If you’re going for a hiking adventure, you should know the importance of leaving no trace behind. But why? Simple, it is because to keep the wilderness wild. The US Forest Service developed the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace back in the 1960s. The idea behind the principles is to leave nature unchanged by our presence as we can so that future generations can follow to out footsteps. Making nature and the wilderness as wild as it can be.

But Why is it Important?

  • As the years go by, more and more people choose to hike and camp in their leisure time. The wilderness is getting more crowded than ever, not just by people, but also with garbage and environmental damage. Nature is for everyone, but taking care of it must also be put into action too.
  • As people on this earth, we must know how to be responsible campers and hikers. We all are beginners at the start, so knowing what and how to be responsible at the beginning is important so that future generations can also apply it for the years to come. If you became a “Leave No Tracer”, you should definitely pass on your knowledge about leaving no trace for other fellow campers too. Share about it with your friends or even in social media. You can be an influencer for those people who love hiking and camping.
  • If you happen to see a stranger throwing trash around during camping, consider talking to them about it. You can approach them in a friendly way so that they won’t doubt you once you do. Don’t act like a bad cop that suddenly bursts out when something unusual meets your eye. Be a friend and they’ll eventually follow your lead in no time.

The Seven Principles of “Leave No Trace”

  • Now that we know why leaving no trace is important, let’s talk about the seven principles behind it.
  • Plan and Prepare Ahead of Time – Researching about the area you’re about to go is a must. You must research everything including trail info, park rules, and even trail conditions. Doing so will result to a more enjoyable hiking experience knowing that you’re already prepared for anything that lies ahead.

How:

  1. Check the weather forecast and trail conditions and prepare for the right gear to take on what’s ahead.
  2. Check for local rules and regulations to find about closures, permits, fire regulations and other policies that applies.
  3. Pack a first aid kid just in case you’ll run into problems during your adventure.
  4. Bring a map with you to avoid getting lost within the area, a GPS can also help too to keep track of where you are.
  5. Repackage food to create less waste while on the trail.
  • Travel and Camp ONLY on Durable Places – Make sure to hike and camp only on surfaces such as rocks, gravel, and snow. Surfaces like alpine meadows, marshes, and bogs are fragile and might break with too much impact. The vegetation in these areas took years to go and might be destroyed by a few boot prints.

How:

  1. Keep yourself on the trail to avoid stepping into vegetation. Don’t be afraid to walk through mud if you encounter one. Don’t ever cut corners on switchbacks as it may cause soil erosion.
  2. If you encounter an area with no trails, spread out your tracks to spread out impact which avoids creating a new trail.
  3. Only camp on campsites that are used before. Keep in mind that the best campsites are found and not made.
  4. If you don’t see any designated or previously used campsites, consider camping on gravel, bare dirt, snow, or even dry grass.
  5. Try camping at least 200ft or 70m from water sources. Plants that resides by the lake and water streams are fragile. Some animals may be present in the area and your presence might scare them off or cause conflict.

 

  • Dispose Your Waste Properly – It’s important to pack out your garbage instead of throwing them into the ground. Also learn how to pack your poop in a clean manner. Animals may eat your garbage that you left behind which can make them sick. Not just that, it can also look disgusting. Other hikers and campers might see your tampon or poop bag in the middle of the trail and you don’t want that to happen right?

How:

  1. Use a Ziploc to pack out your trash. This includes fruit peels and egg shells. Although they are good for the soil, it will take months for them to biodegrade.
  2. Never burn your trash in a campfire. Some materials will not burn very well and might leave a mess on the area.
  3. Wash dishes or yourself using a biodegradable soap while using the largest pot as a sink. Filter out any large particles and dump the dirty water away from the clean water source.
  4. Use an outhouse or pit toilet whenever possible.
  5. If you have to poop and there is no outhouse in sight, pick a spot that’s 200ft away from trail, campsites, and water sources. You can use a small trowel, a tent peg, or even a stick to dig a 6-inch hole into the ground where you can bury your poop.
  6. If you brought your dog with you, put their poop into a plastic bag and bury it too just like what you did with your own poop. Wild animals like to indulge into dog poop but may leave them sick because it’s full of bacteria.
  7. Carry a Ziploc bag with you to store used toilet paper. If it grosses you out, bury it alongside with your poop and your dog’s poop.

