5 essentials for any backpacker’s packing list

Travel and tourism have been known to lend themselves to the pollution of the environment. It doesn’t help that we live in a convenience society which advocates single-use plastics like that of bottled water and travel-sized toiletries. Not only do they encourage wasteful spending, but, in most cases, they are non-biodegradable and start to accumulate in our landfills and pollute our oceans.

However, there are ways to minimize your carbon footprint when travelling and it starts with the packing. Below is a list of five eco-friendly products which are guaranteed to help start your green holiday and even save those extra pennies too!

#1 GRAYL Ultralight Purifier Filter Bottle

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When you’re on the road, it’s a common belief that safe drinking water only comes from a sealed plastic water bottle. However, designed for one use only, plastic bottles are not just costly, especially if you’re buying more than one a day, but they are also wasteful and highly pollutant. Coastal Care, a non-profit foundation, argues that every year eight million metric tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans at the degradation of marine life and coastlines alike.

Luckily, reusable water bottles like the GRAYL Ultralight Purifier Filter Bottle have made safe drinking water possible. Once filled up, it takes fifteen seconds of pushing down the powerful central filter system to get fresh drinkable water. It boasts the removal of 99.9999% of all water-borne nasties including viruses, disease-causing bacteria, and protozoan cysts. This impressive water bottle is designed for any environment and any outdoor location. It can filter most fresh water sources from a tap to even a stream!

#2 PFCs free walking boots and trainers

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A good sturdy walking shoe is essential for backpackers. It would be hard to travel without them. However, the irony in most regular outdoor gear is that, although designed for the outdoors, it’s not outdoors-friendly. This is because a lot of it contains PFC chemicals which are used for their waterproofing properties. Most PFCs are toxic, non-degradable, and have been found to accumulate in organisms. The same PFCs on outdoor gear were discovered in remote lakes and even in the livers of polar bears.

Led by the Greenpeace campaign ‘Detox Outdoors’ many companies have begun phasing out the use of PFCs, but it’s not guaranteed that the chemicals they still use are sustainable. A safe alternative is aiming for a vegan company like Vegetarian Shoes which sell a range of sturdy walking boots and trainers made from plant-based materials. Free from harmful chemicals and animal products, they are the ultimate eco-friendly footwear for backpackers.

#3 Bamboo clothing

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I first discovered bamboo clothing when I received a complementary pair of bamboo socks in a magazine from a company called BAM. They were a super soft luxury for the skin and I’m certain they would be a cosy dream for those long transit journeys. In fact, sustainably sourced bamboo material outranks your average cotton version for several reasons. It’s antibacterial which means it stays fresh for longer. Ideal if you’re packing light and don’t see a washing machine for a few days. It cuts out 97.5% of UV rays so you know you’ll be protected when holidaying in hotter climates. Thanks to its hollow microfibre material, bamboo clothing is both warm and breathable. It can also wick away moisture from the skin.

Bamboo clothes are perfect for backpackers. But they also benefit the environment as the source of material is more sustainable to cultivate and harvest than cotton. Bamboo is a grass which can grow naturally without the use of fertilisers and pesticides. It can survive off rainwater, and the soil remains in a much healthier condition because bamboo is cut rather than uprooted. It is also the fastest growing plant in the world!

#4 Reef-safe sunscreen

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It’s hard to believe it but regular sunscreen is terrible for the environment. In a 2015 study, researchers discovered that oxybenzone, a chemical found in most sunscreens, affects the DNA of young coral causing them to become fatally disfigured. The researchers found that there was a direct correlation between popular beachfront destinations, where the concentration of sunscreen was higher, and bleached dead coral reefs. Less popular beaches had a healthier coral life. As a result, more tourist agencies are encouraging the use of sunscreen made from zinc oxide or titanium oxide as they are biodegradable and don’t interfere with marine life.

It is crucial for companies to create a product with a responsibility for the future of its impact. Green People are a UK based company who work alongside The Marine Conservation Society to raise awareness of the effect that the chemicals in regular sunscreen have on marine life. Their own sunscreen contains certified organic natural ingredients and is gentle on the environment.

#5 Reusable shampoo and conditioner containers

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We live in a single-use throwaway society which is designed for our convenience but also causes an excess of non-biodegradable waste. Travel-sized toiletries are a perfect example of this symptom of convenience. A wealth of all our favourite products are readily designed to follow us wherever we go in niche compact sizes. However, they run out quickly, and they’re expensive to keep buying. Meanwhile, they add to the already straining landfills. It’s not a cost-effective or sustainable solution for any traveller in the long-run.

Refillable travelling toiletry containers like GoToobs from humangear are great eco-friendly substitutes. Made from squeezable food-safe and BPA free silicone, they have large openings for easy access to fill up and clean. They come in a range of TSA friendly sizes, and a varied choice of colours. We can finally kiss goodbye to those tiny, wasteful, surprisingly expensive and basically-empty-after-one-hair-wash cousins of our favourite and necessary toiletries.

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Thanks for reading,

F x

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