Take a walk on the wild side
Camping is a great eco-friendly and healthy option for a summer vacation! We provide tips and tricks on choosing eco-friendly supplies, gear, tools, and food.
Looking to get away this summer? Eco-friendly camping makes a refreshing and relaxing alternative to expensive, environmentally damaging air travel vacations. We live in one of the most beautiful countries on Earth—so pack your things, pitch a tent, and soak up all the sublime surroundings Canada’s backyard has to offer.
Despite the whimsical image camping brings to mind, the benefits of taking some time to hang out with Mother Nature extend far beyond the satisfaction of smoothly raising a tent or toasting the perfect s’more. An outdoor vacation can boost mental and physical health, while taking it easy on both our wallets and the environment.
For many of us, typical workdays mean sitting inside for eight or more hours. Furthermore, research has found the excess of artificial stimulation and indoor environments many of us are exposed to in our daily lives may lead to exhaustion and poor health.
Unfortunately, many of Canada’s urban residents—who now account for more than 80 percent of the population—often have very little exposure to nature other than nearby parks and nature reserves. This can make it difficult to maintain our connection to the natural world for most of the year. Summer is an opportune time to shrug off our stressors and spend some time outside.
Research shows that getting in touch with nature can play a crucial role in our well-being and vitality. According to older studies, long-term association with nature may allow for increased satisfaction with our jobs, homes, and daily lives—increasing feelings of positivity and reducing rates of anger and anxiety. It’s even been observed that time with nature increases our productivity and sharpens our ability to focus—making a camping holiday the perfect mid-year refresher.
So whether you have a few days or a week this summer, make it your goal to get out and go camping—your brain and body will thank you.
With the right gear, made of the right materials, getting ready to enjoy the wilderness doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking.
Keep it green—look for gear options that don’t harm the environment during their manufacturing process. Choose tents made of recycled materials, free of toxic dyes, with solvent-free waterproof coatings whenever possible. Eco-friendly sleeping bag options abound; for example, some are made from recycled plastics.
Make sure that any soaps you are using for showers or dishes are 100 percent biodegradable and free of sulphates, dyes, or artificial scents—try a multipurpose soap, found at many natural health retailers, to save packing space. Regardless of how natural the product, be sure to keep it out of waterways by dispersing onto dry ground to avoid integrating it into the surrounding ecosystem.
Remember that no camping trip is complete without a well-stocked first aid kit—make sure to include a flashlight in case of emergency. Solar-powered flashlights make great eco-friendly options.
For food containers, use reusable BPA-free containers such as glass or stainless steel whenever possible.
Check out one of the comprehensive camping checklists available online to make one of your own, so you can ensure no tarp or lantern gets left behind.
Play all day
Swimming, fishing, hiking—depending on where you live and what type of camping region you pick, there’s no reason that your campground can’t become a wonderland for physical activity and outdoor adventure. Just be aware of proper safety precautions and required gear.
And if you get tired of go-go-go, try some good old-fashioned relaxation. Card games, sudoku puzzles, and crosswords are all brain-sharpening camping classics.
For a refreshing change, Crystal Bolduc, acting promotions officer at the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada, suggests keeping your cellphone off except for emergency use to maximize your connection with your surroundings.
“It is not uncommon to see people walking down the street with their heads down and looking at their cellphones, getting exposed to the outside world via a screen,” she says. “However, technology often turns us away from the simple yet rewarding experience of hearing the ocean move pebbles around on a beach, or watching an eagle land gently on the branch of a tree—these types of experiences are available to everyone, as close as their nearest campground.”
Forget the footprint
Air travel wreaks havoc on our environment, releasing more harmful CO2 emissions, soot, sulphates, and contrails (long, heat-trapping lines of exhaust) into the atmosphere than any other form of human transport. Although some airlines offer purchase of carbon offsets for your journey, these are controversial—the benefits may be relatively minimal, and such programs may actually encourage travellers to fly more often.
Avoiding airplanes on your summer holiday by going camping gives the ecosystem a much-needed break. To reduce your carbon emissions, try to pick a campsite as local as possible. If you have a long drive to your intended camping destination with an extra seat or two in the car, consider contacting the campsite to find fellow campers to carpool.
Bites be gone
Nothing kills a camping buzz faster than the high-pitched whine of an enamoured mosquito. Don’t give them a chance to fall for you—wear loose-fitting, tightly woven, light-coloured clothing to stay off their visual radars. Skip spraying on perfume, which can also pique their unwanted affections. Avoid camping near standing water if possible.
Citronella, lavender, and lemon eucalyptus essential oils are thought to work as effective natural insect repellents. Dilute them by blending them carefully with a base oil such as almond or sesame oil.
Camping with kids
Camping is a fun and interactive way to “teach kids to explore, while respecting the power of nature,” says Randy Mercer, visitor safety technician at the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. To keep things fun for the little ones, he recommends choosing realistic and achievable activities in safe, easy-to-supervise locations with plenty of potential for free play.
Getting to enjoy outdoor adventure is particularly important for the younger generation.
“When we camp, we begin to realize our significance and our responsibility in protecting and preserving the natural world for our generation and the generations to come,” says Bolduc.
Spending time outside can instill kids with a valuable sense of eco-awareness that sticks with them, long after the tent has been packed and the last sleeping bag has been rolled.
“When you leave a camping area, ensure it’s in as pristine a condition as when you found it,” says Bolduc. “Appropriate, respectful behaviour will not only lead to a safe and rewarding experience but also contribute to a healthy, functioning ecosystem.”
She advises against disturbing any vegetation, and using ropes rather than nails to peg up tarps and tents. Store garbage securely to avoid attracting wildlife, and be sure to dispose of all waste in designated locations. As long as you treat your surroundings with caution and respect, your camping trip shouldn’t have to give Mother Nature any tough love.
Although the quintessential vision of a camping trip often involves a fiery centrepiece, Bolduc recommends keeping campfires to a minimum. If you do make a fire, keep it well out of forested areas and don’t burn any pieces of wood thicker than your wrist. Completely extinguish all fires before you abandon them—the smouldering remains can spread and devastate ancient rainforests, long after you’ve gobbled your last s’more and walked away.