We are all responsible for our actions. As a camper, it’s important to be conscious about the effects that our actions may have on not just any campsite, but also on the plants, animals and even entire ecosystems that inhabit the area.
We all play a vital role in helping to protect and preserve the natural world and the wilderness to make sure that the flora and fauna continue to live in peace in their natural habitat. Being a responsible camper also helps make sure that future campers are able to enjoy the same pristine campsite environment that you enjoyed.
The National Park Service established 7 Principles of Leave No Trace, which embodies this ethical and sustainable method of camping and enjoying the outdoors. This is to help guide us to camp responsibly and to remind us of to act responsibly whenever we are outdoors, whether for a day of recreational activities or a month of camping.
Here is a quick overview of the Leave No Trace 7 Principles:
Plan Ahead and Prepare
Whoever said that prevention is better than cure is right. By going on your trip fully prepared, you will be able to avoid potential hazards and minimize the risk of problems. It is advisable that you learn everything you can about your chosen campsite – the rules, regulations and special concerns of the area.
Make sure you know how much people the trail or campsite can accommodate. If you’re coming in a large group, consider splitting into smaller groups to avoid over-stressing the local resources.
When packing for your trip, make sure you prepare for extreme weather, no matter what the weather forecast says. Bring a first aid kit and other preparedness gear in case of hazards and emergencies. Carry a map and a compass/GPS to avoid having to use flagging, marking paint or rock cairns. Repackage your food at home to lessen the amount of waste you’ll have to carry out.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
One important thing to always remember is “good campsites are found, not made.” Use only designated camping areas and maintained trails.
Never alter a site when camping, backpacking or hiking. When staying in a popular area, camp or hike existing campsites and trails; do not attempt to create your own. Avoid any new trails that are starting to form. Set up camp in areas where vegetation is absent and always try to keep your campsite small.
When camping or hiking in a secluded area, usually in pristine wilderness, avoid setting up in recently-camped out areas to give the natural flora time to recover.
Lastly, camp at least 200 feet from any lakes or streams.
Dispose of Waste Properly
© Beyond The Tent
Another important thing to remember is “pack it in, pack it out.” This means that everything you bring to the campsite will leave with you. Leave your campsite cleaner than when you arrived.
When it comes to doing your business, use designated toilet facilities as much as possible. If no bathrooms are available at the campsite, dig a hole (6-8 inches deep, 200 feet away from camp, trails and water) to deposit human waste and cover it up. Pack out hygiene products and toilet paper.
For bathing, do so at least 200 feet away from water using only small amounts of biodegradable soap.
Leave What You Find
To remember this principle, keep the saying “leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photographs” in mind. Do not disturb the natural environment as much as possible – leave rocks and plants as you find them. Do not transport or introduce non-native species to the area.
Lastly, pay extra respect to cultural and historic artifacts or structures. Do not touch or remove artifacts from any state or national park. Digging trenches or building structures in these areas is also prohibited.
Minimize Campfire Impacts
Make sure you are in the know about fire restrictions and regulations in the area you’re camping. If campfires are allowed, use only established fire rings and mound fires. Do not bring your own wood – use only local wood to avoid introducing foreign insects that could cause harm to the local environment.
When collecting fire wood, use only down and dead wood found on the ground. Always keep campfires small and contained. Before leaving, make sure your campfire is fully extinguished.
If you encounter wildlife, do not approach or follow - take a photograph (no flash) from a distance. More importantly, never feed the animals. This can alter their natural behaviors (getting used to humans), damage their health or expose them to predators. Be extra careful and aware of wildlife during winter as well as mating and nesting seasons.
You can also protect wildlife (and yourself) by storing food properly and keeping your campsite clean. Leave pets at home if possible but if you must bring them to camp, keep a close eye on them the whole time.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
© ACTIVE Network
The last of the Leave No Trace 7 Principles concerns respect and consideration to other campers. We should always respect each other’s outdoor experience. Be courteous, respect other campers’ privacy and always keep noises to a minimum – so that the sounds of nature will prevail and everyone can enjoy hearing the chirping of birds, the rustling of trees and the peace and quiet of the great outdoors.
By observing these 7 principles every time you camp, hike or visit the outdoors, you are helping preserve the beauty of the natural world in the wilderness. This way, you and the future generations can keep enjoying the outdoors for as long as possible.
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