Memorize the 7 Basics of Leave No Trace
Whether in your daily life or out enjoying the wilderness, understanding the Leave No Trace principles are essential to keeping a healthy relationship with the nature around you…and your local forest ranger.
There are seven basic LNT principles everyone should memorize. As one who has a hard time memorizing without cues, I came up with a key phrase to help myself remember the LNT rules more easily: “keep it on the down low,” or “keep it on the DL.” Why? Because a) “keep it on the down low” = “keep it a secret” = make your impact so minimal on the backcountry it’s like a secret = Leave No Trace, and b) “DL” can make an acronym for the LNT principles, using six D’s and one L (yeah, I’m one of those thesaurus-wielding nerds).
Here are the 7 practices of “keeping it on the DL”:
This is the correlation to LNT’s “plan ahead and prepare” rule. Devising your plan of action is the essential first step of your wilderness excursion. Knowing what you’re going to do, and acquiring the tools necessary to do it efficiently, will allow you to carry out your adventure with minimized risk and impact on the terrain. For example, determining where your route has an accessible water source will keep you from searching for hours off trail and impacting the land.
For more on trip planning and risk management, check out this article here.
#2: Travel and camp on DURABLE surfaces.
This practice is relatively self-explanatory. Camping on a durable surface means that the ground is resilient enough to handle you sleeping, stepping, cooking, dancing, and etc. on it without altering its appearance or leaving new marks of impacts. Examples of a durable surface: a granite rock slab, an impacted trail, solid forest ground sprinkled with dead pine needles. Examples of not durable surfaces: a lush green field, marsh, wildflower meadow, etc.
For more on campsite selection, follow the link here.
#3: DISPOSE of waste properly.
No one likes seeing trash where it’s not supposed to be. As a guest in a friend or family member’s house, do you leave toilet paper, diapers, candy wrappers, or plastic bags on the living room floor? Hopefully not. Treat the wilderness similarly; you’re a guest in the living room of deer, bears, wildcats, and rodents, in addition to other travelers. Pack out your garbage, and become a pro at digging cat-holes so no one else but you has to see your personal waste.
#4: DIMINISH campfire impacts.
Fire is a catalyst for change, whether by the singe of its flames or the smudges of its ash, so pay attention to your campfire tactics. Are there restrictions on fire in the area you’re using? Respect them. Does your site have a campfire ring? Use that instead of making a new fire site. No campfire ring? Unless emergency calls for it, simply forgo the fire.
#5: Give DEFERENCE to wildlife.
A good rule of thumb: if the animal feels the need to respond to your presence, you’re too close to it. Like I said, this is their home that you’re visiting, so be a respectful guest.
The second step: don’t try to feed them, intentionally or unintentionally; stow away your food and food-laced trash properly via the necessary method for the area (either a bear canister, bear hang, or food locker).
#6: Practice DIPLOMACY toward other visitors.
You may not be the only one who likes to enjoy the wilderness. If you’re camping close to other people, respect the “quiet hours” (typically 10 pm to 6 am). Leaving behind trash on trails (no matter how small) or soap bubbles in lakes can easily sully the ‘escaping-from-society’ aura of wilderness travel for the people that visit it next. This also includes practicing good “expedition behavior”: refraining from making excessive noise, throwing objects, or making it difficult for other hikers to pass by while out on the trail.
#7: LEAVE what you find.
Wildflowers, rocks, artifacts, feathers–these all belong to the wilderness experience, and they’re not for your experience alone. Leave behind what belongs to the wilderness, and give others a chance to experience what you’ve found.
If you’re interested in a backpacking trip with Summit Adventure, check out our course catalogue here.