I’m sure you and I both are equally bombarded with “go green” messages almost daily. Though these frequent reminders can seem annoyingly redundant as we scroll through our feeds, it’s important to acknowledge the heart behind them and reflect on what we could be doing to decrease our impact on the planet.

Entering the new decade, I believe we have the opportunity to really up our game on the zero waste movement, starting with our backpacking adventures.

Here are some ways to encourage you to give zero waste backpacking a try and help minimize your impact while on your adventures this year.

To start, let’s talk coffee because no adventure is complete without a good cup of java…

Zero Waste Backpacking Ideas

1. Coffee 

Coffee is something I refuse to forego when I’m backpacking. I love waking up and starting my day with a good cup of coffee even if it’s instant. The problem with so many instant coffees on the market is that they are incredibly wasteful. On our mission to try zero waste backpacking, I came across an insanely smart alternative.

I did not know this was a thing until I discovered Clark’s Cubes on Instagram and had to get on board. Clark’s Cubes began as a sustainable alternative to the traditional coffee pod and is becoming increasingly popular for outdoor enthusiasts.     

The cube doesn’t use wasteful packaging and is stored in a lightweight reusable travel tin. To use, pop the cube in your hot water and it’ll dissolve almost immediately. I love that it’s convenient and doesn’t require extra gadgets for enjoying good coffee. Clark’s Cubes is the new king of instant coffee, it’s freeze dried with only a few grams of cane sugar for those who enjoy a hint of sweetness in their cup of joe. There’s also multiple flavours you can try with the various variety packs that they sell online!

Not a coffee drinker?

Not to worry, there’s tea options as well! Green mint, Mango Lemon, and Earl Grey are currently available for purchase online.

2. Utensils

Reusable utensils are something that I’ve been bringing with me for a long time on my adventures but is worth having a conversation about in 2020.

I’m often shocked that so many people and companies are still using plastic cutlery. I was so surprised to see how much single use plastic one Omeal contained when I witnessed a friend consuming their products on a road trip. Each meal is equipped with a plastic fork, spoon, knife, and napkin which are all bundled together in a smaller plastic package.

Additionally, many of us use plastic sporks found in outdoor retailers such as MEC and REI. Reusable cutlery is definitely a step in the right direction to zero waste backpacking, however, we should be conscious of the fact that it is still plastic. In the past, I’ve personally broken many sporks and the pieces have unfortunately ended up in the garbage thus creating more harmful waste.

If you’re looking for a durable spork that isn’t plastic, titanium sporks are the way to go. Titanium is a really solid alternative to plastic sporks because it’s way less likely to break on you during your outing and essentially will last you a long freaking time. My personal favourite is the Sea to Summit AlphaLight Long Spork . I give it an A++ because of its long handle which is so helpful for keeping your hands clean when eating out of any kind of deeper dish such as a camp pot.

3. Shampoo & Conditioner Bars

Whether you’re travelling, camping for a few days, or going on a multi-day backpacking trip, try implementing shampoo & conditioner bars as a part of your essential toiletries. While tiny travel shampoo and conditioners can be so tempting, these bottles are often not recyclable. Shampoo bars are great for lightweight and package free haircare for on the go.

I’ve been skeptical in the past about shampoo bars, previously thinking they are messy, won’t clean your hair well, are scented, etc.

To store your shampoo bar, a tiny travel tin will work fine and won’t weigh too much if that’s a concern for your trip. There are some pretty inexpensive tins on the market, like these tins for $6.50 CAD from the Unwrapped Life .

Below are two amazing shampoo/ conditioner bars that are unscented. As someone that goes out into the backcountry often, it’s incredibly important for my products to be unscented. I know with these bars my hair will feel clean and I don’t have to worry about attracting any unwanted friends (grizzly bears).


4. Feminine Hygiene

Menstrual Cups

For any guys out there, feel free to skip past this one. For ladies, this is so important to consider for your next outing. Not only are they waste-free, menstrual cups are so great to bring along for travel because you can forego the worry of having to pack a bunch of tampons with you. It’s no fun trying to guess how many tampons you’ll need during your backpacking trip.

