Last Updated on July 28, 2020
I find it odd that camping has been one of the most difficult activities to create zero waste.
It’s strange that living in the great outdoors is often coupled with a lot of trash and single-use-plastics. Doesn’t that seem backwards?
Justin and I recently went on a camping trip, and it was my very first one! Well, it’s the first one that I can remember. I went on a trip with my parents when I was three so that doesn’t really count.
I don’t remember that trip at all so I had a huge learning curve. Justin on the other hand camped often before we met.
But, I’m going to guess his style of camping looked a lot like the small group we saw leaving the campground with five full trash bags – yikes!
Just kidding, I’m sure he wasn’t that bad.
Justin and I hadn’t gone camping before because you need quite a bit of gear, and we didn’t really have any. I didn’t want to shell out a bunch of money if I wasn’t sure I was even going to like camping.
Thankfully, I LOVED it. We bought a few things, but were able to borrow the majority of our supplies from friends and family.
I bought a 2-gallon water jug with a spigot from the thrift store and a new leash for Nala.
We got the leash from WilderDog. Their leashes are made from upcycled mountain climbing ropes, they have a lifetime warranty, and they donate a bag of food to a shelter for every purchase. Plus they’re made in NorCal. Yay, for supporting local businesses!
As for the rest of the gear, the bookkeeper at my work had a whole bunch of camping stuff she doesn’t use any more, and she just gave it to me.
Another co-worker of mine goes camping all the time, and he was able to fill in the gaps with what we were missing.
Never underestimate asking your friends, you’d be surprised with what they have and are willing to let you borrow – just as long as you bring it back in better condition than you got it!
And, throwing in some cookies or taking them out to get a beer or coffee as a thank you – is definitely encouraged. Let’s grow this sharing economy people!
(1) 8 Person Tent: I know what you’re thinking, no one needs an 8 person tent. But, let me tell you, it was awesome. I am so glad we had it. It was super easy to set up and fit two people and a dog nicely.
Living out of a suitcase can be super messy. So the extra space allowed for some semblance of organization.
I’ve had the tent for several years. Justin and I had planned a camping trip when we first met, but we never went until this year.
(1) Queen Size Air Mattress: We probably would have used sleeping bags if owned them, but we don’t… so we didn’t. Instead we were being extra-luxurious!
We brought our queen-sized air mattress with a set of sheets. This the same set we use when guests visit, but it wound up being perfect for camping!
Can we still call it camping if we’re sleeping on an air mattress? I’m not sure the qualifications on that.
(1) Hammock: This was for Nala. We bought a hammock at Costco our first year in CA. We kept it in the backyard where it eventually became Nala’s favorite spot so we brought it for her to lounge.
(2) Folding Chairs: We are so fortunate that a coworker let us borrow two very nice folding chairs – with cup holders!
(1) Stove Top: We were lucky enough to borrow a stove top from one of my coworkers, but we were lucky that our campsite had a fire pit with a cooking grate.
I really enjoyed cooking of the open flames, but it was nice that we had the option of using the stove top so we didn’t have to light a fire for breakfast.
We brought one of our cast iron skillets with a lid, a wooden spatula, three plates, and 2 sets of silverware.
(1) Cooler: We also got this from a coworker. And, I did not do well at coolering.
(2) Lanterns: We got some really cool vintage lanterns from one of my co-workers.
(1) 2 Gallon Water Jug: This was the only item I purchased specifically for the camping trip. And, it was a total lifesaver. We filled it with water before bed and put a charcoal filtering stick inside to filter it. Then we used it like our own personal faucet! I got it at the thrift store for $5. Woot, woot!
This was awesome. We kept it super minimal. You can read more about it on this blog post. I was very happy with my sunscreen an average SPF of 30 and bug spray. I came away with three bites. Two on my neck and one on my face.
I would never spray regular bug spray on my face, but with what I made – I’d feel totally comfortable. Note to self: Apply to face next time.
I did get one ant bite on my foot. But, after four days in the woods – I’m pretty happy with those results.
I was a little over prepared. But, I did well for my first time, I think. I had hiking boots and flip flops. I wore my flip flops traveling and just in case I decided to jump into the lake. Which I didn’t.
We ate out twice on the road. After trying 4-5 places we finally found a place that would let us sit outside with a dog! We’re in CA. I thought all outdoor seating was dog friendly, but we really struggled to find a spot.
Thankfully, we settled on an awesome little diner with an amazing veggie burger and chocolate cake – on real plates!
And, we also got donuts. YUM. They were totally cool with placing them right in my tiffin.
While at the donut shop, we needed to fill up our water bottles. I noticed they didn’t have a soda fountain so I asked if they had any water where I could refill my kanteen.
In the middle of the refrigerator case next to all the bottled water there was a large pitcher of filtered water. SCORE. Sometimes you just have to ask.
In Arkansas we have tons of little drive through ice stations. Where ice just falls out of a chute. We were not so fortunate here. We got a couple of plastic bags of ice for the cooler.
I didn’t want to bring a lot of glass camping. So we packed things in open stainless steel bowls and my tiffins. But, the tiffins in the cooler weren’t water tight.
As the ice melted we were left with a lot of soggy food. Which we ate – cause zero waste! But, I will definitely do things differently in the future.
We also brought way too much food. Before we left, Justin opened the fridge and just kept throwing more stuff in the cooler…. lesson learned.
the well deserved:
In trying to avoid glass, we left the growlers at home. Also, it doesn’t seem super practical to bring a growler or two on a camping trip. So, we bought some cans which we recycled!
Surprisingly, there was no recycling available at the camp site. We made sure to bring them home and recycle them.
If you’ve ever read an interview I’ve done, then you know the answer to this question. “What is the one thing you miss since Going Zero Waste?” And, my answer is always the same. “S’mores.”
I love them. They’re the perfect treat. I’m all about the perfect bite. And, a smore is definitely the perfect bite. They’re gooey, sweet, and crunchy – Mmmmm! Beyond being the perfect campfire accoutrement, they’re also riddled with childhood nostalgia.
And, without any shame I bought a bag of marshmallows, a couple of bars of chocolate, and some classic graham crackers. If I can get the plastic wrap clean, I will proudly place that in my trash jar.
And, I’ll be honest with you… they weren’t as good as I remember. So, I’m probably set for the next couple of years on s’mores. But, it was totally worth it.
Life is about balance. What do you think?
All in all, I loved camping. I really enjoyed getting to relax and spend time in nature.
It was so rejuvenating, and I loved being completely tech free. I spent a lot of time reading, walking around, and doing a whole lot of nothing. It was amazing, and I can’t wait to go back.
Have you gone camping?