7 principles of leave no trace

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Roam Responsibly: The 7 Principles of Leave No Trace

As a full-time nomad, I’ve experienced firsthand the natural beauty this world has to offer. However, I’ve also witnessed the detrimental impacts of irresponsible tourism. Some of our favorite places have been closed due to people not respecting these simple 7 Principles of Leave No Trace. To ensure future generations can enjoy these same experiences, it’s essential to adhere to the “Leave No Trace” principles, which I’ll outline below.

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

The 7 principles of Leave No Trace provide a blueprint for responsible travel, beginning with thoughtful planning. When organizing a trip, consider the size of your group, as larger parties tend to have a more significant impact on the environment. Balance the benefits of your desired group size with the importance of minimizing your ecological footprint.

Packing efficiently also plays a role in adhering to the 7 principles of Leave No Trace. Reducing packaging materials lowers the risk of littering, and carrying a bag to collect any trash encountered in the wilderness contributes to maintaining pristine natural spaces.

Remember to bring the Ten Essentials and other necessary safety supplies to prevent emergencies that may require rescue efforts and inadvertently harm the environment. While your well-being is a priority, having contingency equipment on hand reinforces your commitment to responsible travel.

Finally, reach out to the land management agency responsible for your destination to learn about specific Leave No Trace concerns. This may include information about sensitive habitats, areas closed for restoration, or other unique considerations.

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

Preserve delicate ecosystems by staying on established trails and campsites. For instance, when hiking in alpine regions, avoid trampling fragile alpine vegetation by sticking to marked trails. When camping in the desert, set up your tent on resilient surfaces like sand or gravel instead of cryptobiotic soil crusts, which can take decades to recover from disturbances.

Stay on established trails whenever possible, as deviating from them can damage vegetation and cause soil erosion. Keep in mind that multiple hikers taking shortcuts, especially on switchbacks, can lead to barren and rutted trails over time.

Backcountry Camping

When venturing into the great outdoors, you may not realize the impact your hiking boots can have on the environment. By adhering to the 7 principles of Leave No Trace, you can reduce your ecological footprint during your outdoor adventures.

Always hike single-file on trails to maintain a narrow and well-packed path. When off-trail, spread your group out to avoid concentrating impacts on one specific route.

Off-trail hiking calls for a heightened level of Leave No Trace awareness, taking into account the sensitivity of various plant communities. Choose to walk on surfaces like snow, sand, gravel, talus, or bare rock to minimize impact on vegetation. In the Southwest, be careful not to step on fragile biological soil crusts.

Grass is generally more resilient than forbs or woody vegetation, so try to avoid walking through wet meadows or lakeshore reeds and sedges. Additionally, be mindful of high-country groundcover like subalpine herbs and timberline wildflowers, as these delicate plants have a short growing season.

Camping Leave No Trace

When camping, use established primitive campsites whenever possible, even if they are closer to waterways or trails than the recommended 200-foot buffer. By utilizing existing sites, you minimize the overall footprint on the wilderness.

If you encounter an existing campsite with signs of irresponsible camping, take the opportunity to clean up trash and leave the site better than you found it.

In cases where you come across a lightly used campsite, you may choose to establish a new one elsewhere to allow the original site to recover. Limit your stay at such locations to one or two nights. To prevent the formation of trails, vary your routes when entering, leaving, or moving around your campsite, and change your toilet locations frequently.

When you leave, restore the site to its original condition by sweeping away footprints and covering any disturbed ground with leaf litter or other natural materials.

3. Dispose of Waste Properly

Trash and litter have no place in the outdoors. Always pack out what you pack in, including food scraps, wrappers, and even toilet paper. When nature calls, dig a 6-8 inch deep cathole at least 200 feet from water sources to properly dispose of human waste. And always make it a point to leave the place better than you found it.

4. Leave What You Find

Preserve the beauty of nature by leaving rocks, plants, and cultural artifacts undisturbed. Avoid altering natural and historical features, such as carving into trees or moving rocks. By leaving these things untouched, we help maintain the unique characteristics of each place we visit.

5. Minimize Campfire Impact

Campfires can cause lasting damage to the environment. Opt for a portable camp stove for cooking, and use established fire rings if you must build a fire. Keep fires small, burn only small sticks, and put out fires completely before leaving your campsite.

Consider using a propane fire pit which is less likely to start a forest fire and cleanup is a breeze. If you still want a real fire experience consider a Firepan Kit. These fire pans leave no trace of a fire and are much safer than a traditional fire pit. I also like how they are raised off the ground making them warmer to sit around.

Our Pick

Portable FirePan Kit

Lightweight, portable design makes it the perfect companion from the backyard to the backwoods. A great way to lessen your impact on the environment while still enjoying a cozy fire.

Check Price at REI

6. Respect Wildlife

Observe animals from a distance, and never feed them. Feeding wildlife can alter their natural behaviors, making them reliant on humans and potentially dangerous. Store your food and trash securely to avoid attracting wildlife to your campsite.

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Respect the experience of others by keeping noise levels down and maintaining a low profile. Yield to other users on trails, and follow posted rules and regulations. A friendly smile and wave can go a long way in fostering a positive outdoor experience for all.

The Importance Of Leave No Trace

The 7 principles of Leave No Trace provide a framework for responsible and sustainable travel. By following these guidelines, we can minimize our impact on the environment and preserve the world’s natural wonders for generations to come. As travelers, we have the power to protect and respect the places we visit, so let’s use it wisely.

What are the 7 principles of leave no trace?

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
3. Dispose of Waste Properly
4. Leave What You Find
5. Minimize Campfire Impact
6. Respect Wildlife
7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

What is the meaning Leave No Trace?

Leave No Trace is an outdoor ethics and conservation philosophy that encourages responsible and sustainable use of natural spaces. It aims to minimize human impact on the environment by promoting practices that protect and preserve nature for future generations.

outside nomad jill wheeler author bio
Written by Jill Wheeler

Hi there! I’m Jill, a full-time travel blogger and passionate adventurer. I left the 9-to-5 grind to embrace the nomadic travel lifestyle and have never looked back. I love immersing myself in diverse cultures, and through my stories, photos, and tips, I hope to inspire others to embark on their own adventures. When I’m not exploring the world, you’ll find me skiing, mountain biking, or tasting the culture of breathtaking locations.

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