have a selection of different snackables to keep the entire camping party munching happily. If you prefer to make your own camping snacks, there are some amazing energy bar recipes out there, and you can’t go wrong with a good DIY trail mix with a variety of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.
If you’re “car camping”, or visiting friends at a cottage, you can probably just take a cooler full of your favourite snacks along with you, but there’s something special about cooking meals on an open fire. Outdoor Herbivore has a great line of dry vegetarian and vegan camping food so you just need to add them to boiling water for a delicious, hearty meal at the end of a long day. They also have sprout sacks so you can sprout your own seeds and beans while you trek, which will let you have some crunchy freshness to nosh on. A quick look through Pinterest can give you countless other ideas as well. As a final note about food, camping just wouldn’t be the same without roasted marshmallows, and you can get some great vegan ones via Sweet & Sara.
The BioLite charging stove
It’s difficult to cook without a stove, unless you MacGuyver one out of a tree stump, or just cook over a bonfire.
The Sun Oven has received top marks from countless people, and it’s a lightweight option that would allow you some pretty decent meals out in the woods.
BioLite is another great stove that serves a dual purpose: it can charge your electronic devices while warming your food. There’s no additional fuel needed for this stove either; just gather some twigs and light them on fire.
The original Klean Kanteen
A lot of people forget to drink an adequate amount of water while camping, and end up dehydrated… which can lead to heatstroke, nausea, disorientation, and a bunch of other nasty side effects. Klean Kanteen has been the go-to eco bottle for years, and their bottles are damn near indestructible. BPA-free bottles like Nalgene are great too,
Many campgrounds have potable water taps where you can fill up bottles and jugs as needed, but if you’re backwoods camping, be sure to have a good water filter with you.
Sunscreen, Insect Repellant, and Personal Care Products
Over at Inhabitots, we put together a roundup of the best (and healthiest) sunscreen options for babies and kids, and the adult counterparts to those sunscreens are great for grownups. Coola, Badger, and Alba Botanica are all great options, as is Green Beaver, if you’re Canadian (it’s hard to find it in the USA).
It’s also a good idea to keep a lip balm with SPF on hand; lips can get sunburned too, and that hurts. A lot.
Bubble and Bee organic insect repellant is a great alternative to some of the more chemical formulas out there, and Druide is another option: its strong citronella scent keeps deerflies and mosquitoes at bay, but it does have a very strong scent. You can also try making your own with bug-repelling essential oils, but it’s good to have a strong backup on hand if you’re venturing into tick territory.
With regard to personal hygiene and whatnot, items like a sanitation trowel (and hand sanitizer, for that matter) are good to have with you if you’re deep-woods camping and there aren’t any latrines around. Eco-friendly bathroom tissue like Seventh Generation is ideal for both catholes and outhouses, and biodegradable bags are great for packing out anything that shouldn’t be left behind. Menstruating women might want to look into a Diva Cup or Keeper instead of tampons, and if you’re camping with babies, biodegradable or washable cloth diapers may be the way to go.
Whenever you go camping, it’s a good idea to have laminated maps with you, as well as a good first aid kit. Be safe, take care of yourself (and those you’re camping with), and try to leave no trace.
Do you have any favorite camping gear items? Let us know in the comment section below!
Lead image via Shutterstock