7 Leave No Trace Principles

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backpack tents on campsite and durable surface
Leaving no trace – on durable surface and in established campsite – yay for us!

I’m sharing these with you because I want to stress the importance of making sure each person in your tribe is familiar with these before you head out on your first backpack trip. I made a HUGE mistake and didn’t do this and we had some hiccups around number three – epic fail on my part (sorry nature!). As a backpacker, hiker, car camper, or a visitor to any park, please share and make sure we all follow these established and proven steps to respect nature and others.

  1. Plan ahead and prepare
  2. Travel and camp on durable surface
  3. Dispose of waste properly
  4. Leave what you find
  5. Minimize campfire impacts (and be careful with fire)
  6. Respect wildlife
  7. Be considerate of others/ other visitors

Plan ahead and Prepare

Why? If you are prepared you will be able to Leave No Trace and minimize your footprint and protentional damage to nature. It will also keep you and your group safe. How to do your part:

  • Do your research – pack appropriately and be prepared, for not if, but when you run into problems.
    • Visit park websites and read trip reports – familiarize yourself with what to expect when you get there. Do you need a permit? Are fires allowed? What are the policies? Is there a pit toilet?
    • Check Weather sites – check and re-check the local forecast where you are going and make sure your tribe knows what to pack.
  • Communicate and over communicate – not only these 7 principals, but all of the details of the plan you have put together for your adventure. It ensures the safety of and the enjoyment for all.

Travel and camp on durable surface

Because this one is very specific, I am sharing the following copy directly from the Center for Outdoor Ethics as follows:
The goal of travel in the outdoors is to move through natural areas while avoiding damage to the land or waterways. Understanding how travel causes impacts is necessary to accomplish this goal. Travel damage occurs when surface vegetation or communities of organisms are trampled beyond recovery. The resulting barren area leads to soil erosion and the development of undesirable trails. Backcountry travel may involve travel over both trails and off-trail areas.

Because you are planning a group trip this was also noted: Frequency of use and large group size increase the likelihood that a large area will be trampled, or that a small area will be trampled multiple times.

How to do your part:

  • Camp on existing campsites, but if those are not available; rock, sand, and gravel are considered highly durable.
  • Stay on the trail. Use existing trail and don’t make your own path and add to erosion.
  • Walk single file and stay in the middle of the trail
  • Rest off trails – on gravel, rocks or sand so others can pass
  • Camp at least 200 feet from lakes and streams
  • Don’t spread out – keep campsite small and stay off vegetation – keep your footprint small
  • Avoid vegetation, if you must go off trail (bathroom privacy, etc.)

Dispose of waste properly

As I mentioned above, I failed my tribe on human waste etiquette – big sigh! (again, sorry nature and other visitors) It will never happen again! How to do your part:

  • If you packed it in, you must pack it out! Leave your campsite and your area cleaner than you found it. Collect all trash and dropped food.
  • If you need to wash dishes, carry water 200 feet (~70 steps) away from lakes or rivers and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter water when done.
  • If pit toilets are not available, here is the drill – find a good spot:
    • Move at lest 200 feet (~70 steps) away from water, trails and your camp. And avoid areas where water flows.
    • Look for thick undergrowth, near downed timber and a spot that will receive maximum sun – the heat will help with decomposition.
    • Dig a cat hole 6-8 inches deep
    • DO NOT put your toilet paper in the cat hole – PACK IT OUT!
    • Cover up your hole with nature (dirt, leaves, sticks)
    • Don’t go to the same place twice. Large groups should disburse cat holes over a large area

Leave what you find

This one is simple. How to do your part:

  • Leave the area as you found it – actually better than you found it
  • Do not make changes/alterations such as;
    • Hammering nails in trees. I think every site I’ve been to with trees has nails in them.
    • Building chairs and tables from nature. Just bring your own flex-light chair.
  • Don’t remove nature and try to take it back with you

Minimize campfire impacts

Fires are not always permitted, but if they are and you choose to have one, be SUPER careful. Forrest fires have become all too prevalent. When they are permitted; How to do your part:

  • First, consider using a stove to cook instead of fire
  • Use established fire rings, which means a small, intimate fire
  • Put out fires completely (burn to ash) and spread the cool ashes
  • Gather responsibly – only gather and use small pieces of wood you can find on the ground or driftwood (just like we did here-see last pic at bottom of this post). Don’t cut off branches or use downed trees either
  • DO NOT bring wood from home as it could have pests and diseases
  • Want to buy firewood – get it from a local source

Respect wildlife

We are in their space so be sure to give them space, How to do your part:

  • Never feed wildlife – for your safety and for others. We don’t want animals (especially bears) getting used to coming to camp for food and getting aggressive
  • Do no approach – observe from a distance and/or back away
  • Store your food and trash securely – and out of reach to protect yourself and them

Be considerate of others/other visitors

Treat others as you would want to be treated…with respect. Be a respectful and conscientious neighbor. How to do your part:

  • Yeild to others users on the trail. Specifically the rule on the trail is to yield to the those going up (uphill hikers).
  • Get off trail for breaks – so others can easily pass, but find durable surfaces such as rocks, sand, and gravel to rest on
  • Be friendly (say hi, aloha, bonjour, hola, howzit) – acknowledge your fellow outdoor adventure seeker
  • Allow others to pas, especially when hiking with a big group. Pay attention to who is behind you and be courteous
  • Respect the solitude and quiet that others are seeking – everyone is their to enjoy nature so let nature prevail. If you want to listen to music or a podcast, bring your earbuds
  • Manage your pet – keep them on leash and pick up after them. Not everyone is a dog lover and we all need to respect that. For the record, I <3 dogs and so does my Girl Tribe

Did this help? I hope so. Now get back to planning. Summer is right around the corner and nature is calling your girl tribe!

Aloha, Inky

The habit of being uniformly considerate of others will bring increased happiness to you!


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