Memorizing and understanding the seven principles of Leave No Trace is one thing; actually enacting them is another – depending on how and where you’re recreating, you’ll have to contend with LNT obstacles unique to the way you’re currently interacting with your environment. A day hiker and an overnight camper will be following the same general principles, but will certainly have to implement them differently. Going out for the day without leaving a trace can seem relatively simple when considering the host of potential impacts to be avoided when spending the night becomes a factor – it usually means at least twelve more hours in the field (but could mean many, many more), a hefty load of additional gear and supplies, and more opportunities to leave unnecessary remnants of your excursion. This list of practical LNT camping tips will help you to simplify your considerations and leave your site like you’d never been there. Here’s one tip upfront: in reading on, you’re already following the first principle – increasing your familiarity with LNT practices is an important part of planning and preparing!
If you haven’t already reviewed the seven principles of Leave No Trace and learned how they benefit natural environments and the people (like you) who enjoy them, start here and familiarize yourself with the ethics. And while accessing your campsite, make sure you remember to follow the LNT hiking tips outlined here. Then dive into the list of camping-specific LNT practices below –
Prepare to carry out more garbage than you’ll create. It’s easy to underestimate how much waste is created by aluminum cans and energy bar wrappers. Bring an extra garbage bag just in case. This will also be helpful if you encounter any garbage left by others; an unfortunate inevitability that’s nice to be able to correct. An extra stuff sack can sometimes be helpful for consolidating trash, especially if your pack is short on space.
Repackage Food Beforehand. The less waste you go in with, the less you’ll have to keep track of and carry out. Dispose of individual wrappings beforehand to reduce the amount of plastic and packaging you bring with you into the wilderness.
Camp At Established Sites. “The best campsites are found, not made” is an important LNT mantra. Sticking to sites that are already extant reduces the total area impacted by human usage. Try to keep your camp as consolidated as possible to avoid increasing the size of the site you’re occupying, and leave the site just as you found it. And make sure you’re never camping within 200 feet of a water source, even if it looks like others have done so.
Build Fires Responsibly. Minimizing campfire impacts is a protocol of its own for a reason – irresponsible fire tending can have drastic consequences for the environment. At worst, you might start a forest fire, which is just about the largest trace a single party can possibly leave in their wake. To reduce your impact, only ignite fires in established rings, or build a mound fire. Or even better – if you have a stove and ample fuel, consider sticking to those instead. Keep the size of any fires you do build minimal, make sure you let them burn out completely until the ashes are cool, and always douse and disperse ashes before leaving camp. And of course, know and follow any local fire protocols that may be in place. If you only plan on using fire as a light source (as opposed to a heat source or cook fire), you might consider bringing along some candles as a quick and easy substitute.
Keep It Down. Be considerate of others who might be camping in the area by keeping your volume respectful. Just because you haven’t seen anybody else, doesn’t mean they aren’t around.
Have any other LNT secrets for overnight stays? Share them with other campers in the comments below! The more responsible environmentally responsible campers out there pitching tents, the more pristine sites will be available for everyone.
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Richard White II