Environmental awareness is becoming an increasingly important lifestyle consideration. While all vehicular activities have some environmental impact, you don’t have to give up exploring the backcountry if your goal is staying as green as possible.
You can do plenty of things to reduce your carbon footprint while enjoying overlanding. For example, you can apply “leave no trace” and “tread lightly” principles to outdoor activities — motorized or not.
Try these tips to up your eco-friendliness.
ADJUST YOUR TIRE PRESSURE
The amount of gas you use is one of the biggest environmental concerns when driving any kind of vehicle — especially big adventure rigs. When you’re driving an overlanding vehicle on a well-maintained road, keep your tires fully inflated for improved fuel efficiency. However, before you leave the beaten path, it’s best to deflate your truck’s tires until they acquire a bulged appearance.
Deflating your air pressure in the backcountry increases vehicle traction by expanding the tires’ surface area. This technique makes for minimal track formation and decreases your chances of getting stuck.
When you’re stuck, spinning tires and extraction methods leave ruts, damage vegetation and can make areas impassable over time. Environmentally friendly driving practices include maintaining slower speeds, avoiding muddy areas and staying on designated trails whenever possible.
AVOID VEHICLE LEAKS
Overlanding-related environmental pollutants include vehicle liquids like oil and coolant. These can escape your vehicle when there is damage, a spill or a leak. Before you set off on your next adventure, make sure your vehicle is in good working condition. Proper maintenance is key to preventing leaks and spills in the backcountry.
Be sure to regularly change your oil, being sure to use a company that responsibly disposes of and recycles oils. If you change your own oil, find a location where you can responsibly dispose of the waste.
USE SOLAR-POWERED GEAR
If you spend a significant amount of time off the grid, you need a way to keep your electronics charged. While single-use battery-powered devices are convenient, battery disposal is harmful to the environment. So look for rechargeable options like solar-powered gear.
Solar chargers harness sunlight to power your electronics, including phones, laptops, cameras, GPS systems and other devices you might need in the backcountry. If you often require large amounts of power, consider installing a solar power kit on your adventure vehicle. This includes mounting solar panels to your vehicle’s roof and affixing 12-volt DC batteries, which effectively power devices like fans and refrigerators. You might also want to consider installing an inverter for charging 120-volt appliances like phones and computers.
CONSIDER THESE ACCESSORIES
Reduce the amount of trash you produce by eliminating the single-use products you carry into the backcountry. Eco-friendly alternatives are kinder to the environment and many biodegrade, making for a guilt-free conscience if they are accidentally left behind.
KHALA & CO. BEESWAX WRAPS
Why we picked it: Ditch plastic bags and store your food using Khala & Co.’s beeswax wraps instead. Whether you need to wrap a block of cheese, store lunch meat or preserve an avocado, Khala and Co.’s beeswax cloths effectively wrap around food and containers, with the heat from your hands serving to hold them in place. They’re 100 percent compostable and biodegradable, so don’t stress if you lose one while you’re on the trail.
UCO SWEETFIRE STRIKABLE FIRE STARTER
Why we picked it: Campfires and cook stoves are essential when exploring the backcountry, but you can avoid using toxic fire starters. UCO Sweetfire Strikable Fire Starters are made from a sugarcane byproduct that is becoming one of the world’s most popular biofuels. The match points are infused with vegetable wax that burns for up to seven minutes of burning time per point — plenty of time to get your campfire started or your camp stove lit.
BIOLITE CAMPSTOVE 2
Why we picked it: For nighttime charging or cloudy days when solar power is limited, the BioLite CampStove 2 turns fire into electricity. This stove doubles as an electronic charging device that utilizes the brand’s patented combustion technology. The CampStove 2 provides a portable campfire that produces smokeless flames for cooking your meals and simultaneously charging your gear.
OTHER TIPS FOR ECO-FRIENDLY OVERLANDING
REDUCING WATER WASTE
- If you have a water system in your rig, consider installing a low-flow tap.
- Your adventure vehicle is going to get dirty, but increasing the time between car washes will save water.
- Long-term travelers can consider building a system that channels rainwater into their vehicle’s water tank.
RECYCLING AND WASTE MANAGEMENT
- Before transporting groceries into the backcountry, break down and recycle the packaging. Store your food in reusable containers to extend trips between waste runs.
- Install a low-profile recycling system on your rig and carry your recyclables with you until you can dispose of them in a designated recycling receptacle. While you can be creative, your system doesn’t have to be anything fancy — a reusable bag will do. The goal is to avoid recyclable items ending up in landfills.
- If you don’t have a bathroom installed in your adventure vehicle, properly dispose of all human waste. Follow the LNT principles for human waste disposal, making sure you dig a hole at least 8 inches deep and 200 feet from all water sources and trails. Use a quality biodegradable toilet paper or pack out your paper. If you’re looking for some privacy, consider investing in the WolfWise Pop Up Shower Tent, which effectively doubles as a bathroom.