Principles of Leave No Trace

You should not be messing with rocks, plants and other natural objects
You should not be messing with rocks, plants and other natural objects

It’s 2024 and everyone knows the importance of sustainability.

So it’s not a secret that you can no longer continue camping without changing your behavior.

Do you want to risk getting fined?

That’s what will happen if you don’t respect the Principles of Leave No Trace.

Never forget outdoor ethics when you’re out there: leave the place as if no one was there.

Plan Ahead and Prepare

The first of the principles of leave no trace is “plan ahead and prepare”

Whenever you are going on any adventure, the first thing to do is to prepare and think ahead.

This involves researching the area you want to visit and thinking ahead about the terrain, potential hazards you might have to face, and the wildlife interaction.

Another thing to do is to check the weather forecast and take clothes according to that forecast.

Also, don’t forget essential equipment such as a map, compass, first aid kit, and some extra food & water.

Planning your trip properly minimizes your impact on the environment as there is less overuse of natural resources and you dispose of waste.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

Don't camp on alpine tundras
Don’t camp on alpine tundras

As adventure seekers and outdoor enthusiasts, we tend to ignore the damage we can create when we are hiking off-trail or setting up camp in undesignated areas.

But just because we ignore them, it doesn’t mean that they don’t exist: our actions can have a negative impact on the environment.

If you go camping on fragile ecosystems like alpine tundras, they can suffer irreparable damage from even a single footstep, so we should always stay on designated trails and campsites.

It’s the only way to preserve the beautiful natural areas for future generations.

Dispose of Waste Properly

Another human action that can damage the ecosystem is inadequately disposing of waste.

And that’s why properly disposing of waste is a fundamental principle of Leave No Trace (LNT).

Beaches won't look like this if people don't minimize waste
Beaches won’t look like this if people don’t minimize waste

Disposal of Solid Human Waste

Let’s look at how we should dispose of human waste.

When you are outdoors and want to pee or poop, you must follow leave no trace guidelines to minimize contamination and be hygienic.

One of the common methods to do so is by burying waste, known as “cat-holing”.

  • To do so, look for a suitable location at least 200 feet away from water sources and trails

  • Then dig a 6-8 inch deep hole and deposit your solid human waste

  • Cover it with soil

Portable toilets are an excellent alternative for longer stays or areas without suitable soil conditions

  • If using portable toilets, remember to always pack out the waste to dispose of it properly later

Disposal of Other Trash

These bins are everywhere - don't ignore them
These bins are everywhere – don’t ignore them

After human waste, managing trash from packaging is equally important:

  1. First, you must separate all non-biodegradable items, such as food wrappers, plastic bottles, and packaging

  2. Then, dispose of them at the allocated place for that waste (hint: recycling bins)

  3. In that waste, you must separate the recyclable items and dispose of them appropriately – respect the colors of the bins

In the case of biodegradable waste like fruit peel and other stuff, there is no need for their disposal as these items may decompose over time, and their presence will not disrupt ecosystems.

Overall, properly disposing of waste when you’re outdoors is not only about aesthetics but also about protecting wildlife, water sources, and the overall ecosystem.

Leave What You Find

Do you really want to ruin views like this?
Do you really want to ruin views like this?

The next principle of the LNT is to leave what you find.

If you see a naturally crafted artifact, rocks, plants, or other things that are pleasing to the eye, you should leave them for other people to come and enjoy the scenery.

When we visit a place with cultural or historic structures, historical artifacts, or remnants of past civilizations, all of these things hold great value in terms of historical and cultural significance.

These objects can give insights into the lives and traditions of previous generations, and as a visitor, playing with or removing them not only robs future visitors of the chance to experience and learn from these artifacts but also diminishes our collective cultural heritage.

LNT encourages people not to collect these sorts of cultural and historical things or artifacts but instead photograph them in their natural settings.

With photography, you get the chance to capture the essence of these objects without causing them any harm.

Minimize Campfire Impacts

Campfires are great but they don't come without damage to the environment
Campfires are great but they don’t come without damage to the environment

As outdoor adventurers, we all love campfires, and yes, without campfires, the adventure is almost incomplete.

But while enjoying campfires, we must not ignore the dangers they can pose to nature and ignore ecological concerns.

If we build campfires too many times, we can damage the environment and contribute to soil erosion and the destruction of vegetation. Even wildlife can be at risk if campfires are not extinguished the right way.

Such risks can be minimized by switching to lightweight stoves, which create way less damage than campfires. 

Respect Wildlife

Be careful with wildlife: they may feel threathened and attack you
Be careful with wildlife: they may feel threatened and attack you

We must respect wild animals and keep a safe distance from them as they can potentially harm us if they get any danger signals from us.

It’s usually also a bad idea to feed them as doing so can disrupt the natural balance of their diets and cause them to depend on human interaction for survival.

Bottom line: don’t be selfish. Respect wildlife and let animals live undisturbed by your interference. 

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Remember: you're not the first camper and you won't be the last
Remember: you’re not the first camper and you won’t be the last

As we go out on camping adventures, we need to remember that we are not the only visitors of that area.

Many others will come after us (or we might even go to the same spot later that year), and so we have a responsibility to share these spots with other enthusiasts.

We must be considerate of other adventurers, which means avoiding reckless behavior and picking up our trash – respecting their right to a peaceful and enjoyable experience.

The environment will be very grateful if everyone respects the Principles of Leave No Trace.

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