The Leave No Trace Seven Principles framework is the guiding factor to my personal outdoor experience. We all have the responsibility to leave as little impact upon the world around us as possible. If you are new to Leave No Trace, below you will find excerpts of the Seven Principles, so you can easily apply them to your next outdoor adventure!
The following are a selection from the Leave No Trace Seven Principles. © 1999 by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org. For further information, please visit: https://lnt.org/why/7-principles/
Plan Ahead & Prepare
Adequate trip planning and preparation helps backcountry travelers accomplish trip goals safely and enjoyably, while simultaneously minimizing damage to the land. Poor planning often results in miserable campers and damage to natural and cultural resources.
Why Is Trip Planning Important?
- It helps ensure the safety of groups and individuals.
- It prepares you to Leave No Trace and minimizes resource damage.
- It contributes to accomplishing trip goals safely and enjoyably.
- It increases self-confidence and opportunities for learning more about nature.
Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces
The goal of travel in the outdoors is to move through natural areas while avoiding damage to the land or waterways. Understanding how travel causes impacts is necessary to accomplish this goal. Travel damage occurs when surface vegetation or communities of organisms are trampled beyond recovery. The resulting barren area leads to soil erosion and the development of undesirable trails. Backcountry travel may involve travel over both trails and off-trail areas.
Travel on Trails
Concentrating travel on trails reduces the likelihood that multiple routes will develop and scar the landscape. It is better to have one well-designed route than many poorly chosen paths. Trail use is recommended whenever possible. Encourage travelers to stay within the width of the trail and not shortcut trail switchbacks (trail zigzags that climb hillsides).
All travel that does not utilize a designed trail such as travel to remote areas, searches for bathroom privacy, and explorations near and around campsites is defined as off-trail. Two primary factors increase how off-trail travel affects the land: durability of surfaces and vegetation, and frequency of travel (or group size).
- Durability refers to the ability of surfaces or vegetation to withstand wear or remain in a stable condition.
- Frequency of use and large group size increase the likelihood that a large area will be trampled, or that a small area will be trampled multiple times.
Camp on Durable Surfaces
Selecting an appropriate campsite is perhaps the most important aspect of low-impact backcountry use. A decision about where to camp should be based on information about the level and type of use in the area, the fragility of vegetation and soil, the likelihood of wildlife disturbance, an assessment of previous impacts, and your party’s potential to cause or avoid impact.
Dispose of Waste Properly
The Center encourages outdoor enthusiasts to consider the impacts that they leave behind, which will undoubtedly affect other people, water and wildlife.
Proper disposal of human waste is important to avoid pollution of water sources, avoid the negative implications of someone else finding it, minimize the possibility of spreading disease and maximize the rate of decomposition.
In most locations, burying human feces in the correct manner is the most effective method to meet these criteria. Solid human waste must be packed out from some places, such as narrow river canyons.
Other Forms of Waste
“Pack it in, Pack it out” is a familiar mantra to seasoned wildland visitors. Any user of recreation lands has a responsibility to clean up before he or she leaves. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash and garbage.
Overlooked trash is litter, and litter is not only ugly—it can also be deadly. Plastic bags, cigarette butts, fishing line and other trash can be harmful to our environment when not properly disposed of.
Leave What You Find
Allow others a sense of discovery by leaving rocks, plants, archaeological artifacts and other objects of interest as you find them.
Minimize Site Alterations
Leave areas as you found them. Do not dig trenches for tents or construct lean-tos, tables, chairs or other rudimentary improvements. If you clear an area of surface rocks, twigs or pine cones replace these items before leaving. For high-impact sites, it is appropriate to clean up the site and dismantle inappropriate user-built facilities, such as multiple fire rings and constructed seats or tables. Consider the idea that good campsites are found and not made.
Avoid Damaging Live Trees and Plants
Avoid hammering nails into trees for hanging things, hacking at them with hatchets and saws, or tying tent guy lines to trunks—thus girdling the tree. Carving initials into trees is unacceptable. The cutting of boughs for use as sleeping pads creates minimal benefit and maximum impact.
Leave Natural Objects and Cultural Artifacts
Natural objects of beauty or interest such as antlers, petrified wood or colored rocks add to the mood of the backcountry and should be left so others can experience a sense of discovery. In national parks and many other protected places, it is illegal to remove natural objects.
Minimize Campfire Impacts
Fires vs. Stoves: The use of campfires, once a necessity for cooking and warmth, is steeped in history and tradition. Some people would not think of camping without a campfire. Campfire building is also an important skill for every camper. Yet, the natural appearance of many areas has been degraded by the overuse of fires and an increasing demand for firewood. The development of lightweight efficient camp stoves has encouraged a shift away from the traditional fire for cooking. Stoves have become essential equipment for minimum-impact camping. They are fast, flexible and eliminate firewood availability as a concern in campsite selection. Stoves operate in almost any weather condition—and they Leave No Trace.
Learn about wildlife through quiet observation. Do not disturb wildlife or plants just for a “better look.” Observe wildlife from a distance so they are not scared or forced to flee. Large groups often cause more damage to the environment and can disturb wildlife so keep your group small. If you have a larger group, divide into smaller groups if possible to minimize your impacts.
Considerate campers observe wildlife from afar, give animals a wide berth, store food securely and keep garbage and food scraps away from animals. Remember that you are a visitor to their home.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
One of the most important components of outdoor ethics is to maintain courtesy toward other visitors. It helps everyone enjoy their outdoor experience. Many people come to the outdoors to listen to nature. Excessive noise, uncontrolled pets and damaged surroundings take away from the natural appeal of the outdoors.