low waste camping: what we brought + ate


scorpio, leo, virgo… haha, also… vin took this pic!

Hi friends!  We just got back from camping at Grover Hot Springs State Park, and we had a blast!  A lot of you asked me to share what we bring, eat, and use for low waste camping, so I thought I’d share.  I am by no means an expert, we are novice campers- I mostly camped in an RV during my childhood- so I am still learning too!  The last 3 years we’ve been able to reduce our waste a little more each year.  This year I tried to focus on less recycling (hard!), and bringing less clothing and toiletries (I’m an overpacker!) and I’m happy to say things went really smoothly.  We had 3 tin bean cans, 1 paper pasta box, 1 glass salsa jar, 2 chocolate papers and foils, and 1 glass wine bottle to recycle. Also 1 plastic bag of kettle chips (at joel’s request, I honored it) and 1 propane plastic connector that was landfill trash.  This year was the first time we composted, too- all our scraps got packed in empty mason jars (previously holding food) and sealed up and taken home to compost.  I couldn’t bear to throw it in the landfill trash.  I was worrying it would be gross or smell bad or mold, but nope- nothing like that happened.

Things that we brought last year that we were able to eliminate or swap this year: plastic dish soap bottle + plastic sponge, tetrapaks of almond milk, multiple chip/snack bags (we got it down to 1!), plastic ice bag (last year we froze some big blocks of ice in the steel hotel pan, but ended up needing more halfway through the trip), and plastic bread bag (we bought some package free this year).

I’ve linked to products we used when possible, but I encourage you to use what you already have, scour the thrift stores, post a “wanted” on Freecyle or your local Buy Nothing Group, borrow from friends or neighbors, etc before buying new.

We had so much fun exploring a new to us area of California, and would definitely recommend the campsite as a quiet, clean, and family friendly spot to visit.

camping kids vegan zero waste

proud junior ranger 😉 they learned about native animals, local edible plants, went on a “scat-venger hunt” and the local geography and chemical composition of the natural hot springs this trip

camping kids waterfall grover hot springs

so many waterfalls




Here’s what we packed.


each of us brought the following:

1 pair jeans + 1 pair shorts

3 shirts

1 pair pjs

undies/socks for 3 days

1 jacket or sweatshirt

1 pair sneaker/hiking shoe

1 pair flip flops

1 towel

1 hat

a bag to pack it all in

it meeeee + my limited awkward poses 😉


1 foldable hammock (a few years old from Costco)

1 tent (a few years old from Costco)

folding cots (super old + borrowed from my grandma)

blanket or sleeping bag for each person

pillow for each person

two games: uno and pente

a book each

small dustpan with brush for sweeping the tent

an empty cloth tote for dirty textiles

the hammock is the most coveted spot + I finally finished les mis a year later, haha. cried.


small propane stove + propane canister + small paper box wooden matches

cast iron skillet (lodge brand I think- have used over a decade- click here for natural care of cast iron)

pot with lid (lid doubles as a strainer)

1 metal spatula

fork + spoon for each of us

1 sharp knife

4 cloth napkins (I bought mine years ago in the clearance section at world market)

clean kanteen insulated camping zero waste

1 insulated cup, I rescued this one from an unclaimed lost and found

4 stainless steel water bottles for hiking (have been using the same ones for years)

steel hotel pan for dishwashing- also used to transport soft fruit in the car with no bruising

dish cloth (hand knit by my MIL) + kitchen towel for drying

dish soap (I used this one because its what I had, but I prefer this one which is what I always use at home) + wooden soap dish made by a friend (@zerowastechica ‘s partner!)

zero waste camping

plastic 2 gallon water dispenser (old; we save for camping)

4 enameled bowls + plates– we have been using these for over a year and love them, they’re lightweight and well made.

2 tiffins: one for us and one for kids– for hiking lunches and on the road lunches coming and going.

bialetti espresso maker + Vietnamese stainless pour over for coffee

savon marseille zero waste dishes camping soap

I was happy I brought the savon de Marseille, because after eating some dark chocolate the first night I promptly realized I smeared it onto my favorite off shoulder linen top.  Some savon Marseille applied to the stain lifted it right out, not a trace left.



shea butter for moisturizing hair, face, body (doesn’t clog pores and I’m sensitive, I usually use this lighter oil on face but since we were in the mountains I wanted something richer)- if you live in the area you can get it refilled at Refill Madness, or buy a large quantity from Mountain Rose Herbs.

