Leave No Trace

29.06.2017 |

Episode #7 of the course Beginning Backpacking by Alice Morgan


Good morning! Today, we’ll be getting into some outdoor ethics by discussing how you can do your part to keep the wild places you’ll be exploring clean and beautiful for years to come. Today, outdoor spaces are getting busier and busier as more people venture outside. With all the additional visitors, these areas run the risk of being destroyed from overuse and underprotection. To help conserve outdoor spaces, the Leave No Trace: Center for Outdoor Ethics created the Leave No Trace Seven Principles to help outdoor enthusiasts make the best decisions on their adventures.


1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

When you’re poorly prepared for a trip, it can lead you to make desperate decisions that have a higher impact on the environment around you. Be sure you have the right amount and right kind of fuel for cooking. Repackage food so you don’t accidentally leave trash along the trail. Know where you are and have a good emergency plan in place so you’re not using unnecessary resources to rescue yourself.


2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

When an earthen area is used repeatedly, it tends to erode or become hard packed. Erosion leads to crumbling campsites and trails. Packed soil stifles plant life and can kill trees. Always choose rock or sand to travel and camp on when possible. When you must camp on soil, make sure you stick to established campsites. This will keep damage from occurring to newer, unspoiled landscape.


3. Dispose of Waste Properly

Principle 3 refers to human body waste, trash, and food waste. We’ll talk more about human waste in our next lesson, so let’s focus on the latter two elements for now. If you bring something into the woods, you should be prepared to take it out as well. Potential trash items include granola bar wrappers, bread bag tabs, old band aids, broken gear, etc. The best way to dispose of food waste is to eat or drink it (pasta water makes a great hot chocolate base!). Plan to eat what you cook. If you do have extra food, you’ll need to bag it and carry it out in your pack. Waste water from cooking can be buried away from camp, as long as you strain out food particles.


4. Leave What You Find

This is a simple principle. Leave nature exactly as you found it. Avoid cutting initials into trees or rocks, building rock cairns, picking flowers, or anything else that could cause harm to a living organism or someone else’s future enjoyment of the area.


5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

If you choose to have a campfire, keep it small and under control. Always use established fire rings instead of building your own, and only use fallen, dead sticks that are less than the circumference of your wrist. Never leave a fire unattended. If you start a fire, be prepared to tend it until its ashes are cool and no longer glowing.


6. Respect Wildlife

Leave any insects or animals you encounter on your adventures alone. Watch them from a distance, and do not feed, follow, yell, throw rocks, or approach them. Store your food carefully for their safety, as well as your own.


7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

You won’t be the only person in the woods. Make sure not to disturb other visitors: respect the inherent sounds of nature and yield to horses or up-hill hikers.

Remember that our wildernesses are only as pristine as we collectively work to make them. To keep them beautiful for years to come, make sure to Leave No Trace on all your adventures. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about hygiene and how to keep yourself clean.


Recommended book

Leave No Trace in the Outdoors by Jeffrey Marion


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