Zero Waste Backpacking: How To Avoid Single Use Plastic

women around campfire

Backpacking is the ideal way to connect with nature.

But backpacking supplies can be one of the worst offenders when it comes to single use plastics. 

On some levels it makes sense — for your consumable goods you generally only need a small amount and you want them to stay dry and mess free. Single use plastics are the easiest thing to turn to. 

But there are actually several ways you can limit the amount of waste you make on the trail, and actually lighten your load as well.reusable plastic containers

1) Use reusable containers and utensils

To reduce the amount of waste you generate, pack reusable containers and utensils. For example, use a lightweight aluminum container for food storage or take advantage of a bear can you already have to be your main container. Opt for reusable utensils like a spork instead of disposable cutlery. Reusable silicone containers are a great swap for single use ziploc bags.

dehydrating apples slices2) Pre-make your own dehydrated meals

Precooking meals and then dehydrating them in the oven or a food dehydrator is a great way to cut down on single use plastic, especially if you're a fan of just-add-water backpacking meals. These precooked foods also take less energy to rehydrate than fully cooking, so you'll save on stove fuel as well. You also won't have to pack out all those plastic single meal bags!

3) Choose water-free & sustainable toiletries

Another way to avoid single-use plastics while backpacking is to use water-free toiletries. For example, you can use powder body wash instead of liquid soap, and a shampoo bar instead of a shampoo bottle. For those keeping it simple Powder face wash can be used everyday even when there's very little water around. Pair with a lightweight rinseable bandana and this is the perfect swap for wet wipes, which are extremely bad for the environment. Toothpaste tablets can be used instead of a travel tube and deodorant comes in many paper options these days. These water-free toiletries are typically packaged in aluminum or paper, which are both lightweight and can be easily recycled or disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.
woman holding lightweight powder cleanser
4) Buy food in bulkbulk food containers

Avoid excessive packaging buy buying staple ingredients such as oatmeal and rice in bulk and pack them your reusable containers. This can include avoiding single-serving packets, such as ketchup packets, sugar packets, or creamer packets, which can add up to a lot of waste. Avoid these packets by buying condiments, sugar, and creamer in bulk and also transferring them to reusable containers.

5) Use matches instead of lighters

match box

This is a very simple swap that is an easy way to avoid plastic and also reduce the weight of your pack. Instead of all the plastic, metal, and lighter fluid you'll have just a light weight match book. Make sure to pack these in a one of your waterproof reusable containers to avoid getting them wet. 

And remember, even when you use eco-friendly products and avoid single-use plastics, you will still generate waste while backpacking. It is crucial to dispose of this waste properly by packing it out and carrying it with you until you reach a proper waste disposal facility. Avoid burying or burning your waste, as it can harm the environment.

Backpackers should be the people thinking the most about the environment, not loading her up with a ton of plastic garbage. With these easy swaps you can reduce the amount harm you're causing the environment while also getting to enjoy high quality products that are also good for you. 

backpacking tent with view

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