As we embark on a new chapter of travel, many of us are looking to bring an eco-minded ethos to our adventures. Georgia Nelson discovers the eco-travel essentials that will help you tread lightly and travel mindfully.

Now that borders near and far have reopened, travel is once again becoming a priority. But the question of how we can explore the world and its wonders without leaving an impact on the environment rings louder than ever.

This was at the forefront of my mind as my fiancé, Tom, and I sat down to plan our first travel expedition in more than two years. Tasmania has been one of my bucket list destinations since I first laid eyes upon its rugged landscapes in a National Geographic magazine as a kid. We knew we wanted to explore the state in a “hands-on” way, so it made sense that our mode of slow travel would be Tom’s beloved van — a March 2020 purchase that he’s been itching to get on the road and see Australia with. Now was our chance.

As with every great road trip, we needed a checklist of travel essentials. I wanted to think bigger than the typical reusable water bottles and travel kitchen utensils; I wanted everything we packed to have been mindfully chosen, purchased and packed.

With travel mode set to slow, we made our way down to Port Melbourne to catch the Spirit of Tasmania across to the Apple Isle, and become the conscious travel consumers our better selves aimed to be.

Ditch the down

Down, the feathers from ducks or geese, is one of the most inhumane insulation options the fashion world has adopted. It’s somewhat ironic (or just plain untrue) that it’s touted as one of the best and most “sustainable” insulation fillings for jackets, blankets, sleeping bags and pillows.

Thankfully, Allbirds has mastered the perfect down alternative in its Trino Puffer Jacket. The midweight puffer is filled with a mix of Tencel lyocell and recycled polyester to provide the ultimate warmth and comfort with every wear. Unlike other outdoor jackets I’ve tried, this one doesn’t feel restrictive or heavy. The cosy Tencel mix also means it’s easy to throw in the washing machine and dryer without the hassle of working out any clumps in the filling. The best part is that it packs down super easily, so I was able to fit it in my backpack once the weather warmed up each day.

From the lush rainforests in central Tasmania to the lichen-tinted Bay of Fires in the east and windswept seaside clifftops in the south, the Allbirds puffer managed to keep heat in and the chill of the wind out. The New Zealand-farmed merino wool blend outer even held its own throughout the onset of a rainstorm, wicking away the droplets of rain as they fell. I was able to transform my look from rugged Tasmanian mountain range adventurer (I’m not embellishing, I swear) to Hobart city slicker by swapping out my leggings and muddy hiking boots for jeans and white sneakers.

Tread lightly

Leaving a minimal footprint on the earth is the entire premise behind slow travel. So if your shoes aren’t eco-friendly, are you really travelling sustainably?

At least that’s what I told myself as I invested in the Veja Dekkan x Sea Shepherd sneakers. I’m a Veja fan and have been following Sea Shepherd since the days of Whale Wars, so I loved having a pair of runners that combined the two. The shoes are true to Veja’s signature combination of hardworking footwear and great style.

The Dekkan model is 100 per cent vegan, made with Veja’s Alveomesh upper, which is crafted from recycled plastic bottles. The midsole is designed with 70 per cent sugar cane, while the Vibram outsole contains 30 per cent Amazonian rubber and 25 per cent rice waste. And all profits from this specific style of Dekkan will be donated to Sea Shepherd.

Design elements aside, I found the pair easy to wear and they will remain on high rotation in my outdoors wardrobe. Even on multi-hour (read: majority of the daylight hours…) hikes, the shoes kept my feet comfortable and warm without feeling like they were overheating. They made traipsing through the Tassie wilderness a breeze. Not once did I stop to think about taping any pressure points — there were none (a rare occurrence for me).

Opt for eco luggage

Have you ever stopped to wonder what your backpack is made from or even who made it? I ask these questions before making any new wardrobe purchase, but until recently, I hadn’t given much thought to what I carry on my back. So I was pleasantly surprised when a quick Google search led me to the Zorali Escapade backpack.

The bag is spacious enough to fit all my (and Tom’s) day-hike and city exploration essentials. It has an internal sleeve for any tech goods, a zipped front pocket and top flap pocket, and two side pockets to hold drink bottles and other easy-to-reach items. It’s also available in three chic colourways and is super durable. But the real drawcard for me was the company’s approach to sustainability. Zorali is completely carbon neutral and crafts all their goods from natural, organic 100 per cent recycled materials. They also plant 10 trees for every product sold, so it’s a win for the consumer and the environment.

When it came to the real test — an eight-hour hike along the infamous Cape Pillar Track on the Tasman Peninsula — the Escapade certainly lived up to the hype. I’m a chronic over-packer, and this daytrip was no exception. I managed to fit in an entire spare change of clothes (including an alternate jumper in case mine got wet), lunch, snacks, two large water bottles and a polaroid camera. And although I made some complaints along the way (sorry Tom!), the backpack wasn’t one of them.

Layer with care

Winter in Australia wouldn’t be the same if you didn’t have to strip off layers of clothing throughout the day. For years I have been searching for the perfect lightweight base to put under my outdoor gear that will keep me cosy but sweat-free throughout the day. Then I found Merino Country.

The long-sleeve crew neck and full-length leggings were my answer on days when the weather couldn’t make up its mind. What began as three layers during frosty mornings turned into thermals as my only layer as the sun hit its peak — and the pair are opaque enough to pass as standard activewear, so I didn’t flash any passing hikers.

I was worried that my sensitive skin may become irritated as it usually does with base layers, but these qualms were swept away as soon as I pulled on the leggings. The midweight knitted material felt silky soft throughout the day. The wool used to make the thermals is Australian farmed and ethically made. Wool is also a natural fibre, which means it neutralises odour, is moisture-wicking, and offers natural temperature regulation.

Pack warmth with style

Packing a warm quality coat is essential when travelling to cool climates. As we were tight on space — both in the van and my suitcase — I needed a coat with multiple uses. The Kalima Wool Coat by Melbourne brand Toorallie was exactly that. Knitted from 100 per cent rich Australian Merino wool and crafted with cosiness in mind, the coat kept me warm during the chilly Tassie nights. As the coat has been designed for comfort with a relaxed fit, I could add layers on underneath — which is especially important when you’re wearing thermals.

With considered details like large pockets, a thick collar and a simple tie waist, the coat was the one stylish garment I needed. I would throw it on over jeans or hiking leggings and had a completely new look ready to explore Tassie’s restaurant and bar scene. The coat brought stylish ease to my wardrobe — when you’ve spent weeks on end in a van you often need a special item to make you feel more “you”.

The soft fibres found in Toorallie’s quality Merino wool maintain their shape after wear and wash, lending it long-lasting wearability. Put to the ultimate Tassie travel test, the Kalima Wool Coat proved to be a functional and practical garment to pack — even if it was a little luxurious.

Our Tasmanian road trip may have come to an end, but it’s safe to say these eco-conscious staples have become key items in my winter wardrobe. I still have a way to go before mastering the art of slow travel, but selecting a mindfully curated travel wardrobe was a great first step in my lifelong sustainable journey.