‘Leave no trace’ is a term bandied around a lot in the outdoors, and with good reason — we should leave the places we love better than when we found them.

 

No fires and carrying out your trash? This is just standard bushwalking protocol now.

So, as I was yarning around the fire one night, it occurred to me that the products I’d hauled in and would haul out again tomorrow morning weren’t squeaky clean. Just because I don’t leave them at the campsite doesn’t mean they don’t have an impact on the planet, on the wild, or on the outdoors that I love.

Consuming products — buying anything new — has an effect on the planet. That product was made from resources and will continue to be something after you’re done with it.

So leave no trace — I’m all for it — but what about the gear we use? What about its impact on the planet? How long does it last?

 

@Brandon C/flickr

 

I’ve compiled a list of products you may not even know exist, to help you choose to leave no trace — or, in some cases even better: a positive trace — when consuming gear.

The single best thing you can do when buying products is to buy second-hand.

Need a bowl for a hike: Why not pick up something from your local thrift store? Whatever it is you need, first ask: do you really need it, then look for it second hand.

If all else fails, choose to spend your money on products striving to do better.

Some of these products aren’t designed specifically for the outdoors — they’re just promoting that #zerowaste life. But really, if we love the whole earth, why not apply the principle to our homes too? Besides, some of these gadgets are so nifty they are almost hiking hacks we should be using anyway.

Read: Plastic Free Hiking Hacks!

 

Five Lessons to Get Your Mates Frothing the Outdoors - James Tugwell, Main Range Trail, Kosciuszko National Park, Mountains

Is this what it looks like to leave no trace? @James Tugwell

1. Compostable Bandaids

There is absolutely nothing worse than copping a bandaid to the face when using a public swimming pool. It’s gross.

Everyone has bandaids in their first aid kit, but have you ever thought about where that little bit of plastic goes when you pull it off?

If only they would… just disappear.

I didn’t even know there was a solution to this problem until I found these plastic and silicon-free bandaids.

They are 100% biodegradable and aren’t just a bandaid fix to leaving no trace…

2. Coffee Sock

It was their love for the beach, the mountains, forests and rivers that inspired the reusable coffee filter by CoffeeSock.

Brew, rinse, dry and reuse over and over and over again.

When you are done with it, the sock is 100% compostable.

It cuts out all the wasted filters, and is ideal for camping adventures: lightweight, can get wet and is reusable. You can use it hiking, and for the other six cuppas you make every day at work. (No I am not validating your caffeine addiction.)

Read: 13 Best Camping Coffee Makers in Australia in 2022

 

3. Bug Repellent

Made from a compostable cardboard tube, this handy little balm is a deodorant and an insect repellant in one. No more empty cans clogging up landfills. Use it, then it’s gone… just like the bugs!

Read: More insect repellent gear!

 

4. Tarkine Running Shoes

We’re all about leaving only footprints — if that! So it pays to consider what’s on your feet.

With everything but the midsole made from recycled materials, the Kickstarter-funded Tarkine running shoes can be sent back to the manufacturer and recycled after you’ve worn them through. We wrote all about Tarkine here.

Parts of the shoe are biodegradable, while the rest can be recycled and reused.

Buy them, wear them, turn them into something new.

The only trace you’ll be leaving is on Strava — oh, and a string of nifty products some creative made out of your old kicks.

 

A Recycled And Biodegradable Running Shoe By New Aussie Brand Tarkine

5. Toothpaste Tablets

This is one of those items that wasn’t designed with camping in mind and yet, the more I think about it, the more perfect they are for the lightweight, leave-no-trace hiker.

Sure, brushing your teeth with a tablet instead of the foamy tubular stuff you’re used to might be a little weird at first, but honestly, you really do adjust, and then tablets become more convenient.

It’s an easy way to make your bathroom routine a little more planet-friendly during those moments when you’re not out in the wild.

 

Leave No Trace Gear

6. Rumpl Blankets

Rumpl turns old plastic bottles into insulation for blankets fit for the outdoors.

It’s like carrying a big pile of trash into the outdoors, sitting on a heap of crap, then rolling it up, hauling it out and leaving no trace. All their products are climate neutral, and 1 per cent of profits are donated back to the planet.

What’s more, they’re awesome too — just check out Tim’s review here.

10 Things I Wish I Had In My Van

7. Camping spork

The first camping spork I ever had snapped in half on the first-day hiking: I never used it in one piece. It ended up in the trash.

If only it had been a Biome wooden spork — then I could’ve chucked it in the compost bin and let it decompose along with all my other food waste. The product description lists it as ‘offer[ing] a soft mouth-feel’.

I don’t want to comment on that, but I do know it has a soft impact on the planet, and that sure leaves me smiling — so maybe that is the same thing?

8. Carbon Neutral Runners

Brooks’ new Ghost 14 is their first carbon-neutral running shoe.

That translates to: ‘joggers that leave no carbon footprint in construction’.

This is achieved first by reducing carbon emissions in the production process, and offsetting all emissions they can’t cut out of construction, so the net overall outcome is… nothing. Now that is the kind of trace WAE’s readers want to be leaving.

9. Charging your electronics

Sustainability is all about creativity, and BioLite take creativity to the absolute max. Their CampStove 2 turns wood into power to cook your food and charge your phone.

BioLite is Cabron Neutral—all carbon created in the production process is offset—and profits are reinvested back into providing safe and reliable energy and cooking technology to some of the 3 billion people around the world cooking on unsafe fires every day. If it has to happen, this is the kind of trace I’d like to be known for leaving.

 

10. Cooler Bags

Every cooler bag Cotopaxi makes is completely unique and individual; the choice of colour and pattern is left entirely to the factory worker.

Their Hielo 12 Litre cooler bag is made from re-purposed fabric left over from other products. That’s right, Cotopaxi takes their own waste and makes it into something else.

It’s like, picking up your trash from your campsite and making it into a hiking pack, only far nicer and less stinky than what you or I would pull together.

Final Thoughts

This isn’t the absolute list of all leave-no-trace products, but it’s a call to arms, to consider what could happen if we applied our age-old saying to all aspects of our kit.

 

 

The trace we leave is more than just trash at our campsite, it includes the production and waste of all the products that we use to enjoy the places we do.