Camping is one of the best ways for us as men to connect—with ourselves, with each other, with nature. There’s something about hiking in the middle of nowhere, pitching a tent, and building a fire that can’t be replicated in any other way. If you’re headed out there this summer, don’t load up your car without checking out these suggestions for making your trek healthier, smoother, and definitely more fun.
Outdoors is open to everyone, but every outdoor place was first cared for by Indigenous people—and many spaces remain culturally or spiritually meaningful to tribal communities. No matter your background, it’s important to respect Native spaces and beliefs. Ways you can do this include honoring Native communities’ wishes for the land, hiring a Native guide, and/or supporting Native-owned businesses and activist groups.
In addition, a good number of people, including women and people of color, often have to ask themselves questions that some guys might not. For instance, a female solo hiker might wonder, Am I welcome here? Am I safe? Am I respected? Which is why this guideline works for everyone and anyone: When you encounter other people, be a good guy and treat them the way they want to be treated.
Borrow nontoxic gear
If you’re new to camping, you don’t have to run out and spend a ton of money on brand-new equipment. Borrow a tent from a friend, buy secondhand from Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist, or look into renting gear you won’t use more than once or twice. Consider it a test drive, and if you’re really into something, you’ll know what to look for when you want to shop.
If you do need to buy new tents or clothing, avoid items with fire-retardant treatments and water-repellent fabrics (aka DWR). These are made with chemicals that pollute soil and waterways and may be harmful to human health. Instead, look for fabrics that can be waxed for water resistance, or consider a treatment like Nikwax Wash-In Waterproofing. You won’t get soaked, and neither will the planet.
Go beyond “leave no trace”
Obviously, you’re not gonna leave a bunch of litter in a forest. But given the damaged state of our environment, it’s time to do a little more to help Mother Earth. See someone else’s plastic bottle? Pick it up from the forest floor and recycle it when your trip is done. Take pictures of rare plants instead of taking them home. You get the idea.
Pack cleaner formulas
Whatever personal care stuff you need—toothpaste, soap, that sort of thing—it’s definitely available a kinder-to-nature formulas. To clean yourself, dishes, or anything else, castile soap is a smart multi-purpose option because it’s biodegradable and plant-based (and cheap). Planning to take a swim? Choose a sunscreen with physical UVA and UVB filters (like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) because unlike some chemical-based sunscreens, they won’t harm the plants and marine life living underwater.
Cook and illuminate without fossil fuels
Kerosene camp stoves and lanterns are so 20th century—and besides, it’s kind of a pain in the ass to haul fuel around. Instead, if you need a camp stove, look into the SoloStove, which can be used to cook meals using found twigs and debris from around your campsite. Need a lantern at night? LuminAid’s solar-powered lantern can light up your tent and charge your phone at the same time.