If you are ever out in the wilderness, it is important that you take care of the surrounding land. When someone is careless, they then risk ruining it for future visitors. That is why you are reading this article, The 7 Principles to Leave No Trace in Printable Form. Every step we take leaves a footprint. Everything that we can leave a mark. We all have an impact on the natural surroundings. Leave No Trace is about minimizing that impact, so we can enjoy nature as it was meant to be.
Each of these principles is unique in its own way. I have broken down each of them to help you understand them. Near the end, you will also find a link to a pdf of these principles. There is a lot more to each one than meets the eye, so let’s get started.
Why Should You Use Leave No Trace Principles?
If you want to enjoy nature again in the future, then you should follow leave no trace principles. When everyone follows them, it preserves the natural world as it was meant to be seen. You see cliffs, woods, deserts, falls, and vegetation as they were meant to be seen. The human impact is hardly noticeable. When everyone follows these principles, people can really experience nature. The wonders of the world come forth, springing from the trees and onto the palms of your hands.
1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
Poor trip planning can result in rescue operations. If you talk to your local ranger, you can bet they have a story of a stranded camper who let their ego try to fight Mother Nature. What does this mean for you though? How do you properly take into consideration the place you are going outdoors?
This means you need to check weather conditions. The weather can change in minutes when you are out in the wilderness. Fortunately though, plenty of weather channels will be able to tell you what to expect before heading out into there, whether they will be rain and mud or sunshine and rainbows. As a corollary to that, make sure to bring the proper gear along. This means to bring weather appropriate clothing and a waterproof rain jacket. A good rain surprises even the best camper.
Other important things to consider include: knowing the rules of the place you plan to visit, avoiding high use times, splitting large groups into smaller ones, repackaging food to prevent needless waste, and learning directions through map and compass or a GPS. These will all help guide you on your adventure.
2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
You are not Lewis and Clark. You are the nature enthusiast. This means that you will probably be heading to places others have been before. It is not exploring the surface of Mars, but you can still feel like you’re the first explorer to find the area. As a result, there are bound to be designated places for you to make camp, so keep to them and do not make your own campsite. A great explorer finds a good campsite. They do not make one.
Stick to the trail and do not venture off. It will compact the earth and destroy the any small growth vegetation that was trying to pop up. When hiking on the trail, you want to walk single file, minimizing the damage done in the process.
When you end up making camp at the end of a long fun filled day, make sure to camp at least 200 feet from any water sources you see. This prevents any waste you are bound to end up making from falling into the water for wildlife to eat.
3. Dispose of Waste Properly
In short, pack it in, pack it out. Everything you bring must be brought back with you. As well, be sure to pick up any trash you see along the way. It is part of being a good steward. You take care of the wilderness regardless of whether or not it is your trash in the first place. We are all responsible.
If you need to poop outdoors, then be sure to deposit your waste at least 200 feet (61 m) from a water source in a hole 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) deep. This is to prevent any waste from polluting the streams, so your poop can naturally decompose for a fertilizer for plants. If you go right next to a stream or lake, then it toxifies the water source, polluting it for wildlife and your fellow campers to drink from. Be sure to get biodegradable toilet paper as well.
In similar fashion, wash your dishes and utensils 200 feet (61 m) from a water source with a little biodegradable soap. You do not need much soap to take care of them.
4. Minimize Campfire Impacts
In places like fire pits, mounds, rings, pans, or where it is permitted, you can have a campfire. In general, you probably will not be allowed to set up a campfire just anywhere, so keep you campfire within bounded areas like the previously listed options to follow the rules.
Keep your campfire small. The vast majority of the wildfires you see on the news are caused by human negligence, filling the air with smoke and ravaging the scenery. A small campfire is much easier to manage, put out, and keep an eye out, so play it safe. You also want to be sure to use only small sticks that you see on the ground, nothing that has to be broken off a tree. If you want something larger to burn, then you need to bring it yourself.
Once you have had your fun playing with fire, you want to burn everything in your campfire to ash. Then be sure to extinguish all the flames. Once everything is no longer hot, scatter the cool ashes to ensure a clean campfire spot for any campers that follow you.
In a previous article, I talked about how to make a campfire. If you are looking to learn how or just aiming to refresh your mind, it will be sure to help you whether you are a beginner or an expert. Check out the link below to learn more.
5. Leave What You Find
Do not touch. Enjoy with your eyes. Rocks, vegetation, trees, cliffs, plants, and other natural thing you see is to be let alone. If you are in a place with cultural sites or historical significance, let it be. You do not build anything like trenches, holes, or structures. Everything you set is to be left like you found it.
Also, do not introduce any non-native plant or animal species. While the natural world is quite resilient, a non-native species can throw an area out of wack, disrupting the balance and upending the ecological relations between species because of the new actor in the ecosystem.
6. Respect Wildlife
Keep your distance. Wildlife does not view life the same way you and I do. This means to not follow or approach. Be sure to take a picture though. It will memorialize the moment with them.
Never feed them either. If you feed them, it will alter their behavior. My Dad has a lake house in the woods at Lake Wildwood. We regularly see deer outside of our house. This is because the previous owners fed the deer, so they are used to getting fed. They have become weaker because of it instead of learning how to care of themselves on their own. If they see an opportunity for food, they will take it, so be sure to keep all your food safe and secure. They should not be able to access it.
I like dogs. They are very nice. It is the pet you will probably bring with you if you end up doing so. For any pet you bring, keep a handle on them, so they do not chase or bother the animals. Keep a tight leash on your pets.
Wild animals live a slower life, but they also have distinct periods during their lives. These include mating, winter, nesting, raising young, and the like. These periods are pivotal, making them especially moody during these periods, so be aware of particular nature ‘times’ when outdoors.
7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
You are bound to find others on the trail near you, so be courteous and polite to your fellow human. You are sharing the trail together. Just because we are out in the wilderness does not mean we should lose our universal human decency.
Keep the noise levels low. Let nature be your Bluetooth speaker. This is the outdoors, not a tailgate party. If you want to listen to music, then put the headphones on. You can jam to Bob Marley and protect the ears of others.
When you have your pet with you (probably your dog Rex), keep him or her under control. They are not wildlife and most people do not want to hear a yapping dog at 2:00 PM on a nice Saturday hike. You also need to pick up ‘presents’ that your dog leaves behind so be sure to bring a plastic bag along with you on the trail. Many areas will require a constant leash on your dog. Also, dogs that run free can be a nuisance, heading off the trail and surprising many hikers.
When you take a break, take it away from other visitors to the area. It helps to stay out of the way.
The 7 Leave No Trace Principles Print Out
It is one thing to read an article online. It is another thing to take that knowledge with you. If you really want to make sure that you are following the 7 Leave No Trace Principles, then it will help you to have a readable and nice looking print out to follow along with. Click on the link below and you will be taken to a descriptive print out for you to enjoy. If you want to make it even more nice, then print it out on a colorful piece of paper.
Are You Going to Get Outside this Week?
You should be all set to enjoy nature’s natural beauty in a respectful manner. If you want others or your future self to enjoy the scenery, then you need to be considerate towards the outdoors, appreciating the natural splendor and respecting the world around you.
You can olny do so if you get outside though. What do you say? Are you going to get outside this week? You deserve it and it will be a perfect opportunity to put those principles you just learned to good use. If you click on the link below, you will be taken to AllTrails.com. It has all the trails to be found near you. There is bound to be a good trail near you. Feed your wild side!
If you have any thoughts, questions, or think I missed anything, do not hesitate to comment below and please do share this article. Thank you so much and I hope you make it a great day!