7 ways to leave no trace
Photo by Micah Hallahan on Unsplash
Everyone wants to go outdoors for clean untouched nature, not candy wrappers scattered around the campsite. Following leave no trace principles is easier than you think, and it preserves nature for future generations. Now lets begin, here are 7 excellent ways to leave no trace.
Plan and prepare
Even if you are well-intentioned, planning wrong may result in leaving behind waste, food, and trash, or disrupting wildlife. Proper planning could mean bringing a balanced amount of food, not too much or too little. Then you won’t have to deal with disposing of it. Bring the right gear that helps leave no trace, for example, bring a trowel, don’t use a stick or your boot heel to dig a cathole with. In case you didn’t know, a cathole is used to hide your human waste. If you are heading towards bear territory bring a bear canister, and a bear bag to hang your food. Bears can detect any nearby scent, these canisters keep your food scent hidden from their nostril.
Also, know the park’s regulations, for example, does the park allow campfires? If they do, you will have to buy wood locally because outsourced wood brings destructive bugs with it. Knowing the regulations before arriving helps you know what to bring and how to prepare.
Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
Photo by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash
What are durable surfaces? This is what the national park service says. “durable surfaces” include maintained trails, designated campsites, rock, gravel, sand, dry grass, and snow. Established sites should look like durable surfaces with plenty of space. Areas with vegetation, fragile plants, anywhere far off-trail, these areas are not durable surfaces. Also, avoid grass or vegetation areas that are beginning to look lived in, those people should not have set up camp there because those weren’t durable surfaces. No need to do any trailblazing if branches get in your way, simply move them away or duck under them.
Try not to travel in a smaller group, a bigger group means a bigger mess and more wear and tear on the land. If you are going with a lot of people split up into groups. On a different note, hammocks are a great way to camp because they don’t touch the ground. Just remember to hang them on the thickest trunk, and choose dry ground. The best material to use is nylon/polyester webbing with a minimum of 1″ in width size, this will lessen the hammocks impact on tree trunks. Also never hammer a hammock into trees.
Dispose of waste properly.
Catholes are used to dispose of dung, they should be dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp, and trails. “WAG bags” aka waste alleviating gel (for your human waste) are typically required at popular destinations, and places where it’s hard to dig a cathole. Before you dig, take 70 big steps away from trails, water, and your campsite. Put any toilet paper inside of a ziplock bag with duct tape so you don’t have to see the dirty TP inside. In the desert, a cat hole should be only 4-6 inches which speeds up the decaying process.
Don’t wash your dishes near any water, this causes the water to have lower pH levels, harms fish, and has a lot of other damaging environmental effects. Instead use body wipes to clean yourself and your biodegradable soap for your dishes. Take 70 big steps away from any streams or lakes. Don’t even use biodegradable soap around lakes, they will still damage the environment just slower. Dig up your soapy dishwater the same way you dig your human waste. If you notice any areas with excessive waste, or other environmental problems report it to your local rangers or report it to this site https://www.citsci.org/. This site collects info on environmental hazards in specific areas to cover more ground. If you see problems in certain areas simply snap a photo and send it to this site, that way park rangers can correct these issues more effectively.
Leave what you find.
Do not move rock stacks, they may be important trail markers created by rangers to help hikers stay on the trail. In many places, it is illegal to remove natural objects. Also, taking little momentos like leaves from the environment can do more than barren the landscape. Twigs are needed for birds to build nests so please leave sticks behind for them. Some types of leaves can provide important vitamin D for pregnant deer, and picking flowers stops seeds from creating more flowers.
Be careful with fire
How should you make your campfire? First, make sure the area allows for campfires, and then buy local wood from the campground. Only build a campfire if you are confident you can control it, if not though consider bringing a gas stove, solar oven, or some alternative if you’re more comfortable with that.
Mound fires are easy to make for beginners if you have a garden trowel and a durable surface. Use dead wood on the ground that snaps, but don’t cut down any trees. Next,
burn all the wood down to the ash, and pour water, (not dirt) over the ash to cool it off. If the ash makes a sizzling sound it’s still very hot. A fire is not your incinerator, burning plastic is toxic, and fires will not effectively burn anything well except wood. Never leave your fire unattended, it can grow out of control, catch your tent on fire, etc. Educate yourself by reading the National Park Service’s guide to campfire safety to learn more about being responsible outdoors.
Don’t disturb wildlife, especially water holes at night, because desert critters are the most active after dark and need water for survival purposes. If you scare them off they may be afraid to return to that water source. Don’t feed any animals, especially bears because bears will go after campgrounds for food. Over time continual feeding causes them to lose their fear of humans, start threatening people, and now the park rangers will have to decide whether or not to kill the bear. Stay away from animals young, touching them may cause their mother to abandon them. Also avoid interacting with wildlife during sensitive times, especially during mating, nesting, raising young, or winter seasons. Also any animal you get too close to may give you rabies, or some disease if they attack.
There are ways to lessen the environmental impact while fishing. If you use monofilament know that it takes 500 years for it to photodegrade, even small pieces of tippet can be detrimental to animals causing entanglement, immobility, and eventually a slow death. Lead fishing weights can poison animals, and the use of lead has been banned in several states. Instead consider using a toxic-free alternative like stainless steel, bismuth, tungsten, and bismuth.
Be considerate of other visitors.
Please use earbuds instead of loud external speakers so everyone can enjoy some peace and quiet. Also, turn down your headphones to a proper level. What level should they be at? If you can hear somebody behind you trying to pass, then that’s the proper level. This is especially important for bikers, if you hear the sound of a nearby bike then that’s the proper volume. Also, stay clear from other campers by giving them plenty of space, this makes the campground less crowded.
Pets should be respectful to other people, and wildlife. Keep an eye on your dog to make sure it doesn’t chase any rabbits or animals. Make sure the dog doesn’t bother people at other campgrounds by eating their food or taking a dump at their campsite. If your dog is a curious wanderer then make sure their leashes are tied around a stake or tether. Also remember to pick up your dog’s waste and dispose of it, for many campgrounds close due to abundant dog waste which doesn’t biodegrade.
The yielding system: Yielding rules help hikers navigate awkward trail situations, this is how it works. Downhill hikers must step aside to allow an uphill hiker to pass. Hikers also must yield to horse riders. Bicyclists yield to both hikers and equestrians on trails. Take special note if your mountain biking fast down the trail, people get nervous when you zip by them, especially on a narrow trail so slow down a little around others.
Does someone look lost? They may need help, so stop and make sure they are alright. Ask if there is anything they want help with, don’t just pass them by.