Campsite Etiquette 101

Some backpackers will throw a tent down just about anywhere without any care to nature or those around them. However, there are those that spend a lot of time choosing a campsite and making sure that no one will know they were there after they have left. Be sure to follow minimum impact guidelines and help protect the area for future users. These are only the basics but a good place to start.

Camp Site
Choose a camp site that is at least 200 feet from streams, lakes or trails. Avoid fragile areas. Don’t camp on meadows, especially in alpine areas, where several years of growth can be destroyed by the stomp of a boot. Be smart by picking an appropriate camp site. Use established sites when possible. It looks better to have several heavily used sites than it is to see signs of dozens of sites scattered through out the area, sometimes only a few yards from each other. Think ahead.

Pack it in. Pack it out. Going beyond those simple rules, pick it up if you see it! If I can, I will pick up garbage. It takes little effort and makes things look better. If we all made a little effort, the change would be great. Do not bury food. Animals will dig it up. We must teach the animals that there is nothing of interest at these campsites. We owe it to them so that they are not a danger to us and visa versa. A bear that learns food can be found at campgrounds is basically a dead bear. In most cases, the bear will have to be destroyed once it associates people with food. And it is our fault when that happens not the bear’s.

Soaps and foods can change water chemistry and cause damage to the life which depends on it. Wash far away from water and your camp site. Use proper camp soaps or a natural abrasive. It’s not nice to see leftover food floating along the shore of a lake. Especially in cold water, food will decompose extremely slowly. Try using dirt or sand as a cleaning agent. Sand is very good at cleaning pots. You can also use snow to clean pots in winter.

Obey local fire rules. If there is already a fire ring at your campsite, use it. If there isn’t one, never create one. Fires should be made as undetectable as possible. Never build a fire where it will scorch grass and other plants. Use only as much wood as you need and make sure all of the wood you use burns completely. If you have half burnt logs left over you did not make a very good or efficient fire. Spread the ashes and mix them with dirt so nature can quickly conceal your tracks. Before spreading the ashes, always make certain that the fire is “dead out.” After the fire burns out douse water on the fire ring and make sure all ashes and coals are completely snuffed. In dry conditions, the soil can keep smoldering ashes going for hours after you assume all the fire is gone. Never leave a fire unattended.

When Nature Calls
Dig a hole 4-8 inches deep and 200 feet from any water, camp, or trail. Cover the hole with soil and pine needle dung or other decomposing matter. Take a little walk to find a suitable place, keeping in mind the best place for decomposition and be aware of where others may look to camp after you have left. A little effort on everyone’s part will make the wilderness areas a much more enjoyable experience for all enthusiasts. When winter camping try using snow instead of toilet paper. Pack a snow ball that is oval shaped. This way you do not leave behind a paper mess after the snow melts. Snow actually works quite well and sounds weird but is a very good substitute. If you’re really are environmentalist, pack even your toilet paper out. Paper does not break down that fast and is very unsightly.

Travel Etiquette
Travel in such a manner as to not be noticed. Try to travel in small and unobtrusive groups. Keep pets and children under control at all times. Destroying nature for the sake of fun or ignorance should never be tolerated. Most of us seek the quiet and simplistic qualities that nature has to offer. Treat the land and wildlife with the respect that it deserves.

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