Since moving to one of Canada’s top tourist destinations, I’ve seen first hand the effects that travellers have on the environment. Over the last year, people are replacing their trips abroad with adventures closer to home. Airbnb’s and fancy hotel rooms are being traded in for funky, custom made houses on wheels, aka #vanlife. As we approach the busy summer months, it’s essential to educate and familiarize ourselves withhow to van life responsibly. Inevitably, this trend will continue to grow each year. It’s up to us to work together in order to protect and preserve these beautiful natural places for future generations.
Here’s what you need to know: The Leave no Trace principals. Cool, but what does that mean in terms of living or traveling in a van? Well, the same principals that are used for backcountry tenting, also apply to van life.
1. Plan ahead and Prepare-Do your research and plan accordingly. This principal ranges from where you intend on spending the night to making sure you have the proper camping equipment. Things you should consider: booking a campsite before you leave home, researching rec sites, and respecting any closures/travel restrictions.
2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces- If youchoose to camp in a non-designated site be sure to respect the ecological integrity of the area. Avoid driving over sensitive land such as vegetation. Instead, opt for rocky or gravel terrain and be aware of any wildlife habitats.
3. Dispose waste properly- “Pack it in, pack it out”. This is the same concept as if you were tenting in the backcountry. If you are staying at a campground, remember to dispose waste in the designated bins. Remember, to leave your site cleaner than you found it. Garbage should always be kept inside your vehicle and never left unattended as garbage is a wildlife attractant.
Another common issue in the backcountry is people pooping in the woods. You may not always have access to a toilet when nature calls, so here are a few tips on how to select your ceremonial site: make sure that it’s at least 200 feet away from trails, campsites and water sources, dig a cat hole 6-8” deep and cover when you’re done. Dispose used toilet paper and feminine hygiene products in the garbage. Don’t forget to sanitize your hands.
4. Leave what you find- Minimize any alterations to the site.This includes:picking plants, collecting rocks or shells, graffiti, carving your initials into trees, chopping down branches for firewood and moving fire rings or picnic tables.
5. Reduce campfire impacts- First and foremost, you should always check to see if there is a fire ban. Build your fire in the designated fire ring, use wood purchased from the area that you’re camping to avoid introducing invasive species such as the Pine beetle. These pesky bugs have been known to decimate entire forests. Avoid making a large fire, and never leave it unattended. Always use water to extinguish, not sand, as it’s an insulator.
6. Respect wildlife- Remember that you are visitors in their home.Respect wildlife by giving them the space they need. Do not feed animals, this can lead to them becoming habituated and forgetting how to source food on their own. Ultimately, human food kills wildlife. Be sure to keep your dogs on leash/ close to you as they’re a wildlife attractant.
7. Be considerate to others- Be respectful to other campers and the community that you are visiting.This includes being mindful of noise (talking, drones, music etc.), following regulations, and being kind to your neighbours.Be a responsible #vanlifer. Together we can protect and preserve our beautiful outdoor playground.
Blog post submitted by Caitlin Beaudin in collaboration with Gregory Mountain Products. Photos shared by contributing Ambassadors William Woodward, Benjamin Canevari and Caitlin Beaudin