Planning a low impact Father’s Day camping trip!
Sleeping on the lumpy ground, being bothered by insects and peeing outside isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time, but Tarot and Ollie love it. Throw in a bit of outdoor cooking and the right playlist, and the Close boys will happily camp on Dartmoor even in the cooler months.
With Father’s Day around the corner, lots of families will be heading out for camping adventures. These trips can be a wonderful bonding exercises, and chance for a digital detox. They can also be a soggy mess of whiny children. It all depends on how well you plan!
The Close family practice “Leave No Trace” camping (LTN camping), because nobody wants to be “That Family” . You know the ones, noisy oiks who trample and despoil nature’s bounty, and cause everyone who comes after them to roll their eyes like it’s a competitive sport. The ones who leave smouldering embers in dry areas, scatter litter like it’s confetti at the worst wedding ever and help themselves to frog spawn and wildflowers.
With that in mind, Follow our top tips for a low waste, high fun camping trip!
Food and fires
It might seem counter-intuitive to an environmental philosophy, but a camping stove is better for cooking outdoors than a fire. From a practical perspective, it’s much easier to start a camping stove and keep it going in the wind - putting matches to damp twigs in a gale whilst surrounded by hungry family members no-one's idea of fun. But more than that, using a camping stove reduces the risk of accidental wildfires and is also simple to clean up after, leaving no trace.
With zero waste a hot topic, we’ve been keen to reduce our camping waste. Traditionally, plastic has been the friend of the camper - low weight, water resistant and easy to “pack in, pack out”, it’s all too easy to make it the go-to.
Whilst we do love our boil in the bag suppers (which can be cooked two at a time on the camping stove, saving on gas), we’ve learned that mason jars are also a great option if you don’t have to carry lunch around too much. You can easily reheat food in a mason jar by popping the whole thing into a pan of boiling water, and then reuse the jar for drinking your tea out of later!
Instant coffee is easiest for your morning cuppa, with no coffee grounds or tea bags to dispose of. We like old fashioned tin mugs - choosing ones with names on helps to keep washing up to a minimum without risk of catching anything nasty from your germ riddled school aged child. Make sure you also pack plenty of clean water and water bottles for each person - boiling wild water does not guarantee it’s safe to drink. We use chlorine tablets to sterilise wild water, but younger kids might balk at the taste.
Health and hygiene
There’s nothing like camping and carrying all your rubbish with you to remind you of the old saying “there’s no such thing as “away”, everything you throw ends up somewhere”.
The good news is that it’s now possible to buy lots of necessities like sunscreen and insect repellant in recyclable packaging.
There’s growing evidence that sunscreen contains minerals which can harm aquatic life, so if you fancy a bit of wild swimming or sea swimming, it’s a good idea to choose a sunscreen without the nasty Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3, BP-3). There’s now plenty of brands on the market that are zero waste and zinc oxide based, like Shade sunscreen, which is made in the UK (bonus eco points for local sourcing) and comes in a stainless steel tin. Of course, the best reusable sunscreen is a good hat!
Blisters are a nightmare if you’re walking a lot when camping. We double up on socks - a thin liner sock and second thick - which helps to avoid them.
It’s also important not to run around sloshing harmful chemicals into wild water, so you might consider brushing your teeth with water or baking soda to avoid spitting strongly-scented germicide around, and skipping the disposable floss for a few days.
When it comes to washing up and washing, a tin of grated soap is your best option for both - just grate some from your regular soap bar with a cheese grater. Digging a small hole to pour washing water into will give the soap a chance to degrade without hurting any wildlife. Taking a little shovel will also help you deal with any, ahem, toilet waste - bury it six inches under ground to avoid disturbing wildlife.
Fun and games
Okay, we all know that giving kids devices can be a good way to get some peace and quiet, but this is your chance to ditch technology and embrace nature.
Packing a deck of cards and some dice can offer all sorts of options, as can drawing into the dirt with a stick for noughts and crosses or hangman.
For anyone who was ever a scout or guide, a quick google search for “campfire games” will give you lots of nostalgic favourites! Packing a ball will give you plenty of options like the classic S.P.U.D and square ball (you can mark the square out with sticks).
If you don’t mind a little bit of smartphone use, a photo scavenger hunt where players text photos back to the hunt leader has all the fun of a traditional scavenger hunt without disturbing nature. For older kids, a more complex version where they must identify trees or birds to snap can help develop interest in the natural world, and gives them some freedom to roam.
Our kids are older now, and over the years we’ve developed our own games in line with our particular quirky sense of fun, like “ten things”, where you have to name ten things on a given subject, like in-bound lakes or water birds.
We love camping out on Dartmoor, where there’s often no phone signal, so we take a portable fm radio to provide us with tunes and a weather forecast. There’s nothing quite like the scratchy sound of classic FM playing whilst you enjoy a Dartmoor sunset with a mug of hot chocolate.
If you’re interested in low impact camping, do go and take a look at the wikipedia article on Leave no Trace camping, which fills in lots of details we don’t have space for here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leave_No_Trace
The Close family checklist for low-impact, high fun camping -
Zero waste zinc oxide sunscreen
Natural insect repellent
A deck of cards and a pair of dice
A sports ball
Water bottles and plenty of clean drinking water - experts suggest 2 litres per day per person for warm weather
A first aid kit, including blister plasters.
Two pairs of socks each