We’ve just come back from camping in Cornwall and it was awesome! I just love it, especially in this beautiful weather we’re having. I really need to move there; the call to the sea seems to get stronger in me each year.
We camp on the Camel Estuary every year and so far we’ve not had to replace any of our camping gear. Looking at it all with critical eyes I realised how much of it is plastic, although our actual tent is second-hand and our tables, most of the rest of it was bought new and much of it has plastic elements to it. It doesn’t make sense to chuck your plastic stuff out though. The key is to use it, fix it and use it again and when the time comes to re-buy the item, dispose of it properly and then research non-plastic alternatives and buy better next time around.
Modern tents are made almost entirely from man-made fibres most typically nylon or polyester which are thermo plastic polymers. Modern carbon fibre tent poles are a composite of plastic, and guy ropes are nylon. Often the only non-plastic part of the tent is the metal tent pegs. If you still prefer a modern tent you can get some great modern tents made from 100% recycled materials or you could buy second-hand.
The other obvious eco-friendly answer if you’re buying a new tent is to purchase canvas. You can get all sorts, such as tipi’s or bell tents, which may be heavier than your plastic tent but I’m told they have loads of great advantages too. They are often pretty easy to put up, they keep cooler inside in hot weather than nylon or polyester and they have a ‘glamping’ feel; an added touch of luxury to your camping experience!
For mattresses we have airbeds, which are definitely plastic but they are perfect for my bad back. Sometimes if you feel you have no alternative but to buy plastic I would suggest buying the best you can afford because at least you will get years of use out of it. You can get cheap airbeds for a fiver but they don’t last long, whereas my Colemans air bed for 25 quid has lasted 5 years and counting. You can also purchase 75% recycled airbeds for a tenner here. As it happens 3 out of 4 of our airbeds finally bit the dust this year so I will be looking at what plastic free or longer lasting mattresses there are out there. I do have one excellent self-inflating camping mat by Therm-a-rest that I’ve had since I went travelling over 20 years ago. I would struggle to sleep on that now, but I know lots of people who find them perfectly comfy. You can often get these for a few quid on ebay second hand and they literally last forever.
If money’s not an issue or you are prepared to save for an eco-friendly option, try the ‘naturalmat’ from Camping with Soul. You can use these brilliant roll up mattresses on their own or in combination with a metal framed camp bed.
As for sleeping bags, for a little bit more of an investment you can buy one made from up to 100% recycled materials.
Most camping stores will have a good range of stainless steel/aluminium cooking pots, bowls and cups and with a quick online search you can easily find bamboo/corn cutlery and kitchenware ideal for camping. I found this site useful for thinking about the options.
There are loads of great eco camp stoves out there giving you freedom from fossil fuels. Here’s the Biolite which has the added bonus of also being able to charge up your phone if you like to stay connected while camping.
Personally I like being able to switch off completely so for something similar but a bit cheaper and without phone charging ability, you could go for the classic Kelly Kettle. Again Camping with Soul do lots more eco stove options giving a variety of outdoor eating options to suit all needs.
Bring your plastic free bathroom bits with you!
I’m going to write a bathroom post for home or away all of it’s own, but the basics to take camping with you might be your compostable or recycled toothbrush, some paper wrapped soap and a shampoo bar.
Here are two amazing companies using recycled plastic to make swimwear. Firstly Batoko who make swimwear from recycled plastic bottles, fishing nets and post consumer waste such as carpets and other fabrics. Their costumes are really fun and they also support the Marine Conservation Society by giving them a proportion of their profits every year. Finisterre also make recycled plastic swimwear as well as a range of outer clothing too, all using materials form sustainable sources. They give 10% of their profits to Surfers Against Sewage and I think their products are really well designed, if a tad expensive. If you wait for a shop sale you can snap up a really beautiful eco costume for a reasonable price.
Camp sites always have drinking water taps so make sure to pack your re-usable bottles, there is really no need to buy plastic bottles of water if you are organised. If you are a big tea drinker like me, you will also save lots of disposable cups out and about if you take your own travel mug. Most travel cafes on the coast are really used to people giving them their own cup and they even wash it out for you if you ask nicely!
We found on our camping trip last week that our biggest watch out is buying food on the go. If you’re not organised you can end up consuming a lot of single-use plastic in the shape of the dreaded meal deal. In ‘How To Live Plastic Free‘ written by The Marine Conservation Society ( highly recommended if you want an easy and practical guide to going plastic free) they say:
‘Three pounds. That’s all it takes to kill the sea. Forget for a moment everything you’re read about beauty products, pollution, climate change and so on. If you want to find the true source of plastic excess you must venture to the shiny temple of our times: the supermarket. This ‘meal deal’ might look a ‘deal’ to you, but it is a true environmental disaster. All for under 3 pounds.’
A better option would be to find a deli where you can create your own sandwich wrapped in paper or grab a delicious pasty from a bakery or if you must use the supermarket (we did, it was just too convenient) then be prepared with your own Tupperware and buy from the fresh counters. Worst case scenario just make the best decision you can in the moment and resolve to be more prepared next time. We all get caught out, and personally I think this is our family’s biggest area to improve on as we are not brilliant at being organised!
2 Minute Beach clean:
Lots of us camp near a beach or visit one whilst camping. Make a new habit of doing a 2 minute beach clean every time you go. In 2017 #2minutebeachclean launched an APP that will help you to record your beach clean finds easily and quickly. It will also enable you to post directly to Instagram or Twitter and will tell you where your nearest beach clean station is.
O’h and don’t forget your cloth bag for purchases and your bamboo straws! I don’t go anywhere without my bamboo straws, they are lovely to use and my daughter will not drink out without one. We get ours from The Pure Blue and we love them.
If you have any amazing plastic free camping tips please let me know in the comments.
Happy Plastic Free Camping!