pit putty mint deodorant

bar of soap for body washing- I use kiss my face olive oil soap (palm oil free + wrapped in paper, + inexpensive)

toothbrushes + paste + floss (recipe + oral hygiene post HERE)

urb apothecary tinted lip balm– the only makeup I took

zero waste camping toiletries


2 cans chickpeas

1 can refried black beans

1 can black lentils

kale salad premade at home: with quinoa, dried cranberries, and toasted pumpkin seeds

banana bread premade at home (recipe– sub gf flour to make it gf, I used molasses instead of maple + added dark chocolate and pumpkin pie spices)

bulk tofu

bulk roasted almonds for snacking

coconut aminos for seasoning

s+p mixed in a small mason jar

tahini for binding the chickpea “tuna”

basil, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and cucumber from our garden

glass jar of salsa verde

a few stalks of celery and a few carrots, kept fresh in a damp swag bag (stayed crisp without refrigeration or ice for the whole time!)

cloth bag of bulk rolled oats

quart mason jar of oat toppings- chia, cinnamon, turbinado sugar, pumpkin seeds, golden raisins, flax, almonds

ground bulk coffee

3 loaves package free bread bought the am we left from Village Bakery

food vegan zero waste camping

small bottle of EVOO

2 onion + 1 garlic

bag of potatoes

5 fresh corn

4 bell peppers

6 mangos


2 bunches bananas

small amount of toasted sunflower seeds

bulk grapes in our cloth produce bag.

8 avocados

2 small melons

peanut butter + raspberry jam

2 bars 90% dark chocolate

1 bag jalapeño kettle chips, per Joel’s request (I’m not perfect and I love my husband, although we both agreed they weren’t that good in the end)

1 glass jar, metal lid pasta sauce

1 box pasta



1st day:

in the car: gf bagel sammies wrapped in our cloth napkins + homemade iced tea for me + J in our insulated kanteen

snack: peaches + bananas

dinner: kale salad (I premade this at home, anticipating being without greens for a few days) that had quinoa, dried cranberries, and toasted pumpkin seeds.  We bought bulk tofu that am on our way out of town and sautéed it in camp with coconut aminos and garlic, and topped the salad with it.  Some vino rosso for me + J.

vegan kale salad camping zero waste

2cnd day:

breakfast: coffee, oats with toppings + banana and peaches

lunch: chickpea tuna Sammies, grapes, tomatoes, avo, banana bread, bell pepper

vegan camping food zero waste

snack: galia melon

dinner: potatoes steamed and sautéed with green bell pepper, onion and corn, refried black beans on the side + tomatoes and salsa verde.

potato camping vegan3rd day:

breakfast: coffee, oats with toppings + mango and peaches

vegan zero waste camping breakfast

lunch: chickpea “tuna” salad with tahini, sunflower seeds, celery, s+p,  avocado, tomato, bread.  Kids had pb+j.  Grapes, banana bread, cucumber.

snack: the chips, which kind of sank us…we haven’t had such processed food in a while

dinner:  pasta with sauce (added sautéed onion, garlic, garden eggplant + canned lentils to the jar sauce).  homegrown tomatoes on top.

camping vegan kids dinner zero waste pasta

4th day:

breakfast: coffee, oats with toppings + last of the mango and peaches.

zero waste camping coffee

lunch on the road: before we left camp, I sautéed all the leftover veggies (bell pepper, onion, garlic, 1 carrot, zucchini, a few tomatoes) with coconut aminos and the forgotten (but still fresh! basil ) and we packed them in our tiffins with the leftover avocados and cucumber on the side.  We pulled over at a fruit stand halfway through the drive home and ate lunch along with a few white nectarines we bought there + the rest of the dark chocolate.

zero waste lunch tiffin camping vegan

Typing this all out, it seems like an extraordinary amount of stuff…but actually, it wasn’t. It all fit neatly in the back of our Prius, thanks to Joel’s Virgo packing skills.  It was less than years past, and much less waste too.  I can’t explain the wonderful feeling of visiting such a beautiful place and leaving almost no trace there.  It’s really satisfying being able to treat the earth more and more gently every year.  I’m so grateful to be here.

Please do let me know if you have further questions below, I’m happy to answer.  xoxo

mineral hot springs grover

the natural hot springs…102 degrees pool.  green from the minerals!  so relaxing, our first time ever soaking in a natural hot spring!

Joel kids vegan camping trip

first day in our campsite

hiking kids vegan camping