Camping, hiking and backpacking can have a detrimental impact on wildlife and vegetation. Studies throughout the United States have proven that trampling through the wilderness and camping have depleted trees, polluted fresh water systems, caused loss of vegetation and increased run off and erosion.
According to Wilderness.net only 5% of the United States is protected wilderness. As outdoorsmen and women, we can minimize our environmental impact by following best practices while enjoying the wide and wonderful outdoors. By practicing Leave No Trace’s Seven Principles, you will leave a minimal environmental impact while camping, hiking, backpacking, and hunting.
I like to follow the rule of thumb: leave it the way you found it. These tips will help.
- Pick up all your trash and the trash left by others
- Dump gray water (water mixed with soap when used for washing up) 200 feet away from any water source. Scatter it throughout the area or use an official gray water dumpsite.
- Observe all fire restrictions and burn bans
- Use a portable toilet or bury human waste 200 feet from any water source in a 6 to 8-inch hole. Throw toilet paper in a trash bag.
- Stay on designated hiking trails. Avoid making new ones.
- Leave rocks, plants and flowers where they are.
- Keep food packed away properly so bears and raccoons cannot access it.
- Build a campfire in existing fire rings. Smother it properly with sand and water before leaving your campsite. Scatter wood and coals throughout the area and not in one place.
- Do not burn paper products.
- Camp at an established campsite. Do not build a new one. If you are primitive camping, pitch your tent in gravel, rocky or dry-grass areas.
- Completely clean your boat before launching it into any water.
- Use native firewood.
- Do not feed any animals.
- Do not bathe or wash dishes in any rivers, streams, lakes, or oceans.
- Pre-plan before going. Know the rules of the park where you will be camping.
- Do not dig any trenches.
- Use a cook stove more than a campfire for cooking.
- Put food scraps in the trash or burn them.
- Secure your trash bags so critters cannot get in them.
I like to use as many natural products as I can while I’m camping. Instead of DEET aerosol spray, I use citronella candles and DEET alternatives such as picaridin. Another way I like to reduce my impact is by reusing and repurposing products. For example, plastic sandwich bags are cheap and convenient, however they create more trash. Reusable dry boxes and Tupperware containers might be more costly initially, but can be used for multi purposes. They keep electronics and supplies dry, store leftovers and pre-cooked dinners and lunches, and hold small items such as matches and a tent patch kit, wet sponges, tinder and other necessary camping gear. Swedish company, Light My Fire makes camping gear products like lights, fire starters and mess kits that are compatible with Leave No Trace principles.