The great outdoors is a prime place for exploration, adventure, learning and overall growth. Whether you take your family deep into the backcountry, or simply to the nearest campground, it's important to learn a few rules that protect our Mother Earth. These "rules" otherwise known as Leave No Trace Principles (LNT) are in place to keep you, your family and the Earth itself, safe. Every family should learn and understand these seven LNT principles before heading out on an adventure!
The Seven Leave No Trace Principles:
- Plan ahead and prepare
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces
- Dispose of waste properly
- Leave what you find
- Minimize campfire impacts
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate of other visitors
Plan Ahead and Prepare
Whether or not you are familiar with the area you are headed to, it is important to do your research. You are less likely to run into problems if you do your research ahead of time.
- Prepare for extreme weather, emergencies and note any potential hazards (fire, avalanche, flood, etc).
- Understand land-use regulations and obtain permits when needed.
- Schedule your family adventure to avoid high traffic dates.
- Plan your menu for your trip; think about waste and consider repackaging food to minimize your garbage.
- Have a family lesson on using a map and a compass.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
Limit your footprint on the environment by traveling and camping on durable surfaces. Durable surfaces are defined as preexisting trails or campsites, gravel, rock, dry grasses or snow.
- Use established trails for hiking (and walk through the middle of the trail in a single file line).
- Set up camp at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Small campsites are ideal.
Dispose of Waste Properly
- Pack it in, pack it out--it's that simple. If you see garbage, pick it up, throw it in your pack and dispose of it when you come across a garbage bin.
- Dig cat holes for human waste 200 feet from any water source. Cat holes must be dug 6-8 inches deep and disguised upon completion. Some heavily trafficked areas may require you to pack out human waste (in which case a poop tube will come in handy)!
- In all cases, toilet paper and hygiene products must be packed out (I personally use a gallon ziplock bag covered in duct tape to pack this kind of waste out).
- When washing yourself or your dishes, carry dirty water 200 feet from the water source and scatter the dirty water.
Leave What You Find
Nature is pretty neat! Please leave what you find so it can stay that way.
- Look, but don't touch.
- Clean off boots, kayaks and bike tires between trips to avoid accidentally transporting non-native species.
- Do not alter the environment to build structures or dig trenches.
Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Be sure fires are permitted before starting a camp fire. Use existing fire rings, or make a mound fire.
- Do not pack in firewood from an outside area.
- Use sticks and branches (no bigger than your wrist) to burn.
- Burn all coals until they turn to ash. Scatter cooled ashes.
Believe it or not, nature isn't a petting zoo. Please be courteous to all animals and remember that you are in their
- Leave a respectful distance between you and wildlife. Always be aware of the animal's body language signaling discomfort, anger and even mating or nesting.
- Never feed animals, even if they beg. Feeding animals disrupts their natural behaviors and makes them a prime target for predators and other unfortunate consequences.
- Store your food and trash in a secure location i.e. a bear bag.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Nature's playground is for everyone, not just the elite outdoorsmen. Treat everyone you come across as you would like to be treated.
- If pets are permitted, be prepared to manage your pet and be respectful of others who may not like to be around pets.
- Be courteous of noise coming from your campsite.
- Use trail etiquette and step to the side of the trail for downhill hikers.
- Understand that other campers and hikers are there to enjoy nature too. Respect their experience.
Wherever you go, always remember to pack your 10 essentials! Be safe and have fun!
Written by Lindsay Helm