Is Camping Good For The Environment?

Camper van view from top

Camping is a fun and exciting way to enjoy the great outdoors. It can also be an environmentally friendly way to travel and enjoy some much-needed time off, with minimal impact on nature. However, this doesn’t mean that everything about it is environmentally friendly. There are some things that you should know before you just assume you are being a good steward of the Earth just because you are camping.

Camping can be a good way to get up and close with nature, allowing you to garner appreciation for the beauty that we have in front of us. This alone can create a habit of good stewardship towards the Earth and the valuable resources we have which can have a positive effect on the environment.

While some might see camping as an invitation for people to mistreat natural resources, others argue that camping has a positive effect on nature because of the appreciation gained from the experience.

Both points are valid and I have seen my share of people in both camps along the way on my journeys. Most of us who camp are respectful of the natural environment. However, there are times when you will run into those who just don’t care! They leave trash, dump things they aren’t supposed to, and live as if their fun experience is all that matters.

These people are few and far between thank goodness but it goes to show that not every camper is out there benefiting the environment. With that being said, let’s look at some of the ways camping may have a positive effect on the environment.

Reasons Camping is Good for the Environment

1. It Makes You Appreciate Nature

Nature is full of wonders that are revealed when you stop and take time to notice. Whether it’s insects crawling on a leaf or wildflowers pushing their way through thick underbrush. From an amazing, colorful sunrise to a starry night sky. It’s hard to go on a camping trip and not see something that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. It gets you up close and personal with the natural world and often leaves you in awe of the experience.

This can bring a new appreciation to the world around us. Without these excursions, you may only experience a concrete world of consumption rather than just slowing down and taking the time to breathe, relax, and just enjoy what’s already here.

Ultimately, this leads to people who have an appreciation for the great outdoors and over the long term could be beneficial. The more people that experience this type of lifestyle, the more will see how wonderful it is and it will cause more to understand that we have to appreciate and protect it for future generations.

2. Minimal Supplies Are Used

When camping, you usually take minimal supplies which create less waste than you typically would in a normal living situation. This alone can be beneficial to the environment because there is less waste that needs to be disposed of after the trip.

Many people camp with just a few items that can fit in their backpack or car. Campers usually need only some food, water, matches or lighter, a tarp, tent, and sleeping bag.

For those who camp in RVs, the RV itself is a large item to acquire and use but it probably isn’t loaded with supplies like your house would be. Because of space, you are likely to carry less and be more considerate of the items you have in it.

Of course, this may not be the case if you bring and use throwaway plastic utensils, plates, cups, and other items for convenience. The key to having a great camping trip is less stuff and more experience. Rather than plastic throwaway junk, opt for reusable stainless steel products or higher quality plastic items that might last for years to come.

3. It Makes You More Conscious of Waste

trash can hanging on side of RV

We live in a throwaway society but when camping, you realize just how much waste you are actually creating. This is front and center since the waste you create has to be carried out and disposed of. This will make you more conscious of just how much waste you are creating. I’m well aware of the waste I create when in my van as it fills up faster than I usually want it to.

This makes me even more conscious of how much waste we humans create in our normal lifestyle. Even when trying to be less wasteful, the trash can piles up at an alarming rate!

It’s likely that most campers generate less waste than a typical consumer lifestyle would permit. In the end, this is a good thing since it puts less of a strain on our environment.

4. You Use Less Electricity

When at home or in a typical living situation, we typically use a lot of electricity for things like air-conditioning, heating, stoves, ovens, lights, televisions, and all kinds of other electronic equipment. Compare this to a camping environment where electricity needs are considerably less.

Camping allows us to get off the grid at least a little bit. While we may still connect to the grid, we don’t use quite the amount of energy as we would at home.

Imagine if everyone lived this way? If everyone were utilizing less energy, it would be much better for the environment. When you are on a camping trip, it makes you feel good to be living more primitive and having less electrical needs.

If you are like me and have solar energy in your RV or other camping setup, you can have the best of both worlds. You can have electricity while harnessing it all from the sun. This provides you with energy without the pollution that usually comes along with it.

5. You May Drive Less

Camping allows you to set up your camp and not have to drive so much. You usually don’t need to drive at all, and if you do, it’s only a small amount of miles. This may actually help reduce your carbon footprint! The less you drive, the less fuel you are going to use.

Of course, this will also depend upon the type of camping you are doing. If you are traveling long distances in a Class A RV, you are going to drive a lot and use a lot of fuel. However, if you are going on a weekend camping trip to a location and setting up your camp, you are likely there to stay.

6. It’s a Respectful Community of People

The one thing that connects all campers is the love of nature. People who are passionate about important issues like environmental conservation often have strong ties to the outdoors. These people often have respect for the beauty that they so love. This makes it easy to relate to others while out on your journeys.

