How to Follow the ‘Leave No Trace’ Principles the Next Time You Go Camping

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Plan ahead — for your benefit and the environment's. Photo: Courtesy of Stephen Meszaros/Unsplash

The seven “Leave No Trace” (LNT) principles were formed by the Leave No Trace organization as a set of guidelines meant to educate campers and protect the environment.

One of the tenets of outdoor recreation—camping, specifically—is the idea of enjoying the natural world while minimizing impact as much as possible. For future generations to be able to enjoy spaces that we use today, and for those natural spaces to flourish, it is imperative that we work toward protecting and preserving wilderness.

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The Leave No Trace principles are not new knowledge; in fact, anyone who has spent time in the outdoors will consider the majority of these to be common sense. For the experienced outdoor enthusiast, the guidelines are a helpful reminder of the responsibility we each carry; for newcomers, they are a road map to enjoying the wild responsibly and respectfully.

Leave No Trace means preserving wilderness areas to keep them just that: wild. Photo: Greg Shield/Unsplash

Plan ahead and prepare: Makes sense, right? While many of us consider planning ahead in an introspective fashion (packing clothes, food and supplies that you will be using), it’s also important to consider the other side of the camping equation: the area you are traveling to. Are there restrictions or regulations you should know about? Weather conditions pertinent to the area?

The Leave No Trace principles suggest that, when planning for a trip, one should anticipate waste-disposal systems, keep groups to a minimum to reduce impact on the environment and try to schedule your visit to avoid times of high use.

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Travel and camp on durable surfaces: According to the LNT website, the best campsites are found, not made. Stick to areas that are already established for setting up camp, and avoid altering existing campsites.

Dispose of waste properly: What you bring in, you must take out. This applies to waste as well as supplies. Bring trash receptacles, pack out toilet paper and other hygiene products and make sure you handle human waste properly.

Leave what you find: You may have stumbled upon the most perfect wildflower ever, but don’t pick it. Natural environments stay natural only if we maintain their balance. This goes for historical objects as well.

Be responsible with your fire, folks. Photo: Tirza Van Dijk/Unsplash

Minimize campfire impacts: Campfires, when mismanaged, can have serious, lasting effects on the natural environment. To minimize damage, light fires only where permitted, in fire rings and mounds, and keep blazes small. Make sure to burn wood all the way to ash and scatter cool ashes.

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Respect wildlife: The LNT website cautions not to approach wildlife, or to follow it. Observe local creatures from a distance, and do not feed animals.

If you bring your pet on a trip, make sure you control it at all times. If that cannot be done, it is better to leave your companion at home.

Be considerate of other visitors: In most cases, there will be other campers around as you embark on your trip. Be courteous when you encounter them on the trail, and keep loud noises to a minimum.

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