Seven tips to help minimize your wilderness footprint while camping:
1. Pack it in, Pack it out: Leave no rubbish; bring an extra plastic bag and pick up additional litter you see at established sites (or on the trail). Make this a habit. If other hikers see you doing it, it may just catch on.
2. Established Sites: If camping at oft-used locales, stick to the designated area so as not expand the already impacted surface.
3. Groups: Try to keep size to a minimum. Larger groups make a bigger impact physically, visually and audibly.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. Impact of the Campfire: If you do decide to build a fire when camping, 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.
7. Departure / Leave No Trace: When it is time to depart, irrespective of your campsite’s location, remove any sign of your presence. Erase your shelter’s imprint and replace any rocks, branches or leaves you may have moved. This especially holds true for stealth/pristine sites. No one should know you were ever there.