Everyone who goes out in the woods should know the seven Leave No Trace principles (LNT). In fact, if you’re caught by a ranger, especially in the National Parks, you might get asked to recite them to avoid getting a fine. This impromptu quiz happened to me, and stumbling through the answers got me out of a lot of trouble. Even if you don’t get stopped and grilled, these principles will keep you out of all sorts of other trouble.
Here they are. Study. Heck, write them inside your pack with a Sharpie. You can thank me later.
- 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
I recommend reading further into these principles on the LNT website because your idea of some of them might be totally different from what is in fact correct. Over the years I’ve learned that many of my old ways of thinking (which I thought were sound and proper) were in fact completely ignorant. I’m embarrassed of the way I used to camp, but I can see that it came from ignorance, not stupidity. I mean, I too used to think that toilet paper would magically disappear if I left it in the woods.
It behooves you to research the etiquette before entering foreign territory. LNT talks a naturalist etiquette, which is totally foreign to most of us “civilized” folk.
This year, with so many more people anticipated to be on the long trails (the PCT, the AT, the CDT), the trails are going to be even more civilized than ever. That isn’t necessarily a good thing, since most people go out on the trails to get away from civilization. So, do your part to parcel away the civilized part of your visit, and keep your footprint tiny and nature wild.
Follow these guidelines, and more importantly, do not hesitate to gently share them with other people who might not know the correct way yet. Also, if you don’t find the culprit, please still correct their mistakes. Carry out their trash, repair their fire ring, decommission cut switchbacks, etc etc. Yeah, shitty job — but someone’s gotta do it. If you find the trail in pristine condition, it means someone has done it ahead of you. Pass it on.