Whether you’re backcountry camping or spending the afternoon picnicking with your family in a state park, it’s important to follow proper outdoors etiquette. If you were once a scout or spent a lot of time outdoors while growing up, you’ve probably heard about leaving no trace principles.
It might be time for a little brushing up on these rules. Or maybe you aren’t aware of what they might be, so this will be new for you.
To leave no trace simply means, leaving nature the way you found it. It’s an easy thing to do that just requires a little extra care on your part. Before you go camping with your children, sit down and go over these guidelines and tell them why they’re so important.
Failing to follow these principles can ruin the experience of others in the future, mess with an entire ecosystem and even put wildlife and visitors in danger. Here are the 7 leave no trace principles that everyone needs to follow while camping out beneath the stars.
#1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
Before you set foot at your campsite, it’s a good idea to know about rules and regulations and even knowing what the weather will be like during your stay.
When it comes to your leftovers from your meals, have little baggies to repackage your food and making sure you bring plenty of garbage bags to help with the trash. By simply planning ahead, it can keep you from making careless decisions.
#2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
It’s important to set up your campsite on already established durable surfaces. That way you minimize damaging the vegetation. The same goes for when you’re hiking on a trail. Stick to the path where the ground has already been impacted. It’s also good to camp at least 200 feet away from lakes and streams.
#3. Dispose of Your Waste Properly
Disposing of your waste includes litter, human waste, all the way down to washing your hands properly. Before you leave your campsite, thoroughly inspect it for trash, left-over food, or any other pieces of evidence that you’ve been there.
To properly dispose of solid human waste, make sure you dig at least 6-8 inch deep catholes and then cover and disguise them when you’re finished. Your dug catholes should also be at least 200 feet away from any bodies of water. Wash your hands with small amounts of biodegradable soap and water and then scatter the leftover water afterwards.
#4. Minimize Campfire Impacts
While it might be warmer and more impressive to have a big campfire, it can lead to an accident. Keep your fire on the safe side by keeping it smaller. You also don’t want to bring your own wood from home.
This carelessly introduces new elements of pests and diseases to that area and can be just as destructive as a forest fire. Make sure that you use a fire ring that the campground provides and that you burn your wood to ash followed by completely putting out the fire.
#5. Leave What You Find
Nature has so many incredible wonders that you might have the urge to touch. Don’t fall for it. Leave it, and leave only footprints. This might include rocks, plants, and other natural objects that might be tempting to pick up. The same goes when you come across a historic structure or artifact. We need to preserve nature by keeping our paws off of it.
While you may not have had any intentions of touching or taking anything with you, you also need to be careful of leaving things behind. You might not even realize that you’re doing it.
You could be transporting all kinds of things on the soles of your shoes, or bike tires from trails that you’ve biked elsewhere, around the country. Introducing new non-species to that region could lead to harmful effects even though you weren’t aware of your mistake. Most trails have brushes for cleaning off your shoes and bike tires before you begin trekking them.
#6. Respect Wildlife
It’s also important for you not to feed the animals. This will change their behaviour and cause them to get closer to humans than they ought. Many wild animals have had to be put down because of food left on the ground or that was offered to them by visitors.
There’s a number of things to consider when it comes to respecting wildlife. First, when you happen to come across an animal, be courteous and keep your distance. That’s what your binoculars are for. Never try and sneak up on an unexpecting animal. It could prove harmful for both you and the creature.
This brings us to our next point. Make sure that you pack and seal up your food properly and prevent them from finding your trash.
#7. Be Considerate of Others
Campers that have been to the site before you, for the most part, have tried to follow these rules so that nature can continue thriving on. It’s time for you to do your part.
Be considerate of others by making sure they have a good experience also. While you’re out hiking on a trail, if it’s not a wide path, make sure you yield to each other instead of stepping off the path.
It’s also a good idea to manage your voices and volume because another visitor might be experiencing a close encounter with wildlife and you might ruin it for them. Some parks and campgrounds welcome pets. When you bring your pet, make sure that you take care of their waste and keep them on a leash if that’s the park’s rules.
These are the 7 basic principles of leaving no trace while camping in the great outdoors. It’s nothing that’s too hard to follow, it just being more cautious and more aware of your surroundings.
Camping is a great time, be kind and make it special for the visitors that follow you. Have you ever been to a state park or hiking trail that was devastated by the obvious presence of people? How did that affect your experience?