Hiking - Trivia

Leave No Trace Principles: Stop Littering, Start Ethical Hiking

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Every year tons of people venture out to come close to nature. The beauty, the stillness, the grand wonders, all create an unfaded effect on us. It washes away our stress to revitalize for the next episode of the battle called “daily life.” If Mother Nature can do such great things to our mind and body, isn’t it our responsibility to clean up after a relaxing stay? Thus, as a responsible trekker and a true admirer of nature, let us keep its beauty intact and take conscientious steps while living out in the wild. And that brings us to the seven leave no trace principles.

Yes, it is! The litter and waste that you leave behind untreated gravely influencing the environment and its critters. Most of them are not even biodegradable, hence causing environmental hazards for years and years. And let us tell you that sooner you shall be also be affected by the results of the environmental pollution and soil erosion.

Not sure what we are referring to? Keep reading to learn more.

Leave No Trace Principles - The Top 7 Principles to Follow

Like the ten essentials of trekking, there is something called the 7 Leave No Trace Principles that remind us of ethical trekking without disturbing the balance of nature.

Do We Really Want to Compromise This? (source)

Originally designed to guide visitors in the backcountry regions, the Leave No Trace Principles are guidelines that are applicable to the frontcountry users as well.

Backcountry areas are those that are most often accessed by overnight users like backpackers whereas frontcountry refers to places that are easily accessed by car, like the city and state parks. Frontcountry is most often enjoyed by day-use visitors like dog walkers, picnickers, and runners or those who are car camping.

That being said, here are the seven Leave No Trace Principles

Principle 1: Plan Ahead and Prepare

Plan your trek
Make a List of Things You Would Need (source)

Planning ahead includes doing good research about your destination and packing accordingly. Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit to avoid violations.

  • Carry a map and know where you are going to reduce the chance of having to travel off the trail.
  • 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 lessen waste.
  • Use a map and compass instead of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.

Learn the tricks to ultralight backpacking.

Principle 2: Travel and camp on durable surfaces

Camp on durable surfaces
Camp on Good Durable Sites (source)

When trekking your surroundings and setting up a picnic or an overnight camp, try to seek out resilient terrain types. Ideal durable surfaces are established trails and campsites, gravel, rock, dry grasses or snow.

Some pointers for camping:

  • Use established trails and campsites. Avoid vegetation areas.
  • Keep campsites small and camp at least 200 feet away from lakes and streams.
  • Walk single file in the middle of the trail.
  • Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.

Principle 3: Dispose the Waste Properly

Dispose of waste properly
Take Care of Wastes Responsibly (source)

This principle is applicable to everything from food litter to human waste to rinse water.

  • 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. Always leave a place cleaner than you found it.
  • 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. (Some highly impacted areas, like Muir Base Camp on Mount Rainier or riverside campsites in the Grand Canyon, require human waste to be packed out, too.)
  • 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.

Principle 4: Minimize Campfire Impacts

Camping is More Than Campfires (source)

A campfire is a timeless camping ritual. However, these raging bonfires can also be very harmful to the surroundings. For light, you can use a candle lantern and a lightweight stove for cooking.

  • Use established fire rings, fire pans or mound fires.
  • Keep low impact fires. Built them with small sticks.
  • Before leaving, put out campfires properly and scatter cool ashes.

Principle 5: Leave What You Find

Stick to the age-old adage “take only pictures, leave only footprints” while in the wild.

  • Examine but do not touch.
  • Avoid taking rocks, plants and other natural objects with yourself.
  • Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species
  • Do not dig trenches or build structures.

Principle 6: Respect Wildlife

Observing wildlife
Maintain Distant From Wild Animals (source)

Do not go too near wild animals. Rather check them out with the zoom lens on your camera or through a pair of binoculars.

  • Observe wildlife from a distance.
  • Never feed animals.
  • Store your food and trash securely.
  • If carrying pets, control them at all times.
  • Do not approach animals during sensitive times such as mating, nesting, raising young or winter.

Principle 7: Be Considerate of Other Visitors

As our mothers advise “Treat others the way you would like to be treated” and that is a rule that applies in the outdoors, too.

  • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
  • Be courteous. Let others coming up the trail pass by.
  • Camp at a decent distance from trails and other visitors.
  • Avoid loud voices and noises.
  • Do not let your pet to a be a nuisance to other visitors.

Summing up

Let's Keep Nature Pristine and Unmarred (source)

Exploring the Alpine lakes and secluded valleys, thick rainforests and wildlife sanctuaries give us a great thrill. It awakens the mind and makes us realize that there are things on which you cannot put a price tag. But as beautiful as it is, Mother Nature is fragile too. And irreplaceable. Resources and wildlife are facing a borderline threat from us, the humans. With every species vanishing and a plant dying we are threatening our existence, do we realize that?

There is still time to correct our folly. Start your penance with ethical trekking and practice the seven Leave No Trace Principle.