Basic Trail Principles: Leave No Trace

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Basic Trail Principles: Leave No Trace

‘Leave No Trace’ is a global movement whose mission is to protect the outdoors by teaching people how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly.

Wherever you live and wherever you choose to hike, the seven principles remain the same and you should aim to abide by them.

Consider them the laws of the trail.

Although none of us intend to harm our natural surroundings, sometimes we lack the knowledge to protect and preserve them.

Have a look at the Leave No Trace principles below to ensure you are enjoying the outdoors in a sustainable way.

  • Plan ahead and prepare

Good planning is the best way to have a great trip and leave no trace.

Taking care of yourself comes first but figuring out how to reduce your impact throughout your trip should be a consideration too.

  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces

Sticking to marked tracks helps to reduce human effects on soil, plants and wild animals.

Cutting across switchbacks or trampling through vegetation may save you a few minutes here and there but also damages fragile plants and could loosen rocks or scree that ends up injuring people below you.

Camp where you will have minimal effects or stay in huts.

If you do end up wild camping, pick a flat, hard-packed area and take all of your rubbish (including food waste) with you.

  • Dispose of waste properly

This seems pretty obvious and most of us would never dream of tossing food wrappers or plastic bags on the side of the trail.

But even biodegradable materials like banana skins, orange peel, apple cores and food scraps can take years to break down, as well as attracting pests.

If your wrappers, tissues or toilet paper blow away, chase them down.

If nothing else, rubbish is ugly and affects other people’s outdoor experience.

Just think – if every hiker left one thing behind, scenic trails would look more like garbage dumps.

Clean up after yourself and pack out every last thing that you brought in.

Bury toilet waste in a safe manner and this goes for dogs too.

If you’re not willing to clean up after your dog every time, then don’t take it out.

Avoid using soaps, shampoos and any other chemical-based product that could damage fragile stream or soil life.

And a final thought – removing and properly disposing of rubbish shouldn’t be limited to your own.

If you find trash left behind by other walkers, pack that out too.

Aim to leave the area better than you found it.

  • Leave what you find

Remember the old slogan…

Take nothing but pictures. Kill nothing but time. Leave nothing but footprints

It’s a saying worth sticking to.

Stay on the trail to avoid damaging the surrounding environment, don’t pick flowers, and don’t write notes or mark your route by defacing vegetation.

Don’t construct your own cairns along the course or remove stones from existing ones.

They are (usually) strategically built with a navigational purpose and by building your own you could cause someone else to get lost.

  • Minimise the effects of campfires

Although fire is a basic backpacking skill that is as useful as it is fun, poorly built campfires and barbecues lead to charred ground, picnic areas & rocks.

It also causes fire rings, damaged trees and even uncontrolled wildfires.

If possible, carry a camping stove instead and never leave it unattended.

Keep water close by and use a shield when it is windy.

Be wary of wind, dry grasses or overhanging branches and always check whether there are any fire bans in effect during dry periods.

  • Respect wildlife

It goes without saying that you shouldn’t pick or break off any living vegetation or attempt to touch animals.

Further to this, if an animal moves in response to your presence, you are too close and potentially putting it in distress.

Animals are particularly sensitive when lambing, mating, nesting or raising young.

Never feed animals, approach nests or touch their babies – as this can lead to abandonment.

If you are hiking through fields of livestock, leave gates as you find them and follow dog regulations.

If in doubt, keep your dog on a lead.

  • Be considerate of other visitors

Everyone has a right to enjoy their time in nature.

Be polite, friendly and respectful of others.

Pass with care, offer help to those in need, leave campsites and huts better than you found them, respect private property and just have fun.

Saying hello takes only a second but makes a huge difference in the collective spirit of the hiking community.

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