You’ll often notice that other campers tend to take notice of environmental concerns and will do their best to do their part in keeping our lands in good shape. It often makes me proud to be among others who understand the amazing world that we live in and try their best to do their part.

7. You Use Less Water

Water needs are less when camping simply because you might not have an unlimited supply of it. If you are tent camping in the wilderness, you probably only have what you brought in with you. Beyond that, a stream or lake may be your only source with the help of a good water filter.

I have a water holding tank in my van that is 16-gallons plus an additional 2.5 gallons in my hot water tank. I know that I have this limited supply when I am on a trip. It makes me very conscious of just how much water I am using. I am often amazed at how little water I actually need. When compared to the amount I often use at home, it makes me feel good.

Reasons Camping is Bad for the Environment

1. People Leave Trash

Campers often take shortcuts when it comes to camping, such as packing disposable utensils instead of carrying their own set, or leaving the trash behind instead of carrying it with them.

By doing this, campers are polluting our forests, our bodies of water, and our air by leaving behind their trash. This also means that they don’t enjoy the beauty of nature as much as more responsible people.

It makes me so mad when I get to a location and see trash lying on the ground from previous campers. It makes no sense that people who would spend time enjoying nature would then dispose of items in such a way that is damaging to that very nature.

It’s people like this who ruin it for others. They pollute our lands and have little respect for anything other than their own enjoyment.

Unfortunately, these people make it to campsites and end up doing more harm than good. If you have spent any time in the great outdoors frequenting campsites, there is no doubt you have seen trash left behind from these inconsiderate people.

2. RVs Use a Lot of Fuel

No matter what type of RV you have, using a lot of fuel is just something that you will have to get used to. Even though some RVs get better fuel mileage, such as a camper van, most of the time these vehicles will be loaded or going up and over mountain passes which will require more fuel than a passenger car.

It’s hard to say that something is environmentally friendly when it is causing damage by using fuel and off-putting carbon dioxide. If you are trying to shy away from producing so much carbon, driving an RV may not feel right to you.

3. Generators Create Pollution

Starting a generator next to an RV

Beyond the fuel used to power your RV or other vehicle, generators are often used to provide electricity. These gas generators output pollution as well and can contribute to the problem even more. Not only that but generators create a noise problem especially when other campers are around trying to enjoy a peaceful night.

It’s a little annoying to pull up to a Camping site and hear a generator running from someone nearby. This is especially annoying as it goes on throughout the night. While most RV parks have a time limit on these types of generators, many do not.

4. Social Media is Having a Negative Effect

Since everyone posts pretty much every action they take nowadays, social media networks have become overwhelmed with people doing amazing things all over the world. No longer are these locations secret but have become popular attractions for others to explore. This has invited everyone to freely explore them which unfortunately has repercussions.

Places that used to be perfect nature are now trampled and littered by some of the inconsiderate types of people mentioned above. It’s probably others who are looking to get those social media shots as well. Rather than simply enjoying it for themselves, they have some strange need to show everybody in the world what they are enjoying.

Call me old-fashioned but I travel in my camper van so that I can experience nature at its finest in the locations that I go to. I prefer not sharing any of my locations and would like to keep them for myself to explore.

5. Camping Equipment Is Needed

No matter how well you go about protecting the environment, you are still a consumer of the needed equipment to take you places. Unfortunately, the manufacturing of most of this type of equipment is not done sustainably. With many camping products being made with synthetic fibers, plastics, and other types of materials that have an impact on the environment, it creates a conundrum for those who want to enjoy camping but are concerned about the products needed.

6. Wildlife May Be Affected

Elk standing in crowded campground

The further we humans reach into the wilderness, the more we affect the inhabitants of those wildernesses. The wildlife has already been pushed from their homes with our city streets and other man-made objects stretching the globe as far as the eye can see. Wildlife is important for our ecosystem and each time a commercial RV park or other campground encroaches on an area where wildlife lives, it isn’t good.

Of course, this is hard to avoid with camping becoming more popular and the population becoming larger. There are simply too many people on this planet and unfortunately, wildlife is often seen as nuisances rather than the deserving occupants that they are.


Camping is a double-edged sword for those who have a desire to maintain an environmentally friendly lifestyle. While slowing down and camping with minimal gear and impact on the earth can be beneficial, it can often have adverse outcomes as well.

The best you can do is the best you can do so it’s important to educate yourself on decisions regarding your camping trips. Make sure that you are doing all that you can to stay environmentally friendly as much as possible. We all need gear and driving is just a part of life.

Hopefully, these types of things will become better over time and as long as you are doing your part and taking care of things that you have control of, camping can be a beneficial part of maintaining the planet on which we live.

Dan Collins

I consider myself an outdoor enthusiast. I love to travel and go to places that most people don't get a chance to go. I want to see it all and live life to the fullest while I'm alive. My camper van is helping me to do just that. I write about my experiences to help inspire others to do the same.

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