Heading into the backcountry takes careful planning. Don’t throw in the towel on your environmental concerns for “just a few days” to make it a bit easier and use these tips to be green on your next backcountry trip.
I believe it was a wise frog who once said ‘It ain’t easy being green.’ He really hit the nail on the head, in more ways than one. To reduce our ecological footprint my husband and I have been making an effort to ‘green up’ our home but it seems the minute we walk out the door for an adventure it’s disposable everything.
I realised pretty quickly that lots of the simple actions and concepts we practice at home could be applied to how we behave in and interact with our wild places. I also realised that it can get incredibly difficult and complicated really fast, so here are some easy-to-apply beginner tips to build upon your Leave No Trace knowledge.
Tips on How to Be Green in the Backcountry
1. Ziploc Bags
I think we can all agree these little puppies truly are a gift from above. A lightweight, waterproof, packable storage system for food, rubbish and valuables – they keep water out and stank in.
Unfortunately, they are made from plastic (duh) and plastics can take up to 1000 years to break down. Plus, it’s estimated that 86% of all plastic packaging is used only once before being discarded. So, what are you gonna do?
Re-use it! Remove the contents of your Ziploc and turn it inside out. Give it a wash with some warm soapy water and voila!
Pro Tip: Slap it onto your kitchen cabinet while wet; once it’s completely dry it will fall off and you will have a bone dry, reusable Ziploc on your hands. The reason we have a love affair with plastic is due to its long lasting and durable qualities but with a little effort, one Ziploc could be reused for years! … provided you keep it away from sharps.
Ziplocs aren’t the only thing you can reuse on your backcountry adventures. Let’s talk about all that gear you need when carrying your life around on your back. Tent, pack, mattress, sleeping bag?
Buy, swap and sell sites are a broke green adventurer’s paradise; you can find just about anything second hand- the limit exists only within you! Merino undies anyone?
Not only will you be helping the planet but you will be saving a buck. Better on your back than in the bin!
Now isn’t the time or the place for the age old ‘my stove is better than yours because…’ discussion but I will give you something to think about for your next campfire quarrel. How ecologically sound is it? Is your canister refillable or does it get disposed once it’s empty?
Liquid and solid fuel stoves are definitely something worth researching before making your purchase, the internet is jam packed with info and believe me when I say you could spend months researching. The NSW Explorer crew compared a handful of the top picks on the market. My pick, due to its great all rounder status is the MSR Whisperlite.
One of the easiest ways to inadvertently stockpile trash on a hike is food packaging. Freeze dried meals, two-minute noodles, chips, choccie, all come pre-packaged for your convenience. Now I’m not saying leave the chips and choccie at home (I will NEVER) but let’s rethink our main meals.
Dehydrating your own food is cheap, tasty, fun and means you can reuse your own containers and bags rather than stockpiling disposable packaging. The Backpacking Chef has a great website to get you started on all the basics. A dehydrator can cost you anywhere from $50-500 brand new and there are always deals to be found on second hand sites or in op-shops.
5. If It’s Broke, Fix It
So you have yourself a great jacket or a comfy pack and you’ve somehow managed to damage it (you dolt). Guess it’s time to buy a new one? Nope! With a little bit of ingenuity and a lot of Youtube, many things are possible.
Not the handiest person? Did you know a lot of businesses that sell gear also repair it? The leaders of the charge are our pals at Patagonia. Their Worn Wear campaign focuses on celebrating the stories you wear, keeping your gear in action longer and provides an easy way to recycle Patagonia garments when they are beyond repair.
Their repair hub provides basic on site clothing repairs and alterations on Patagonia gear for free (FREE!) and any other brands for a small fee. So, you get to keep wearing your fave gear, you save those pennies and the planet. I am sensing a trend here.
6. Ladies and Divas
That time of the month can be pretty annoying at the best of times. Not to mention when you’re out in the backcountry with no facilities, amirite!?
Well buckle-up because I’m about to change your life forever: Menstrual cups (hear me out), my pick of the bunch is the Diva cup. It stays in all day, you wash it out with a little water and you reuse it. Minimal muss and zero fuss. Not to mention zero gross waste you need to pack out (and one less Ziploc!) Once you try it you will be using it month in, month out. They cost about $45 dollars and honestly the savings over a few years are astonishing.
Once again save dosh and save the planet.
7. Number 1’s
Ladies, I have another radical proposal for you and let me finish before you pass judgment. Have you ever seen women walking through the backcountry with bandanas tied to their packs? Maybe you have never noticed? Well, now you will. I call them pee-patters.
It’s exactly what it sounds like. Do your business, pat yourself dry and tie it back onto your pack. I know it sounds gross, but the sun sterilises pee pretty well and a little water is all you need to wash it when necessary. Way better than leaving toilet paper everywhere, digging tons of catholes for said T.P. or zipping up wet. And who wants to be forever packing out toilet paper?
Of course, there’s always the argument for shakin’ it like the blokes but it isn’t quite as effective as the pee-patter.
There are so many more ways to level up your green game in the wilderness, hopefully these small tips help get you inspired to take your leave no trace skills to the next level. From food choices to sustainable gear and clothing, to packing out poo and other people’s rubbish, the wild world is your oyster (so leave it better than you found it!)