"Pop-Up" Eco Travel Hotels

A new kind of eco travel hotel is attempting to distinguish itself by… disappearing. These so-called "pop-up" hotels are present for a season, and then they get packed up and leave no environmental trace whatsoever. EcoCamp Patagonia, which sets up camp in Chile's Torres del Paine National Park, was probably the first of the so-called pop-up hotels to appear on the horizon (with the possible exception of mobile camps in Africa).

EcoCamp mimics the nomadic patterns of ancient inhabitants, the Kawesqar or Alacalufes.  The Kawesqar built geodesic structures using branches, and they covered their huts with sea lion and guanaco skins (guanacos are Patagonian lamas). EcoCamp doesn't use skins or branches on the outside, though the inside of each hut has a rustic chic eco travel feel (complete with fur). The domes are removed in the winter, and placed elsewhere the next season so the grass can grow back.

Solar energy panels light circulation areas and run the fans in the toilet area.  Propane is used to heat water. The eco travel camp has joined CarbonFree, a program by Carbonfund.org, to offset carbon emissions. Wind energy (though unreliable) lights up the dormitories. Luckily, the long Patagonia days (5:30 am to 11:00 pm) reduce energy usage as well. And, there are some rules: no Internet, no hairdryers, no electric razors (sounds kind of nice, doesn't it?).

EcoCamp give their bathrooms "a special paragraph", so we will, too. EcoCamp has two composting chambers that deal with the waste from four toilets. Solid waste and liquid are separated, and solid waste gets mixed with wood chips and paper, whereas liquid passes a cleaning chamber and then goes into the ground. Due to the cold weather, chambers are heated. It is the first (and only) composting unit in Patagonia that deals with this process and EcoCamp is obviously proud (as they should be).

EcoCamp offers "100% true eco-lodging, no faux green promises" and "services beyond your sweetest outdoors dreams". Food is plentiful and domes are cozy. Glaciers, lakes, mountains and wild flowers are the backdrop and the backyard. Daytime activities include trekking, horseback riding, kayaking, birdwatching. They were selected by National Geographic as one of the Best Adventure Travel Companies in 2009. And, due to EcoCamps success, more mobile eco travel camps will most likely continue popping up around the world. Take Whitepod, for example, in Switzerland.

Photo: EcoCamp.Travel