Using techniques adapted from serious backcountry explorers and researchers will make your outdoor experience more comfortable for both you and Mama Nature, whether you are going full-primitive camping, camping at a campground, or pitching your tent in a back yard.
We asked Stephanie Whatton, a Hudson Valley native who grew up exploring the Gunks, for some tips on camping clean and comfy. When she’s not on the road, Stephanie hangs her hat in High Falls; when she is on the road, however, she’s traveling the East Coast with her partner, Andy Mossey, and camping out 250 nights a year as a Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer. Steph and Andy provide outreach and environmental education wherever they go, working with state parks, scout troops, nonprofits, and other outdoors-oriented organizations to teach the principles of environmentally friendly fun.
Subaru and TaxaOutdoors partner with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics to sponsor the program, and Steph and Andy travel in a Subaru with a TigerMoth trailer made by Taxa. It’s camping, in-style—the trailer holds a folding queen-sized bed, a pullout kitchen, shelving, storage, and electricity. (Hey, if you are going to camp out 250 nights a year and work with the public all day, comfort is a good thing.)
Leave No Trace skills are based on seven science-centered principles that make camping kinder to the planet and more fun: plan ahead and prepare, travel and camp only on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, and be considerate of other visitors.
BRINGING THE RIGHT GEAR IS A BIG HELP when going on a camping trip, and Steph shared some of her favorites.
Backpacks from Deuter, Kelty Linger high-back chairs that fold into compact bags, and Lighthouse 250 LED lanterns from Goal Zero that can charge USB devices and be hand-cranked in an emergency are some of the products in the Subaru kit that
have won her seal of approval, as are the stainless steel drink bottles from Klean Kanteen in pint and growler sizes. Plus, Steph says their two-burner CampChef stove makes campsite cooking simple.
“It’s totally rad,” she says. “You don’t even need a lighter to light it. They make a teapot that makes life a lot easier, too.” But a lot of the knack of eating well in the woods—or wherever you decide to go camping—is in the packing.
“ALWAYS REPACKAGE YOUR FOOD,” Steph says. “I put ten minute, steel cut oatmeal into zip-lock bags, for example—you eliminate the bulky packaging and only bring what you’re going to eat.
That not only eliminates waste and lightens your load, [but] you can use the bag as a trash bag when it’s empty. If you bring instant oatmeal, pour the hot water right into the package—no dirty dishes.”
They also have a CampChef cooler, and it’s bear-proof not just for the sake of the food.
“When wildlife gets into your food, they can become habituated to rely heavily on it and can no longer find food for themselves,” Steph says.
“At Leave No Trace, we like to say ‘keep wildlife wild,’” she adds. “Find out in advance if you need a bear canister—which is required in bear country—and remember to store not only food but also things like toothpaste and sunscreen that have an odor.”
Bear canisters should be stowed for the night at least 200 feet from your trailer or tent; though bears may be drawn to the smell, they will be unable to get at your goodies.
WHEN YOU ARE READY TO LEAVE, GIVE YOUR CAMPSITE A THOROUGH FRESHENING UP. Steph says to always pack out everything you brought in, and even take it a step further.
“We like to leave a campsite better than we found it,” she says. “If we see trash on the ground that wasn’t ours, it really doesn’t take long to pick it up and pack it out with us. This way, the next people who come along can enjoy the space as well.”
Also recommended is something the Leave No Trace folks call “FLUFFING THE DUFF.”
“Camping on a duff layer of organic material—like leaves—for two nights or more, we begin to compact the soil under our tent,” Steph says. “When we pack up camp, we fluff the compacted layer so that it doesn’t look as if we were there.”
To learn more about the art and science of Leave No Trace camping, you can visit lnt.org and enroll in a free online awareness program.
Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics