If you are an outdoor enthusiast, you’ve probably heard the phrase “Leave No Trace Principles” mentioned one or two times. And, maybe you are wondering, “What does it mean?” Simply, these are a set of outdoor morals geared at enhancing conservation of the natural environment.
The truth is that a majority of nature lovers do not intentionally cause damage to the environment. In fact, most of them lack the appropriate knowledge while others make mere assumptions that end up causing negative impacts on the environment.
For this exact reason, it is recommended that campers and tour guides get a leave no trace certification which helps them make informed choices to actively conserve the environment by the following these 7 leave no trace principles.
1. Plan ahead and prepare
Imagine a group of hunters visiting an area with the hope of catching an antelope only to find a hunting ban? Thus, before you start your hike or camp, it is important that you prepare for it way in advance. First, begin by setting the objectives of your trip. Then, decide how much time you will need to accomplish those camping goals. This will prevent you from taking shortcuts such as using prohibited routes. Also, it will help you attain your trips targets, leave no trace, and have uninterrupted fun.
Here are a few tips to help inadequate preparation for your leave no trace activities.
- Study the local regulations: learn of the private land boundaries and any other restricted areas. By doing so, you will avoid getting in trouble with area local authorities for breaking their rules.
- Carry a map. It will help you to avoid making markings on rocks and trees. Additionally, you will minimize the possibilities of getting lost.
- Study the weather patterns and possible hazards. This will guide you on likely emergencies, extreme weather changes or natural hazards that may occur. Then, equip your team with the necessary first aid knowledge and the necessary emergency gear.
- Meal tips – Repackage meals in eco-friendly, lightweight packages. This will enhance faster movement. Also, choose one-pot meals. Not only will they minimize possible fuel usage but they will also reduce your meals preparation time.
2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces
Do you know the impact your footsteps can have on the environment? A single footstep may result in permanent destruction of lush vegetation.
For this reason, during the leave, no trace training hikers are advised to camp and travel on durable surfaces such as rocks, snow, sand, and dry grass. This way, campers, and hikers are cautioned against causing any form of damage to the land and organisms in forests and camping areas.
- Use only the established trails and campsites.
- Instead of making new campsites, look for existing ones.
- Ensure that your camp is at least 200 feet away from water sources such as lakes, rivers, and streams.
- Maintain small groups that can comfortably walk within the width of the available trails.
- Ensure that when taking breaks you enough leave space for other hikers and visitors to fit in the trail.
- Do not tamper with water sources in deserts and other arid areas. They are a precious resource for the animals in that habitat.
- When doing dispersed camping, spread the impact on the vegetation to prevent permanent land damage.
- Avoid the repeated use of any route. Instead, spread out tents to avoid excess impact on one area.
- Make fewer trips to water sources by having water storage containers.
- When visiting unexploited areas, it is advisable that lead members take the leave no trace course offered by the Leave No Trace Center For Outdoor Ethics. It will come in handy in such areas that lack well-defined trails or established campsites.
3. Dispose of waste properly
Campers are encouraged to inspect the campsite area before they leave, clean up, and pack out all the waste. A good practice is to leave the place cleaner than you found it. Other leave no trace camping waste management practices include:
- Do not urinate in water bodies.
- Ensure items such as tampons are not buried in the ground. They do not easily decompose and may be dug out by other animals. Such as items should be packed out when leaving the site.
- Catholes should be dug in inconspicuous areas that are at least 200 feet from water sources, campsites or trails. And after camping, make sure these holes are well covered.
- Use white, non-scented toilet paper and bury it in a cathole.
- Do not be tempted to burn waste: it will cause air pollution and disturbance to wildlife in the area.
4. Leave what you find
How would you feel if you traveled for days hoping to enjoy the serenity of a once historically rich campsite only to find that it is no more? This is one of the LNT principles that protect outdoorsmen from such case scenarios. Additionally, the Archeological Resource Protection Act prohibits people from disturbing or removing cultural artifacts, historic sites, and archeological sites of any kind that may be found in public land.
Thus, it is important for parents who bring children along to teach them the leave no trace for kids principles. This is to ensure that they do not tamper or carry anything from these sites. Other tips include:
- Leave items such as rocks, shells, plants, feathers, fossils where you found them.
- Avoid bringing in any new species of animals or plants.
- Don’t build new structures, furniture, or dig trenches for any reason.
- Dismantle fireplaces after use.
- Leave all the facilities you may have found as they were.
- Don’t tamper with any artifacts or historic elements that you find.
- Do not destroy live plants and other trees. This includes picking of flowers and curving in names in trees.
- Wash dishes and clothes at least 200 feet away from water sources and pour used water evenly around the area.
5. Minimize campfire effects/impacts
To most people, a camp is incomplete without a campfire. But, the effects of fires can be hazardous. A small campfire can easily become a dangerous wildfire which may consume vast portions of forest and vegetation cover leaving a countless number of animals homeless. Therefore, a lot of local movements including the scouts’ clubs ensure all their members take the leave no trace pledge before any camp or hike.
In order to minimize the impacts of campfires:
- Opt for stoves. They are low impact, fast, and you won’t have to worry about firewood restrictions in the campsite.
- Use only established fire rings.
- Keep fires as small as possible by using sticks that can be easily broken by hand.
- Ensure the wood burns completely. Then, scatter the ashes to cool down.
- Study and understand the fire restriction in the camp area.
- Beware of the climate of the area. Hot and windy conditions can easily cause the spread of wildfires.
6. Respect Wildlife
Remember you are the intruder. Therefore, do everything you can to maintain the natural habitat and living conditions of the wildlife and farm animals. This is one important leave no trace principles for kids and adults that no one should ignore.
- In areas where water is scarce, leave water sources unpolluted for the animals’ sake.
- Do not scare wildlife away with loud noises or music. Consider subdividing larger groups into smaller ones to reduce the noise impact.
- Do not chase animals away.
- Even when you think an animal is calm and attractive, avoid touching them. On top of disturbing the animal, you may contact diseases such as rabies. Or, your human scents may cause parents to abandon their young ones.
- Only observe wildlife from afar. Do not feed them since it may cause them health problems or alter their normal behaviors.
- Do not expose wildlife to your trash or mix them with your pets.
7. Be considerate of others
This is a very basic outdoor code. Ideally, do unto others what you would like them to do unto you.
- Do not go trespassing private land.
- If there are huts, clean up and leave them better than you found them.
- Be courteous to all. Respect them, give way for others in trails, and let them enjoy their hike too.
- Maintain inoffensive behavior.
- Ensure pets do not stray away or scare other visitors.
- Take your breaks away from other visitors.
- Keep your tones low. Let others enjoy the quietness and serenity they came for.
- Find camping sites with some privacy so as to screen other visitors from disturbances from your camping activities
- Choose a tent and cloth colors that are in less distracting colors such as brown and green.
- Do not forget to dispose of your pet’s waste appropriately.
By following all the 7 principles of leave no trace to the letter, hikers, hunters, backcountry campers, and other outdoorsmen can comfortably enjoy all that nature has to offer while being intentional about the preservation of the natural resources.