How to Use the 7 Leave No Trace Principles
Written October 14, 2021
I have mentioned the Leave No Trace principles many times on this blog, so I wanted to make a quick post about the seven principles! I first became aware of these during early days of exploring in Washington state. I took a few classes at REI to learn about hiking and outdoor recreation. These principles are posted at many trailheads and outdoor recreation sites and can be applied to ANY outdoor activity. The roots of the seven principles is in backcountry adventures, but following these principles any time you spend time outdoors is critical to respect and preserve nature.
While this post serves as a quick reference for the seven principles, I highly encourage you to explore the principles further on the Leave No Trace website (lnt.org).
Can you name the seven principles? Try it, then read on to see my quick breakdown!
- Plan Ahead and Prepare: This allows us to enter nature with decreased risk of injury to ourselves and the environment. Before leaving, look at conditions, consider personal factors, gain knowledge of the area you’ll be visiting (using maps/literature), and choose appropriate equipment/clothing.
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces: Stay on the trail and travel on durable surfaces, such as rock, gravel, and sand. When choosing a campsite, follow site regulations, stay 200 feet from water, and consider the fragility of the vegetation/soil you’ll be camping on.
- Dispose of Waste Properly: Pack it in, pack it out! Carry out any waste – including toilet paper and human waste. If regulations allow, dig a cathole > 200 feet from water/trails/camp. With a trowel, dig a hole 6-8 inches deep and 4-6 inches in diameter for your poo.
- Leave What You Find: Avoid damaging trees and plants, leave natural objects and cultural artifacts you find, and minimize site alterations. Take a picture of flower and leaves rather than taking them home!
- Minimize Campfire Impacts: Check the fire danger in the region and time of year if you plan to build a campfire. A stove may be a less impactful option for camping. Buy firewood where you plan to burn it to prevent the spread of forest-damaging pests.
- Respect Wildlife: Camping 200 feet from water sources allows for wildlife passing. Keep your distance and observe wildlife – do NOT touch, approach, or feed wild animals. Keep quiet, unless it’s a bear and you need to let them know you’re there!
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors: Many people travel into the wilderness to enjoy solitude and quiet. Be respectful by keeping noise to a minimum (including music!) and control your pets. When traveling on a narrow trail, uphill travelers have the right of way.