So we recently went on an exciting camping trip across Europe. Camping seemed to be an easy way to be green while travelling… well, it’s not as easy as it might seem! However, armed with a map book, a tent and a Kelly Kettle we set out on our adventure…
Firstly, remember that it is possible to be green and still enjoy going on holiday. But it’s important to think about how you go and what you do once you’re there. Flying is clearly and by far the least green option of getting abroad. According to Paul Jenner and Christine Smith in their book The Green Travel Guide (pictured): “flying uses something like five times as much energy per passenger mile or kilometre as the average car with its average number of passengers, or a coach, or a train. That means five times more pollution.” On a 1,000 mile journey an aeroplane will use around 6,000 litres of fuel. To put that into perspective, I refuel my car about once a month, so it would take me 12.5 years to use as much fuel as a one-way ticket to Algiers, Algeria by air. On our trip around Europe we visited 8 countries, driving 3,300 miles and filled up the tank 4 times at a total of 180 litres of fuel. Not too shabby.
Camping in an ancient castle in Verona, Italy.
Our journey began in a fairly un-green manner- we got the ferry to France. And not just any ferry, but a big, slow, 5 hour ferry. This did save 227 of road miles by cutting out the Calais crossing as we went directly to Normandy from Portsmouth. Staying with friends and family or airbnb is a great way to visit somewhere without using your carbon footprint at all. If someone has a spare room or sofa then it would be sat there whether you slept on it or not! We did use this to our advantage a few times: staying with my sister in France, an internet friend in Salzburg, Austria and getting an airbnb for 2 nights in Treviso, Italy. But most other nights we pitched up our tent and settled down under the stars (or the rain, as it turned out!).
Next to Lac d’Aydat, France
Camping is undeniably eco-friendly. It requires very little human-power to create a comfortable, micro-home for the night. There’s no need for insulation (if you have a good sleeping bag), the nearest bush is your toilet and the great outdoors is your living room! Our tent is a pop-up which takes approximately 10 seconds to erect saving much time and energy to be put into more useful things, like collecting firewood (or opening a bottle of local wine). We invested in a Kelly Kettle this year which is much recommended for it’s lack of carbon footprint. Literally just use collected wood, dry leaves or pine cones and you can have yourself a roaring fire for cooking on and a boiling kettle for your cup of tea in no time. One slight draw back is rain. When it rains dry fuel is impossible to find and trying to get the fire lit isn’t much fun either. Top Tip for campfires: instead of using chemical-filled firelighters use a new cotton tampon, pull it apart so it makes a bed of cotton wool which ignites instantly!
Kelly Kettle – just right for toasting marshmallows
We found it useful (if not very green) to take a gas stove with us as well, but found it to be very fuel efficient. For approximately 14 nights of cooking meals at night and boiling the kettle each morning we only used 2 small canisters of gas. Happily, we found that many European campsites are recycling positive with separate bins. We also tried to cut down on our waste by taking reusable items such as picnic plates, cups, cutlery and refillable water bottles. There was no need to buy bulky items along the way either as I packed tubs of rice, pasta, oats for breakfast, tea, coffee and homemade fruit cake for snacking.
To sum up, my top camping tips are (in no particular order):
– Take homemade food and drink, including dry goods which you can just put back into your kitchen when you get home. (Top Tip: fruit cake lasts forever!)
– Remember that you can’t always have an open flame at campsites so a fuel-efficient gas stove is useful.
– Buy your camping gear secondhand or borrow from a friend. Old kettles, pots and pans or a fold-up table can always be repurposed for campers.
– But if you have to buy new buy good quality items. There’s nothing eco-friendly about buying a brand new cheap tent year after year. Buy one good one that will last for many trips to come.
– Take a refillable bottle for water. Most service stops (especially the ‘aires’ in France) have drinking water taps. Take a bottle of cordial if you need something to take away that foreign water taste.
– Don’t take it too seriously! Our best times were when we took a wrong turn and ended up driving towards the sun as it set over the Croatian coast or when we rolled into the only campsite we could find to see that it was nestled in the gorgeous, lush, green Austrian Alps.
I hope you enjoy your eco-camping experience as much as we did. I’d love to hear your tips and advice.
What a view to wake up to! On the island of Cres, Croatia.