The best way to enjoy outdoors responsibly is to ensure that one is leaving behind minimum impact on mother nature arising from one’s recreation or enjoyment. Just like how there are rules for almost everything in life, there is also 'The 7 Leave No Trace Principles’ that work as the golden rules for recreationists. These principles are not just relevant and important, but they also play a very fundamental role in helping people avoid or mitigate impacts pertaining to recreation.
Prepare Well and Plan Ahead
The very first principle for reducing environmental impacts and conflicts, this one advises people to plan ahead of time and educate themselves about the special concerns and regulations pertaining to the place. Be prepared to face extreme weathers, emergencies and hazards.
As far as possible, try to split your group into smaller groups if it is a very large one and avoid visiting the place during peak season. Also, make use of maps and pack food in a minimalistic manner to keep waste to a minimum.
Use Durable Surfaces for Camping and Traveling
The term 'durable surfaces’ here refer to established campsites and trails such as snow, rock, gravel and dry grasses. One should try to safeguard riparian areas, stay at a distance of at least two hundred feet from lakes, streams, etc.
Remember, good campsites do not have to be made, they are found. In other words, there is no need to modify a campsite to suit your requirement. Try to stay away from campsites wherein the impacts are just starting.
Dump Your Waste Properly
This isn’t necessarily a principle because it is something that everyone with basic civic sense follows. Before you leave the campsite, take a look around you for trash or waste, including toiletries and toilet paper and pack all of these litter out.
Solid human waste can be deposited in catholes which are 6-8 inches deep and at a considerable distance from the water bodies. You can cover up the cathole when done. For washing the dishes or taking a bath, ensure that you use a biodegradable soap and that you’re at least 200 feet away from water bodies like streams and lakes.
Leave Things as They Are
This principle teaches one to preserve the past, i.e. not to touch historic and cultural artifacts or structures that one comes across. One should leave them alone. This also applies to common natural objects like rocks, plants and so on. Moreover, one must not dig trenches or build structures and furniture during camping and avoid transporting non-native species.
Minimize Campfire Impacts
Campfires are a huge no-no as they leave behind long-lasting impressions on the backcountry. Thus, it is advisable to utilize a lightweight stove instead when it comes to cooking. For lighting purpose, one should use a candle.
In areas where fires are permissible it is advisable to use mound fires, fire pans or fire rings and try keeping the fire as small as possible. To fuel the fire, one can collect sticks on the ground and break it using one’s hands only. After the fire is out, one should wait for the ashes to cool down and then scatter it.
This is a very important principle that most people seem to forget. First things first, it is advisable to have some respect for the wildlife and not invade their personal space. This means that one shouldn’t approach or follow wildlife, but rather observe them from a distance. Feeding wildlife is also a huge no-no as it can alter their natural behavior, expose them to dangers such as predators and damage their health.
You can protect the wildlife and yourself by storing your food properly and throwing the trash away securely. It is best to leave the pets at home but if that is not possible then ensure that you control them well during camping. Try to avoid wildlife in case of sensitive periods such as winter, mating season, nesting season and when they are raising their young.
Be Mindful of Other Visitors
Bear in mind that just like you, other visitors are also looking to have great camping experience therefore respect them and be courteous. Avoid speaking loudly or making loud noise and try to let the sounds of nature prevail instead. Try to camp away from other visitors. If you meet them on the trail, yield to them by stepping to the downhill section; this is particularly important in case of pack stock.
(c) Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.