When camping, hiking, or enjoying any other kind of outdoor activity, we’ve all heard the expression “Leave it better than you found it.” But did you know that thanks to the good folks at Leave No Trace, there’s actually a handy-dandy list outlining how to do just that?
The 7 Principles established by Leave No Trace provide an easy guide to help protect and preserve the environment when you’re out in the wilderness. Be sure to head to their site for more great information before venturing out into the wild!
1) Plan Ahead and Prepare
Nothing spoils a camping trip like forgetting vital equipment. It’s inconvenient at best, but it could create a life-threatening situation if you leave the wrong thing behind.
Making sure to fully plan and prepare for your trip not only ensures that you have the most fun, it also helps minimize any damage you cause to the land. Here are just a few of the precautions you’ll want to take:
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you’re visiting.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Repackage your food to minimize waste. (For example, those cookies you’re bringing don’t need a box, a bag, and a plastic tray to keep them safe out on the trail. Take them out of their commercial packaging and simplify their storage with minimal or reusable solutions.)
- Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns, or flagging.
2) Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
When enjoying the outdoors, the last thing we want to do is damage the land by treading over vegetation and organisms. It’s crucial to stick to durable surfaces like established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses, or snow. Also, be sure to:
- Protect riparian areas (the land bordering bodies of water) by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams. This helps protect the purity of the water.
- Remember this phrase: “Good campsites are found, not made.” Altering a site is not necessary.
- Use existing trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when it’s wet or muddy.
- Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
3. Leave What You Find
It may be tempting to take a cool rock home as a souvenir from your trip, but it’s best to adhere to the policy of “take only pictures, leave only footprints” when enjoying the outdoors.
This not only preserves the natural beauty, it also allows those that come after you to enjoy the same senses of wonder and discovery that you experienced!
- Preserve the past. Examine, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants, and other natural objects as you find them.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
- Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
4. Minimize Campfire Impacts
We’ll admit, there’s nothing quite like a crackling campfire, but did you know that campfires can cause lasting impacts on the surrounding environment?
Not only is the natural appearance of many areas impacted by the overuse of fires, but an increasing demand for firewood strains resources. Before you light up your fire, consider:
- Using a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
- Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
- Keeping fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Burning all wood and coals to ash and putting campfires out completely. You should also scatter the cool ashes to help return vital nutrients to the soil.
5) Respect Wildlife
Seeing animals in their natural habitat is one of the biggest thrills when adventuring outdoors. Don’t forget, though, when we encounter animals in the wild, we’re guests in their homes and need to mind our manners.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
- Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or wintertime.
6) Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Practicing courtesy and respect for others helps everyone enjoy their outdoor experience. Don’t be that camper that ruins everyone else’s time.
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
- Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
- Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
- Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
- Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid using loud voices and making noises.
7. Dispose of Waste Properly
Any waste you leave behind when your trip is over will surely have an impact not only on other people who want to enjoy nature, but also on water and wildlife. Be sure to:
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled food. Pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter.
- To bathe or wash your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
- Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
- Deposit solid human waste in catholes or, better yet, come prepared with WAG Bag®s!
A WAG Bag® (Waste Alleviation and Gelling Bag) is a disposable human waste bag, like the Cleanwaste Toilet in a Bag system.
These waste bags are a convenient, portable, and sanitary solution for outdoor relief.
- Each bag is filled with a powder that gels and solidifies waste.
- The powder also acts as a decay catalyst, using natural enzymes to break down waste and neutralize bacteria and odor.
- Each bag can be sealed up tight and safely disposed of in any trash can after use! All of Cleanwaste’s bags are landfill-safe.
Cleanwaste is an industry leader in the innovation of safe, convenient products which allow users to manage waste in a dignified, reliable, and environment-friendly way.
Our solutions are perfect for any outdoor adventures like camping and hiking. No matter where life takes you, Cleanwaste goes where you go.
To learn more about how Cleanwaste provides you with a safer, more sanitary solution, check out our full product line here.