Sustainable Camping: Overview, Benefits, and Easy Tips

What Exactly is Sustainable Camping? This Comprehensive Guide Explains Why You Need to Know Everything About It.

By Brett Stadelmann
Extra tips provided by the team at, a booking site for Camping and Glamping

If you’re a passionate outdoor enthusiast and love camping, you must know what sustainable camping is. Going into nature and enjoying its beauty is easy, but do we know how to act when we’re there? Most people don’t mind their actions, and many of them can significantly hurt nature.

There’s the rule “take only photographs, leave only footprints” when it comes to camping. However, there are many of those who will go into nature and remove their home from an urban environment and into the wilderness.

Although it is normal to bring many items with you in nature, it’s not okay to leave them there. That’s what the basics of sustainable camping are. You must take care of nature and leave it as you found it before stepping into it.

What is Sustainable Camping?

Sustainable camping is also known as eco-friendly or low-impact camping. It means leaving nothing but your energy on the place where you’re planning to camp. Many people will go lightweight, sleep under the open sky, and use no other resource but the ones that nature offers.

Of course, you don’t have to do this when going out there, but it’s best to make as little impact as possible. You must try to maintain the natural ecosystem and practise responsible outdoor activities. In other words, leave only footprints but nothing else behind you.

So why is this so valuable? Why does every environmental activist promote this type of behaviour? Why is it so important to take care of the planet? How can only our presence out there make significant change in the environment?

Simple Tips to Practice Sustainable Camping

The answer is simple – every act counts and contributes to a healthier planet. There are millions of campers worldwide. Imagine if everyone drops just one wrapper on the ground before going home. Nature will get millions of wrappers across the globe, and it takes years for the ecosystem to process each. This is why we must do our best. Here’s what to do when you want to practice sustainable camping.

Leave no trace

This one’s the most obvious – leave nothing behind you. Make sure the place looks the same as you saw it when you got there. Many campers love the practice of storing various items inside their UTE toolboxes and creating huge camps, but the important thing is to clean up after yourself.

Find a designated camping area and set up camp there. Do whatever makes you happy – light the campfire, do sports, have fun, but when you are leaving, ensure nothing is left behind. Put all waste in garbage bags, pack them back in the UTE, and dispose of them adequately when you’re back in the city.

Learn more at Leave No Trace.

Learn basic campfire practices

When setting up a campfire, you must stick to several rules. First, ensure the campfire is allowed in the area you’re camping. If it is, find only old, dead, and downed wood. Don’t cut down new trees.

When you’re done, make sure the fire is entirely out. Clean what can be cleaned and leave the place visible for other campers after you. They will use the same spot. This protects the environment and prevents other campers from destroying new places.

Visit the New York Department of Environmental Conservation for more information on Fire Safety When Camping.

Respect wildlife

One of the crucial points on this list is respecting wildlife. If you’re not sure what wildlife is, stick to the most basic principle – everything is wildlife. Many people think that only animals are considered part of this definition, but plants, water, even rocks and soil are also part of it.

Feel free to observe, take photos, and admire nature, but don’t interact. Let trees remain as they are, enjoy the sounds of the water running down the stream, and try not to hurt an animal or a bug while being there.

There is plenty more useful information at the National Parks Service.

Stick to existing hiking trails

You’ll notice there’s already an existing hiking trail when you’re going in nature. Use that one, and try not to create new ones. You never know where wild animals or insects made their homes, so going off-road may destroy some of them.

Instead, enjoy the wonders of nature by taking the already-created one. If you use that one, it will surely take you to some fantastic spots where others before you enjoyed stunning sights, encountered wonderful images, and had a lot of fun.

Keep your noise down

The camp is a place where not only animals exist but other campers, too. Keep your noise down when you’re in nature. You don’t want to be the rude one. Keep your laughter down, turn off the music from your smartphone, and avoid arguing.

Everyone wants to enjoy nature, and you never know what the idea of fun is for most people around you. The same goes for all wildlife around you – respect them because you’re in their backyard and not the other way around.

