It's summer and backpacking/camping/hiking/playing season is in full swing. And this year in particular, I've noticed something. A lot of wilderness areas and popular spots are requiring permits, which have limited numbers. Or they are really ramping up the signage regarding respect towards the land. In the news there have been ample stories of vandalism and ecosystem destruction. There has been outrage, sadness and frustration. And that sucks. It seems like with the popularity of "glamping" and books like Wild, the outdoors are seeing an influx of people who are new to the wilderness. Who maybe don't have that respect for it... yet. And maybe they simply don't know the rules. What are the rules, you ask? As outside people, we all know them. But they seem to be very unspoken- at least in any sort of detail. You hear Leave No Trace. And wild people know what that means, but not newbs. So I'm writing this post to hopefully clear some things up. Because LNT is not just about packing out your trash. It's WAY, WAY more than that. I've taken the wording of the rules directly from LNT.org so there is no miscommunication about it.
Plan Ahead and Prepare.
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
- Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
- Repackage food to minimize waste.
- Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces.
- Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
- In popular areas:
- Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
- Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
- In pristine areas:
- Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
- Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
- In popular areas:
Dispose of Waste Properly.
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
- Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
- Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
Leave What You Find.
- 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.
Minimize Campfire Impacts.
- Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use 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.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
- 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 winter.
Be Considerate of Others.
- 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 loud voices and noises.
It's fairly simple to follow these principles. It creates a good time for everyone and keeps these lands we're all enjoying pristine. If you cannot handle these "rules", then really, you should not be in the wilderness. It's not for you. If you have any questions regarding them, please feel free to send me an email! I would be more than happy to clarify or give recommendations.
And do note, the point of this post is not to point fingers or shame. As always, it is to inform and engage.