Skip to content
Photo: Eastlyn & Joshua / eastlynandjoshua.com

Ways to Leave a Lighter Footprint While Camping

Here's how to immerse yourself in nature overnight without weighing so heavily on the environment.

by Diana Richards
Share:

Are you hoping to celebrate and honor the outdoors this summer by camping in the magnificent forests of the Hudson Valley? Get your gear ready, because we’re about to dive into some smart tips from New York’s Heather Darley, a certified Leave No Trace master educator and frequent Hudson Valley hiker. She’s got all the insider knowledge on how to minimize our footprint and still have a blast while camping.

Plan ahead, looking into permits and other requirements where you’re aiming to camp. (Photo: Kamaji Ogino / Pexels)

Plan Ahead and Prepare

Planning ahead is, without a doubt, the top way to make sure you minimize your eco-impact. Darley recommends researching the area you plan to visit, checking if any permits are required, and being aware of any specific regulations. For example, in the Catskills it is prohibited to camp over 3,500 ft. and in the Adirondacks there is no camping allowed over 4,000 ft. Also, consider the size of your group and choose a campsite that can handle your crew without trampling on Mother Nature’s toes. Being prepared will ensure a smooth and responsible camping experience.

Promote Sustainable Practices and Minimize Waste

Be smart about waste management. Darley’s pro tip is to repackage your food and condense items with wrappers to avoid any accidental messes. And when nature calls, grab your trusty trowel and dig a cat hole 6-8 inches deep and at least 200 feet away from water sources, campsites, and trails. Some parks require you to pack out your waste in “wag bags,” so be sure to check the rules. 

As you seek campfire fuel, look for wood that is down, dead, dry, dinky, and distant. (Photo: Kamaji Ogino / Pexels)

If you must have a campfire, keep its duration short, and remember the 5 D’s of firewood: Down, Dead, Dry, Dinky (no bigger than your wrist), and Distant (gather it away from your campground to preserve the natural elements). Or support local businesses by buying firewood from the area you’re camping in to prevent the spread of invasive insects, a win-win.

Use Eco-Friendly Camping Gear

There are a few pieces of gear that can really help with leaving a lighter footprint. Wear lighter footwear around the campsite, Darley says. Also, use bear bags or canisters helps prevent animals from becoming reliant on human food sources.

Use eco-friendly camping gear. (Photo: Diana Richards)

For waste disposal, equip yourself with a trusty wag bag or trowel. Before lighting a campfire, check for fire bans or red flags first. And to minimize the fire’s impact, fire pans and tarps with built-in dirt hills are the ultimate saviors.

Select a Campsite with Minimal Environmental Impact

Be respectful campers and aim for designated campsites or campgrounds whenever possible. It is truly important to try to find a designated campsite first, Darley says, but if you’re stuck and nothing is available, disperse your use in areas that haven’t been used before to avoid compacting plants and soil. 

Use an established campsite to avoid compacting plants and soil. (Photo: Diana Richards)

When dispersed camping, avoid creating new trails by not walking the same path repeatedly. Did you know that just a few weeks of repetitive foot traffic can significantly damage the soil? So mix it up and give Mother Nature a break. And remember, keep your campsite at least 200 feet away from water, roads, and trails. As always, know before you go. Be sure to check the campsite regulations in the park you’re visiting because in specific areas like Harriman State Park, it’s regulation to camp near shelters. 

Leave the environment as you found it

We’re all about leaving a positive mark on this world, and that includes leaving no trace of our camping adventure. When it’s time to pack up and head home, make sure to restore any disturbed areas to their natural glory. Clean up after yourself, including those campfire rings, litter, and any leftover debris. Carry out whatever you carry in, and give your campsite one final sweep to make sure it’s pristine, just like when you arrived.

Keep pets on leashes, and carry waste out, including pet waste. (Photo: Diana Richards)

Follow Regs and Guidelines for Protecting Fragile Ecosystems

Be nature defenders and follow the specific regulations for each area in the Hudson Valley, like Harriman, the Catskills, and the Adirondacks. Stick to sturdy surfaces like rocks to avoid damaging sensitive alpine plants. Stay on designated trails, even if it means walking through mud or over fallen trees. Do not feed animals, keep pets on a leash, and remember to carry waste out, including pet waste. 

Do a final sweep of your campsite, including campfire rings. (Photo: Eastlyn & Joshua / eastlynandjoshua.com)

Camping in harmony with nature is an enriching experience that allows us to appreciate the beauty of the outdoors. By following Darley’s Leave No Trace tips, we can make sure our camping adventures leave a lighter footprint and preserve the beauty of the Hudson Valley for generations to come. So pack your gear, respect the environment, and get ready for unforgettable camping memories. Happy trails!

Diana Richards is a Hudson Valley-based landscape photographer, educator, and dog mama. She has volunteered with Gear Forward to help provide equitable outdoor access for underserved youth, as well as assisted the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference with trail-building. She recently became education lead for the Fungi Foundation. 

