How to Explore Responsibly: the 7 Leave No Trace Principles
What does Leave No Trace mean?
The 7 principles of Leave No Trace were developed by the Center for Outdoor Ethics in order to provide guidelines to minimize our impact when exploring the outdoors.
It’s a good practice to familiarize yourself with these principles when preparing for a hike.
The Leave No Trace Principles of outdoor ethics form the framework of Leave No Trace's message:
Leave No Trace Principle #1: Plan ahead and prepare
- Know the current regulations and special hazards for the area you'll visit – do some simple online research for current updates
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
- Use a map or download an offline map in case trail markings are not available
Leave No Trace Principle #2: Travel and camp on durable surfaces
- Travel on trails that are rock, sand or gravel. It is better to travel on one well-travelled route to minimize the impact on nature.
- Select a durable surface to camp or camp in a high-use area.
- Avoid camping close to trails, lakes and streams.
- Good campsites are found, not made. Keep campsites small – altering a site is not always necessary.
Leave No Trace Principle #3: Dispose of waste properly
- “Pack it in, pack it out” is the common mantra used by seasoned explorers. Before setting-off, review your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter.
- Proper disposable of human waste is important to avoid pollution of water sources. Bury solid human waste in a cat hole at least 6-8 inches deep and at least 200 steps from any water source. Fill the cat hole with original dirt and cover with native materials.
- Use toilet paper sparingly and use only plain, non-perfumed brands. It should be thoroughly buried in a cat hole or packed out.
- Urine has little direct effect on vegetation or soil. However, it can sometimes attract wildlife. Urinating on rocks, pine needles and gravel is less likely to attract wildlife.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
- Soap – even when biodegradable – can affect the water quality of lakes and streams, so it is best to minimize its use. Always wash at least 200 feet away from shorelines and rinse with water carried in a pot or jug. Keep in mind that lotion, sunscreen, insect repellent and body coils can contaminate water sources.
Leave No Trace Principle #4: Leave what you find
- Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Allow others a sense of discovery by leaving rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Avoid damaging live trees and plants caused by hammering nails or tying tent lines.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
- Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
Leave No Trace Principle #5: Minimize campfire impacts
- While campfire building is steeped in history and tradition of camping, it has been found to cause lasting impacts to the backcountry.
- With the recent development of lightweight, efficient camp stoves, these have become an essential piece of equipment for minimum-impact camping.
- Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
- If you must build a fire, keep it small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand. Use existing fire rings if they are available.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
Leave No Trace Principle #6: Respect wildlife
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Travel quietly and do not pursue, feed or force animals to flee. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing food securely and keeping garbage and food scraps away from animals.
- Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
Leave No Trace Principle #7: Be considerate of others
- Respect other visitors and allow others to enjoy their outdoor experience.
- Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
- Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
- Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
- Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices, noises and technology that makes sounds.
As always, wherever you choose to explore, don't forget to be prepared with all your emergency hiking essentials, tell somewhere where you're going and respect all current travel restrictions. While you're out, do your part to leave no trace and keep earth wild. #packitinpackitout