Green Camping Checklist
Hooray! Warm weather and starry nights make for great camping all across Oregon! Guarantee more smiles with these camping tips–including a green camping checklist–that will help you avoid environmental hazards and avoid becoming a hazard yourself
Planning: You might not know to check these before you go!
Summer has always had its hazards. But as climate change brings more intense weather, it’s good to get in the habit of planning ahead.
Check for toxic algal blooms: Made worse by warm weather and polluted runoff, toxic algae can be harmful to swimmers and deadly to pets. Check out Oregon’s best swimming holes—but check the hazard warnings, too. Not all Oregon waterways are monitored, though, so keep the family away from foamy, scummy water with thick pea-green, blue-green or brownish red color.
Check air quality forecasts: No doubt you don’t need a reminder to check the weather; but take a minute to check the air quality forecast as well. You’ll want to plan the big hike or ball game for a day when soot and smog don’t make it hard to breathe.
Check for forest fires: The Oregon Smoke Blog is a volunteer-run site that compiles agency information on fires and smoke. While you’re at it, be sure to visit your campsite’s web page to learn about campfire rules and restrictions.
Protecting: Get the safest sunscreen and bug protection
Sun and bug protection are really important to staying healthy today and in the long run; but it takes care to choose solutions that do the job without causing harm.
- No spray sunscreens (an inhalation hazard)
- No sunscreen/bug repellant mixtures
- No toxic sunscreen ingredients retinyl palmitate and oxybenzone
- No sunscreens over 50 SPF (see more from our friends at Environmental Working Group)
Sunscreen do’s: The best sunscreen is a light shirt and pants, hat and sunglasses. If you’re looking for a lotion or cream, look for:
- zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (mineral based blockers)
- high SPF that’s not above 50+.
You can also consult EWG’s guide.
Bug repellent don’ts: Sunscreen/bug repellant mixtures are not a good idea. Why? Because you should slather on the sunscreen, but use bug repellant with a lot of caution. In fact, the American Association of Pediatrics recommends for kids a single application, avoiding hands and face, and washing up immediately on returning inside.
- No Permethrin-treated clothing (for concerns about toxicity)
- No candles, yard treatment, bug zappers, ultrasonics or wristbands soaked in repellent (none of these are proven effective)
- No oil of lemon eucalyptus on children under the age of three (not proven safe)
- Use caution with essential oils. They can be potent allergens and should not be applied to skin in concentrated form.
- No repellants should be used on infants under two months old
Bug repellent do’s: A light-colored and lightweight shirt and pants are perhaps the best protection. If you’re looking for a repellent chemical that works safely, use the EPA repellant-finder tool to understand what will work best for you.
Playing: Good camping habits for you and the planet
So you’ve got the bug and sun protection and a pristine camping site; now, it’s your turn to keep that site pristine! Here’s how:
Keep water clean: Fragrances, dyes and preservatives in personal care products are hard on our waterways. Triclosan, found in antibacterial products, are especially hard on aquatic life. Choose castile soap, toothpaste without triclosan, and deodorant without fragrance or dye. As an added bonus, going fragrance-free will avoid attracting bugs!
Reduce waste: With a little planning, it’s easy to camp without disposables. Get everyone a durable mess kit, and pack some cloth towels and napkins. Bring along a wash tub and some castile soap for doing dishes. Remember to pack a breathable bag for dirty linens. Bring durable water bottles and a jug to refill. If you’re extra-awesome, tie a garbage bag to your hiking backpack to pick up trash along the trail.
Don’t play with fire: Fire is no joke. Not only does it burn and smoke, but it can really sting if you have to pay a fine for not following the rules. Your first step should be to check for fire restrictions at Oregon State Parks, National Forests, or other camping web sites. Then, if allowed, you can use the local firewood (bought within 50 miles) to create a small fire. Burn only seasoned wood; resist the temptation to burn trash. And the best way to extinguish your fire (don’t let it smolder unattended!) is to use a dish-tub full of water. Pour and stir until cool.
A checklist to sum it all up: Maybe camping green is all old hat to you; but the best environmentalist can forget essentials. Here’s a green camping checklist to get you started; feel free to customize with your own favorite camping gear. And we’d love to hear from campers out there: what would you add to this checklist?