Did your camping gear survive the summer holidays? What do you do with broken kit? What will happen to your camping equipment in 5 years time? Where will the world's camping equipment end up?
At the end of school holidays, thousands of busy families will be putting away their camping kit, ready to get back to the 9 to 5 and school runs. New shoes will be bought, school dinners ordered and winter coats tried on for size. Did you get a chance to go camping this summer? I hope you found time to squeeze in at least one night under the stars with your family, and that you got the amazing weather. Did you have everything you needed, or was there too much, not enough? It's worth making a note now of what you would do differently next time.
The putting away of gear (while secretly hoping for a few more hot weekends in September and October for some mini camps) has got me thinking about the world's camping equipment and what will happen to it. Yes, the WHOLE world.
Think about the camping equipment you have, tucked away in your shed, your spare room or loft. Do you have airbeds, sleeping bags, a tent, a table? Then think about your neighbours, what equipment might they have in their houses? How about your whole street, your town, your nearest city? How many tents, lanterns and folding chairs are there with one mile, two miles, ten miles of you? What would it look like if we all brought our camping equipment to the local park at the same time, and placed it in a pile, how big would that pile be?
I bought some cheap camping chairs earlier this year, an Aldi imitation of the original designer, more expensive Helinox chair. At £14.99 each they seemed worth a punt. Surely they'd be fine for the kids, if they lasted as season I'd get my money's worth, right? That's what I told myself. I hadn't expected them to be long lasting and one chair has already broken, legs bent by the weight of a hefty adult. I almost knew it would. But now, what can I do with it? The only thing I can think of is to throw it away. I drove to the local tip and chucked it into landfill. The chair can't be recycled or reused so it will be buried in the ground. I could have returned it to Aldi for a refund but for only £14.99 I couldn't be bothered. (*not proud about that*)
Camping chairs, however big or small will ultimately be landfill. That's my compact aldi chair at the top, now broken within 4 months of purchase
Somewhere on earth millions of folding chairs are heaped up in landfill sites, the result of our throw-away society where we value convenience over sustainability. Camping is popular in countries across the globe, America, Australia, England, Canada, Sweden, Croatia, Scotland, China, Italy... even Morocco and the Arab Emirates. Can you imagine how much camping equipment there must be on our lovely planet earth? How much of it actually gets used? Is any of it made from recycled materials? Is it built to last?
I believe we need to change. This fashion for massive tents, fold out kitchens, swingball, plastic bunting and matching salad bowls needs to end. Now. If the campers of the world could stop shopping, start sharing, and really think about what we need to sleep outdoors we really could change the world.
Humans have been sleeping in the woods for thousands of years, it's in our nature, our DNA. Our ancestors didn't have fold out bunk beds and we don't need them either. We are fortunate to live in safer, more comfortable times but we CAN cope away from home with our children by taking just the basics. We can still have fun, be happy, and stay safe, warm and dry with less.
Since finding my blog, one of my subscribers has got really into minimalist family camping, so much so that she is selling their second family car as she realised they only needed it to hoike their piles of camping kit around twice a year. That's one less car already. Minimalism is the answer to the problem you didn't know you had. By packing small and packing light camping is quicker and easier for you and SO much better for our planet.
So next time you go to buy some new camping equipment, ask yourself these questions:
Have I been managing without it?
Could I borrow it?
Can I buy a more sustainable version?
Is it ultimately landfill?
Instead of buying those cheap chairs I should have either got second hand on gumtree / ebay or bought the more expensive, well-made, eco conscious version with the warrantee. Or just sat on a log like people used to do.
So save yourself some money, save some space in your home and, ultimately, save the world. Buy less, pack light.
Will your camping equipment end up here?
Top 10 eco camping gear tips
Fortunately some clever people have been pondering this problem and there is some sustainable camping kit available. Its tempting to rush out and buy new recycled, eco kit immediately but then what happens to your old stuff? Its gets to landfill that much sooner so put your wallet down and think a moment. Follow these top tips for making a small but mighty change to your impact on the enviroment.
1. Prolong the life of what you already have. If you look after your kit it could last another few years. Make sure everything is clean and dry after every camping trip to avoid mouldy fabric and rusty metal. Tents, in particular, need to be completely dry before storing, so if it was damp at your last pack up pitch the tent in the garden on a dry day to remove all moisture before storing it. Use a groundsheet or footprint underneath it when you pitch in future to keep the base clean and dry.
2. Avoid plastic. Use bamboo plates, cups and bowls instead of plastic or melamine. Bring a resuable coffee cup and water bottles to your campsite
3. Avoid microfibre - buy cotton hammam towels instead. Tiny microfibe particles get into our water supplies when washed and can never be broken down.
4. Cook on a campfire or try a Biolite camping stove (instead of using gas and cannisters). The Biolite stove runs simply on biomass, twigs and pinecones (plus it generates power to charge your phone!)
5. Use organic firelighters and charcoal
6. Hire a tent or buy a canvas tent - the canvas (eg. a bell tent) with naturally rot away at the end of the tent's life while the PVC base can be recycled.
7. Pack your kit in giant recycled storage bags - perfect for packing all your bulky bits n bobs
8. Use a shampoo bar instead of bottles - these look like a bar of soap but you wash your hair with them. They actually do a great job, are very compact and cut out plastic bottles completely. Available from Lush.
9. Don't use electrical hook-up. Use less power by leaving the coolbox at home. If you bring food that doesn't need to stay cold you'll use less energy. I drink warm red wine instead of cold beer!
10. If you really just can't wait to buy some shiny new eco camping gear, donate your old kit to another family or a charity. You can find a new home for your old kit on www.recycleoutdoorgear.com