If you’re unsure of how to use your menstrual cup/ are concerned about how to keep it clean check in the great outdoors, check out this REI article and I promise that you’ll feel way more confident.

The menstrual cup of choice seems to be Diva Cup, you can purchase one online or at an outdoor retailer.

Get a Pee Cloth

Ok, I know, sounds kind of gross but if you’re not already familiar with this practice, a pee cloth is absolutely necessary for your next backpacking trip. These pee cloths made by Kula Cloth can be easily cleaned with a tiny bit of soap and water and they dry super fast. Until recently, I hadn’t used pee cloths before and they are now a staple for me! The cloths are a perfect way to eliminate wasteful toiler paper as well.

5. Food Storage

I’m always a huge fan of dehydrating my own food when I’m backpacking/ camping. I admit that Ziploc bags have been the easiest and lightest option for me to store my dehydrated meals in over the last few years. This is something that I am changing for 2020 and trying my absolute best to avoid doing. On my hunt for a better storage system, I’ve come across some amazing alternatives to Ziploc bags that seem to be working quite well for backpackers and travellers.

I’ve learned that reusable sandwich bags are great for storing dehydrated meals in. Not only are they eco-friendly, but they are also able to hold high temperatures which means that you can pour your boiling water right into them ! This is super convenient while on the trail so you can seal up your food for rehydration and you don’t have to transfer your meal to another dish. Stasher is an awesome brand that makes these bags.

Secondly, I read in a few places online that storing your food in wax paper is a great eco-friendly option. To seal the food securely, you have to iron the sides of the wax paper together. When you are done with the paper, you can repurpose it and use as fire starter.

GoToob by Humangear is a fantastic way to store liquids and gels in your pack. Additionally, it’s a great way to transport moisturizer, sunscreen, etc.

6. Face Products

Face Cleanser

DIY face wipes are my new go-to. There’s nothing more refreshing after a long day of trekking than washing your face properly! For me personally, hot water just doesn’t do the trick. I started making my own ‘cleanser’ which really gets the dirt and sweat off of my face.

The cleanser is only three ingredients:

  • Water
  • Dr. Bronner’s Baby Unscented Castille Soap (packaging made from post consumer recycled bottles)
  • Tea tree essential oil
  • PACKAGING- Reusable foaming dispenser (I use one from a previous travel size cleanser that I washed)

For further instructions, click here

I dry my face with a lightweight pack towel or BUFF.

Lip Balm

Zero Waste Vegan Lip Balm by Meow Meow Tweet

This vegan lip balm is genuinely the bombbbbb… (see what I did there…eek). The packaging is made from a compostable paper tube. The balm itself is made from coconut oil and fair trade organic coconut butter to hydrate your lips.


I’ve been very into the idea of creating my own face products. As someone who has sensitive skin, there’s just something that puts my mind puts my mind at ease when I can eliminate the harsh chemicals on my skin.

I absolutely love this DIY aloe face moisturizer recipe. Aloe is so soothing on the skin and is great for unclogging pores.

To package the moisturizer, I put it in one of the GoToob travel tubes.

7. Snacks

I won’t go on about dehydrated food because you can read all about how I dehydrate my own food for my trips here.

I do, however, struggle with packaged snacks that I consume often on my backpacking trips.

My goal for 2020 is to completely ditch the prepackaged bars and snacks and create my own versions of my favourite backpacking snacks.

Protein Bars

After doing some detective work on Pinterest, I’ve found some amazing protein bar recipes that are solid replacements for the bars that I typically consume.

Vegan Jerky

I’ve been messing around with making my own vegan jerky and I think we have some winner recipes. I’m obsessed with Noble’s vegan jerky for backpacking snacks, but unfortunately the packaging is wasteful which is why we have to eliminate it for our zero waste backpacking attempts.


Oh my goodness, there is seriously nothing better than crushing a handful or two (ok or three) of salty plain chips when you are sweating out so much salt during your trek. However, as we all know, chip packaging is definitely no eco-friendly/ waste-free. I love making my own chips in the dehydrator and using Himalayan pink salt.

**All homemade snacks are stored in reusable snack bags

When it comes to the outdoors, what are some of your zero waste/ sustainability goals for 2020?