“Camping is nature’s way of promoting the motel business.”

- Dave Barry

No trace camping is all about minimizing your wilderness footprint. With increasing numbers of people wanting to experience the same limited resources, the onus is upon all of us to play a part in preserving our natural heritage.

Established Sites: If camping at established sites, stick to the designated area so as to not expand the already impacted surface.


Camping near Volcan Cotopaxi, Ecuador, 2004

Pack it in, Pack it out: Leave no rubbish; bring an extra plastic bag and pick up additional litter you see on the trail. Make this a habit. If other hikers see you doing it, it may just catch on!

Stealth Camping: If camping away from established sites, often referred to as wild or stealth camping, the hiker’s responsibility to practice no trace principles is even greater. Avoid making fires (except in emergencies), uprooting plants and breaking off branches in order to make space for your shelter.

Groups: Try to keep size to a minimum. Larger groups make a bigger impact physically, visually and audibly.

Fire: If you must build a fire (e.g. in an emergency situation to warm yourself), then minimize your impact by making it a mound fire (see Fire in the SKILLS section). Ideally, build it on an already impacted surface such as a dry river or creek bed. There are certain times and places where you should never build a fire:

  • Anywhere that wood resources are limited or in danger (e.g. above the tree line).
  • In the vicinity of remote villages in developing countries.  The locals definitely need the wood more than you do.
  • Most importantly, anywhere that fire danger is a possibility. Always be aware of fire regulations and/or restrictions in the area in which you are hiking.  Be cognizant of the weather conditions. Many bush fires have resulted from hikers ignoring the warning signs and building fires regardless.

Impact of the Campfire: If you do decide to build a fire, take a moment to think about the impact you will be causing. Consider that twigs, branches and logs don’t just lie about the forest waiting for some random hiker to come along and burn them. On the contrary, they play an important role in nature’s cycle through the process of decomposition. Nutrients obtained from the earth for growth are returned from whence they came via decay. Indiscriminate burning interrupts that process and thereby compromises soil quality.

Departure: When it is time to leave your campsite, if your shelter has left any imprint whatsoever, be sure to remove it before setting off.