How To: Leave No Trace

Camping and backpacking season is coming up, as well as National Park Week. If you plan on heading out into the wilderness this season you may want to brush up on your outdoor ethics. A big part of responsible outdoor recreation is conservation, and there is one program in particular that combines the conservation mindset with the outdoor lifestyle. It’s called Leave No Trace.

Leave No Trace is a program designed to assist outdoor enthusiasts in reducing their impact on the environment as they camp, hike, bike, hunt, paddle, fish, ski and climb. It is a program that has been around for a while, and is based on a core set of ethics that many outdoorsmen have been using for decades. In short, the goal of Leave No Trace is to educate everyone who enjoys the outdoors about the potential impacts their recreational activities can have and how to prevent and minimize those impacts. It’s not so much a set of rules or regulations as it is a group of principles.

Here are the basic concepts of Leave No Trace:

Be Prepared and Plan Ahead

  • Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you plan to visit
  • Be prepared for extreme weather, hazards and potential emergencies
  • Try to schedule your trip to avoid times of high use
  • Visit places in small groups whenever possible and consider splitting larger groups into smaller ones
  • Repackage food to minimize waste
  • Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  • Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow
  • Camp at least 200 feet from lakes and streams
  • Use existing trails and campsites whenever possible

Dispose of Waste Properly

  • If you pack it in, you should pack it out
  • Check your campsite for trash or spilled foods before leaving
  • Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter
  • Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep and at least 200 feet from water, camp site and trails
  • Cover catholes when finished
  • Carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes when washing yourself or dishes, and use small amounts of biodegradable soap

Leave What You Find

  • Do not touch or take cultural or historic structures and artifacts
  • Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them
  • Do not build structures, furniture or dig trenches

Use Campfires Responsibly

  • Use a cooking stove and lantern in the backcountry and avoid creating new fire rings whenever possible
  • Be aware of potential fire bans in parks and national forests
  • When fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans or mound fires
  • Keep fires small
  • Put out campfires completely, using water and soil if necessary

Respect Wildlife

  • Observe wildlife from a distance
  • Never feed wild animals
  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely, such as in a bear bag
  • Keep dogs and pets leashed at all times

Be Considerate of Others

  • Be courteous and respect other visitors
  • Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock
  • Camp away from trails and other visitors
  • Let nature’s sounds prevail by avoiding loud voices and noises

If more outdoor enthusiasts adhere to these principles, the natural and wilderness areas we all love will be around much longer for future generations to enjoy. Have fun, but always remember to be conscientious. Thanks for reading, and have a great season!

Sierra Blogging Post


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