As we explore all of the beauty that nature has to offer, we have to keep in mind the impact that we have on our environment. In order to keep all of our favorite places wild and healthy, the Leave no Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics has laid out seven guidelines to follow when outdoors that we have summarized below.
1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Know the rules and regulations of the place that you are planning to visit.
- Travel in small groups and plan your itinerary based on each person's skill level and abilities.
- Pack clothing and equipment based on the area and weather conditions.
- Plan your meals ahead of time if camping. (tip: one pot meals minimizes cleaning and dishes plus they can be made ahead of time)
2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Travel along paths and trails whenever possible to minimize damage to the surrounding plants and land.
- When backpacking, try to stay on rock, sand, and gravel as they are more durable surfaces.
- Try to camp at least 200 feet away from waterways to allow access for animals and prevent any trash or pollutants from running off into the water.
3. Dispose of Waste Properly
- Some places may require you to pack out solid human waste depending on the rules and regulations of the area that you are visiting.
- In some places, burying human waste may be sufficient. There are a few simple rules to follow when using a cat hole to take care of business:
- Find a spot at least 200 feet away from any water sources.
- Dig a hole 6-8 inches deep and bury your waste.
- Pack out any toilet paper or feminine hygiene products.
- Pack in and pack out any food products and trash.
- Try to leave the land better than you found it, try to pick up at least 3 pieces of additional trash around your campsite or on the trail.
4. Leave What You Find
- Minimize site alterations- leave the land how you found it, don’t dig huge trenches and try to minimize moving rocks, pinecones, and twigs around.
- Avoid damaging trees and plants.
- Leave natural objects and artifacts. It may be tempting to pick up deer antlers or a cool rock, but it's best to leave them be. It is also illegal to take natural items from national parks.
5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Make sure that the area that you are camping in does not have any fire restrictions or regulations in place for campfires.
- It is best to use existing fire rings. Be sure to allow it to turn to ash or put it out with water (not dirt) when you are done. (Tip: you can use your old dishwashing water).
6. Respect Wildlife
- Do not disturb wildlife; observe it from far away.
- Please do not feed wildlife.
7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
- Please listen to music with earbuds or headphones as loud music may disturb other visitors.
- Hikers going downhill should yield to hikers traveling uphill if the trail is too narrow for both parties to pass.