Related Content

Editors' Picks

Climate Solutions
How to Get in on the Refillability Game
Land + Air + Water
Restoring Resilience to Mawignack Preserve
Land + Air + Water
Can Hops Make a Comeback in New York?
A close view of a hop growing on a vine. Behind it is a red barn.
Land + Air + Water
Protecting Forests by Managing the Exploding Deer Population
Climate Solutions
Floatovoltaics Makes Waves Approaching the Valley

Search Viewfinder:

Hudson Valley Viewfinder is a collaborative, community digital magazine sharing what inspires us about the beautiful Hudson Valley. We publish original stories and multimedia content about all things sustainable in the region along the Hudson River — including agriculture, science, wildlife, outdoor recreation, green transportation, environmental justice, and more.

Our mission is to immerse you in the storied history, fresh happenings, and coming solutions for making the Hudson Valley greener and more livable long-term.

Viewfinder is published by Scenic Hudson, the celebrated nonprofit credited with launching the modern grassroots environmental movement in 1963. With over 25,000 passionate supporters, Scenic Hudson’s mission is to sustain and enhance the Hudson Valley’s inspirational beauty and health for generations to come. Viewfinder supports that mission, because the better people understand what makes this place special, the more they will invest in protecting it. 

Keep up with the latest stories by subscribing to Scenic Hudson’s monthly digital newsletter, and connect with us on social via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Threads.

Our mission is to immerse you in the storied history, fresh happenings, and coming solutions for making the Hudson Valley greener and more livable long-term.

Viewfinder is published by Scenic Hudson, the celebrated nonprofit credited with launching the modern grassroots environmental movement in 1963. With over 25,000 passionate supporters, Scenic Hudson’s mission is to sustain and enhance the Hudson Valley’s inspirational beauty and health for generations to come. Viewfinder supports that mission, because the better people understand what makes this place special, the more they will invest in protecting it. 

Keep up with the latest stories by subscribing to Scenic Hudson’s monthly digital newsletter, and connect with us on social via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Threads.

Lynn Freehill-Maye
Managing Editor
editorial@scenichudson.org 

Riley Johndonnell
Director Creative Strategies & Communications
rjohndonnell@scenichudson.org

Lynn Freehill-Maye
Managing Editor
editorial@scenichudson.org 

Riley Johndonnell
Director Creative Strategies & Communications
rjohndonnell@scenichudson.org

We’re always looking for ideas around our main topic areas of Climate Solutions, Land + Air + Water, Plants + Animals, History + Culture, Outdoors, and Community.
  • Journalists and writers who have deep familiarity with New York and the Hudson Valley, we’d love to have you contribute! Please do introduce yourself by email, sharing writing samples and any relevant pitches you may have.
  • Photographers and videographers, we’d love to hear from you and see what you do. Please send along a portfolio with images or footage that showcases your best and/or most relevant work, with an emphasis on anything captured outdoors. 
  • Illustrators, we commission artwork on the regular. Drop us a note with some of the beauty you’ve created.
  • Media Partners & Social Media Influencers, we welcome opportunities to team up on series and campaigns. Reach out with any background about yourselves and your ideas.
We’re always looking for ideas around our main topic areas of Climate Solutions, Land + Air + Water, Plants + Animals, History + Culture, Outdoors, and Community.
  • Journalists and writers who have deep familiarity with New York and the Hudson Valley, we’d love to have you contribute! Please do introduce yourself by email, sharing writing samples and any relevant pitches you may have.
  • Photographers and videographers, we’d love to hear from you and see what you do. Please send along a portfolio with images or footage that showcases your best and/or most relevant work, with an emphasis on anything captured outdoors. 
  • Illustrators, we commission artwork on the regular. Drop us a note with some of the beauty you’ve created.
  • Media Partners & Social Media Influencers, we welcome opportunities to team up on series and campaigns. Reach out with any background about yourselves and your ideas.
  • We love to collaborate with media outlets, especially on episodic series (like these) of interest to our shared audiences. Past collaborations have included radio interviews, panel discussions and other events, original artwork, and e-blasts, all furthering the campaign’s excitement and reach. 
  • We also love to partner with other organizations whose missions align with Scenic Hudson’s. Feel free to reach out with some background on your group and its work.
  • Writers, photographers, and creatives, if you have an idea for a series or content campaign that might be a good fit, drop us a line!

Businesses, please note that as a nonprofit, Scenic Hudson is restricted from advertising or promoting for-profit companies, through Viewfinder or other outlets. While we understand content managers may wish to alert us to your company’s role in a relevant topic, we are unable to add links to businesses to our stories.

  • We love to collaborate with media outlets, especially on episodic series (like these) of interest to our shared audiences. Past collaborations have included radio interviews, panel discussions and other events, original artwork, and e-blasts, all furthering the campaign’s excitement and reach. 
  • We also love to partner with other organizations whose missions align with Scenic Hudson’s. Feel free to reach out with some background on your group and its work.
  • Writers, photographers, and creatives, if you have an idea for a series or content campaign that might be a good fit, drop us a line!

Businesses, please note that as a nonprofit, Scenic Hudson is restricted from advertising or promoting for-profit companies, through Viewfinder or other outlets. While we understand content managers may wish to alert us to your company’s role in a relevant topic, we are unable to add links to businesses to our stories.

Subscribe!

Get the latest articles delivered right to your inbox  — for FREE!