Leave No Trace: What Does That Really Mean?

Leave No Trace was set in place to protect natural spaces that we all have come to love so much. Following these rules will help you to leave a minimal impact when you’re out on the trails. It’s important to know and abide by the Leave No Trace Seven Principles next time you’re out on your next adventure.

Leave No Trace Seven Principles:

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 impacts

6. Respect wildlife

7. Be considerate of other visitors

1.) Plan Ahead & Prepare

No matter how big or small of a trip you’re going on, it’s important to have a plan before you leave. 

  • Be sure you are aware of the regulations and special concerns for the area that you’ll be visiting. 
  • Prepare for weather, hazards, and emergencies.
  • Schedule your trip when it isn’t crowded.
  • Aim to visit in small groups.
  • Repackage your food to lessen waste.
  • Use a map, compass, or GPS to avoid marking the trail.

2.) Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces

  • Durable surfaces: maintained trails, designated campsites, rock, gravel, sand, dry grasses, or snow.
  • Protect water areas by camping at least 200 feet away from streams and lakes.
  • In popular areas: Focus on using existing trails and campsites, stay in the middle of the trail, and keep campsites small.
  • In pristine areas: disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails; avoid areas where impacts are beginning.

3.) Dispose of Waste Properly

This applies for all waste from litter to human waste to rinse water.

  • Pack it in, pack it out. Check your campsite, food prep area, and rest area for any trash or spilled food.
  • Make use of toilet facilities when you can. Otherwise, deposit human waste by digging a hole 6-8 inches deep and about 200 feet away from water, camp and trails (Try using a tool like the Deuce #2). Cover up the hole you’ve dug when you are finished. Don’t forget to pack out all toilet facilities and hygiene products.
  • To wash yourself or dishes, carry water at least 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use a small amount of biodegradable soap. Scatter the water when you’re finished.

4.) Leave What You Find

As tempting as it may be, leave the trail like you found it.

  • Don’t touch cultural or historical artifacts.
  • Leave rocks, plants, and other natural objects like you find them.
  • Avoid bringing or transporting a non-native species to an area.
  • Don’t build structures or dig trenches.

5.) Minimize Campfire Impacts

For instructions on starting a fire, check out our other blogs for starting a fire using matches or a lighter or by using friction.

  • Use a lightweight stove for cooking and a candle lantern for light.
  • Use an established fire ring, fire pan, or mound fire in areas where starting a fire is permitted.
  • Keep fires small. Only use wood from the ground that can be broken with your hands.
  • Burn all of the wood and coals to ash. Put out the campfire completely and scatter the cooled ashes.

6.) Respect Wildlife

  • Observe all wildlife from a safe distance. Never follow or approach wildlife.
  • Don’t ever feed the animals. Doing this puts them at risk. You can damage their health, alter natural behaviors, and expose them to predators and other dangers.
  • Protect both animals and your food by storing rations of it and trash securely.
  • If you bring your pets with you, be able to control them at all times. Leave them at home if you cannot.
  • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.

7.) Be Considerate of Other Visitors

  • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
  • Be courteous. Yield to others on the trail.
  • Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering others.
  • Take breaks when needed and camp away from trails and other visitors.
  • Avoid talking loudly or making loud noises.

Following these seven principles will help to protect the outdoors and help you leave a minimal impact while you’re out in it. Use these rules so that you and others can enjoy all that the outdoors has to offer. More information can be found at the Leave No Trace website.

Red Beard’s Outfitter

Inspiring Adventure