Sustainable Camping: Why to Swap Hotel Stays for Campgrounds
Photo by Dominik Jirovský on Unsplash

Why to Swap Hotel Stays for Campgrounds

Not only did the pandemic make people miss traveling terribly, it also brought the environmental impact of travel into sharp focus, causing many to re-evaluate how and where they vacation. According to a survey by Virtuoso, four in five people want to travel more responsibly in the future due to the pandemic.

But what is the most sustainable vacation option and how much of an impact does your choice of accommodation have on the carbon footprint of your trip? What about more sustainable alternatives like camping out in the wild in camping equipment carried on your back, or a rooftop tent mounted on your vehicle like the one made by Tent Box?

The environment costs of traditional travel

It is no secret that flying has a huge carbon footprint. The aviation industry is responsible for an estimated 2.1% of all global emissions, a harsh reality that many are trying to reduce or offset. With all this attention on the impact of airlift, however, it is easy to forget another major culprit in the environmental cost of vacations – hotels.

Globally, the hotel sector accounts for about 1% of global carbon emissions, not to mention the additional food and plastic waste generated from eating at a hotel. A recent study has suggested that staying overnight in a hotel releases up to 10 times more CO2 than staying in a caravan or motorhome, and camping produces even less.

How is outdoor accommodation better for the environment?

Camping, glamping and caravan/motorhome vacations are already less carbon-intensive than the average hotel stay since a high proportion of trips are made by domestic tourists, meaning fewer flights or ferry trips. In 2019, before the pandemic disrupted the travel industry, 80% of trips booked on, Europe’s largest booking platform for outdoor stays, were domestic, with this figure growing considerably in the last two years.

Similarly, the construction of pitches (the plot of land set up to accommodate tents or recreational vehicles) and other outdoor lodging options, like cabins, pods or tipis, require fewer resources than hotels and typically use natural, more sustainable materials such as wood.

The energy used to run campgrounds is also far less than a traditional hotel since the indoor heated and cooled areas are small relative to the number of guests. Even though recreational vehicles do require a fair amount of gas, their carbon footprints are lower while parked at an RV resort, and many campgrounds are integrating eco-conscious amenities, including renewable energy and recycling facilities. On, 14% of campgrounds currently offer renewable energy, 60% have recycling facilities and 20% offer local produce onsite.

Beyond energy consumption, camping embraces the slow food lifestyle, as most people bring their own supplies to cook a tasty meal on a grill or bonfire instead of dining out. Some campgrounds also offer local produce onsite, while others are located right on farms so campers can get a hands-on experience cultivating their own fruits and vegetables.

Not only do campgrounds attract a high number of customers at a proportionately lower cost than hotels, they are also proven to drive business to local facilities, including pubs and shops. This benefits the whole community and supports small, local businesses, especially given the predominantly rural locations of most campgrounds. For example, we calculated that in the Southwest region of the U.K. alone, campers contributed $46.4 million to the local economy last summer.

Finally, outdoor vacations foster a connection to nature that naturally encourages people to unplug from their devices and choose screenless and more energy-efficient entertainment options like cycling, hiking and water sports in the surrounding countryside. As more people spend quality time outside, they learn the value of making daily sustainable choices that are put into practice well beyond a camping trip.

Is this a swap that people are willing to make?

Over the pandemic, many people tried camping and glamping for the first time, and enjoyed it so much that they plan to go camping again in the future. Repeat bookings on have increased by 13% in the last year, showing the appetite is certainly there to make this a permanent change.

Not only are camping and glamping a more sustainable option, but they also do wonders for our mental health—another hot topic during the pandemic—by bringing us closer to nature. Unlike many eco-swaps, camping is also much more affordable than traditional, less eco-conscious accommodations.

Although of course some may miss the conveniences of a hotel, with breakfast served, toiletries provided, temperature controlled and towels laundered, the benefits of outdoor vacations far outweigh the costs, for the world, our wallets and our wellbeing.