Leave no Trace Camping

The growing awareness of humankind’s impact, or footprint, on our global ecology has lead to a strong trend in camping that’s simply called “Leave no Trace camping” As the name implies, the idea is to decrease our human “foot print” in nature, leaving it as pristine as when we arrived. Camping is a wonderful pastime but it can be very damaging to the land (consider what one spark can do in the wrong place as just one of many examples).

There are simple rules you can utilize in your camping to join this movement. By far your biggest ally will be good planning.

  • Think ahead about things that could cause problems (like a person forgetting medication that then requires a fast exit, the need to pack a small fire extinguisher, or a weather extreme). During this planning process, please make sure you’re obeying the sites rules in terms of what you bring and how many people are in your party. Also think about planning your meals so that you use the least amount of ingredients and have a way of cleaning up after yourselves effectively. Finally, know in advance what each person in your party is responsible to bring and make sure that happens. Leave no trace camping means simply that. Leaving no trace that you were ever there.
  • Step two is finding the right campsite. The more durable the land (like previously cleared sites with hardened soil), the less likely it is that you’ll kill any vegetation. This also makes for a very sound camping area so it’s win-win. When walking, sticking to trails also preserves greenery. If you cannot find hard packed soil, then move your tent every day to keep from creating that human space. Don’t forget that “leave no trace” also means avoiding putting holes in trees, or moving a big rock for your convenience when setting camp.
  • Step Three is have a way of removing your wastes. Meal planning will help with the amount of garbage you’ll have to take back out with you. If you have contaminated water (like with dish soap) it should be disposed far away from running water that could be damaged. If possible pack biodegradable (green) soap. Similarly with human waste, if you can’t get back to a camp toilet please dig a hole in the ground that’s away from running water and cover it. This helps keep water from being tainted by bacteria because it will decompose properly under the soil. Leaving no trace covers biological waste too folks!!
  • Step Four is to avoid being a collector. There are many lands on which it’s illegal to gather items that you find, like an arrow head. You want to leave “without a trace” that means leaving what was there when you arrived just as it was. Take pictures; they last longer!
  • Step Five: Be very careful with your fire. If you’re traveling in warm weather you may not need one at all – just bring a camp stove and a battery operated lantern to provide a place to cook and lighting. The lantern offers an additional safety margin vs. fire and is very lightweight. If you must build a wood fire, try to use only wood that’s already been downed, and make sure to follow all safety protocols for fire building. You want to make sure that you do leave a trace of forest behind rather than wreaking havoc with your campfire.
  • Lastly remember to be considerate of animals and humans alike. Wild animals are WILD animals. Keeping your distance is wise, and if you’re not interrupting their natural movements you’re honoring the “leave no trace” camping code. As for humans, remember that your party may not be alone out here. Try to think about your noise levels and act accordingly.

Have fun.

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