 

 

 

  • Leave What You Find – Don’t ever bring home any natural or historical items that you find during your hike. Remember, you’re not an archaeologist, you’re just a happy camper. Leaving everything you find on the trail lets other hiker and campers enjoy them too. And it also keeps the ecosystem intact.

How:

  1. Leave flowers, rocks, and other historical items where you found them. You can just take a photo of it instead to admire its beauty once you get home.
  2. Remember that good campsites are found, not made. Don’t build new structures or cutting trees and dig trenches just for the sake of building your own campsite.
  3. Don’t build any extra inukshuks, rock stacks, or cairns unless necessary.

 

  • Minimize Campfire Impacts – Cook your own meals using a stove, not on the campfire. You must learn how to minimize a campfire’s impact if you build one. Campfires can create negative impacts to nature. It can damage the soil or may lead to excessive firewood harvesting within the area which can lessen its beauty.

How:

  1. Bring a portable stove with you to avoid cooking on campfire. It’s quicker, fuel efficient, and doesn’t need firewood to begin with.
  2. Have a campfire-free night by using small lanterns to light up your camp.
  3. Be aware of the regulations if you’re allowed to create fire or not in your campsite. Some places have fire bans to protect sensitive trees. This is important to prevent any forest fires.
  4. Use existing fire rings left by other campers if you want to create fire.
  5. Always keep your campfire small.
  6. It’s best to use deadwood on the ground to avoid harming healthy trees around the area.
  7. And lastly, put your fire out once you’re done.

 

 

  • Respect Wildlife – Give the animals around the area some space and freedom, and this also includes your dog if you brought them with you. Don’t let them eat human food. The wilderness is filled with animals and they need space to maintain their natural behavior. Disrespecting them may lead to serious trouble. Even though dog’s love wildlife, you must keep an eye on them where they might be hunting for wild animals while unattended.

How:

  1. Don’t feed animals. These wild animals like to feed on natural feed compared to human food. Feeding them with human food may lost their ability to find food naturally on their own and might rely on humans to eat.
  2. Always keep an eye out of your food or else animals might steal them. When camping, always store your food in a food locker or inside a canister to keep them away from wild animals.
  3. Observe animals from a distance. Use binoculars if you had one or your phone camera to zoom in for a better look. Walking near them might scare them off.
  4. Keep your dog on a leash so they don’t chase any wild animals within the area. Chasing squirrels might not be a big deal for you. But if your dog happens to chase a bear then you’ll definitely be in serious trouble.

 

 

  • Consider Other Visitors Too – Be considerate of the other hikers and campers experience. Learn how to be a responsible camper/hiker and follow camp etiquette. The wilderness is for everyone and it’s important to share it with others. Some people go hiking for fitness purposes, while others are for socializing reasons, and there are others who just wants to spend time and find solitude in nature. Respect the way they want to experience wildlife and try not to let your own experience have a negative impact on theirs.

How:

  1. Make way for other users on the trail. Take a break to let other’s pass.
  2. Give other groups space to let them enjoy viewpoints or in camps. If you happen to find an amazing view that’s worth watching, take a few snaps and move aside so others can take advantage of it too.
  3. Don’t blast your music on the trail. Other campers or hikers wants to experience music that’s created by nature, not the music on your Spotify playlist.
  4. It’s important to keep your group small to create less impact. Smaller groups take up less space and creates less noise. 8-10 people is the ideal number if you plan to go hike or camp with your friends.