Fun, Safe, and Sustainable Camping this Season

June 12, 2014

triangle land conservancy

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As the summer camping season comes into full swing, we wanted to share some quick tips– courtesy of Trail Sherpa and the Environmental News Network (ENN)– that will make your outdoor adventure both fun and sustainable.

First, we know buying equipment can be overwhelming. What type of tent is best? What about backpacks, or sleeping bags? If you are finding buying too complicated, try REI’s rental equipment! Their staff can help select the right gear for your trip and family, streamlining the process and taking away some of the headache. If you love what you rent, you’ll know what to buy for next time.

Having a fire and roasting s’mores is one of the best parts about camping, but how much fire wood should you bring? 12-14 logs (split section, not entire logs) will be enough to burn a fire until midnight, councils, and you should plan on bringing enough firewood for your planned trip as well as an extra day, just in case. If you don’t want to lug your extra logs home, sell them to other campers at your site. To keep yourself safe while starting and maneuvering around the fire, bring a small shovel, such as a folding military shovel, a poker, and a pair of fire-resistant gloves. Think starting a fire is impossible? No worries, most grocery stores sell convenient fire starters.

If you are burning firewood, avoid transportation of logs, as this can spread insects and other diseases. Read up on the Nature Conservancy’s campaign to “Buy Where You Burn,” and with help from everyday campers forests across the United States can continue to thrive.

After a long day at the campsite or trooping around the woods, most of us are starving. Though cooking over a campfire may not be as easy as a home kitchen, there are plenty of ways to cut down on both stress and clean-up duty. First, don’t be afraid to prep at home first and bring diced vegetables, or previously mixed and measured ingredients to the campsite, especially for shorter trips. Having everything ready to go will cut down on cooking time and use fewer utensils. One of the camping must-haves is a cast-iron skillet, which is both durable and easy to clean. Avoid using non-stick pans, as they can release harmful chemicals when used over a campfire.

To create a greener camping experience, bring reusable utensils, plates, and pack refillable water bottles. Even though you can and should recycle plastic, most plastic water bottles, cups, utensils, etc. are not recycled into future bottles. Instead, they are turned into fleece, toothbrush handles, or rugs, which are normally thrown out after their life is up. By using reusable utensils and other eating necessities, you are cutting down on waste that eventually ends up in a land fill. Though it requires some extra planning, it’s definitely worth it!

Don’t feed the wildlife. Feeding animals endangers their safety by encouraging them to approach campsites where they may not be wanted. Furthermore, “animal stomachs are not designed for a bag of extra spicy Cheetos or cool ranch Doritos,” says ENN, and feeding them could make them sick. While deer or squirrels may not pose a threat to campers, bears certainly do, so feeding them not only endangers their well-being but also those of future visitors. If your heart desires more contact with the animal kingdom than simple observation, make a plan to visit the ducks and the specialty duck food at Duke Gardens, the lemurs at the Duke Lemur Center, or the big cats at Carolina Tiger Rescue.

If, after reading all of the tips and tricks above, you’re still not sure if camping is for you, there is another modern option – glamping. “Glamorous camping,” includes upscale tents and luxury accommodations all set up for your arrival. While they are definitely pricier than the average campground, they also allow visitors to experience the outdoors with almost none of the discomforts in regular camping. Want to try it out for yourself? Check out a beautiful yurt in the Smokey Mountains, or a small log cabin near some of North Carolina’s greatest vineyards (not officially endorsed or tested by TLC!)

Read more suggestions in the Environmental News Network article and on, and remember the most important rule – have fun! Camping is a wonderful way to connect to the outdoors for people of all ages, and with a few extra steps it can be as safe and sustainable as possible.

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