Responsible camping is more than putting out your fire and collecting garbage before you go. The Leave No Trace movement offers seven simple guidelines to ensure that you can enjoy your outdoor adventure without harming the environment.
Seven pro tips for responsible camping
1. Plan your trip beforehand
We camp to enjoy the peace and serenity that nature brings. However, a lack of preparation can certainly cramp one’s style. The first principle of the Leave No Trace movement is to plan your trip well. A lack of preparation can lead to poor decision-making and improvisations which could, in turn, have a negative impact on the environment. Take only what you need and be prepared for changing weather conditions.
2. Only camp at designated sites
This principle, which applies not only to camping but to all wilderness adventures, means limiting your activities to preapproved areas. When hiking, stay on the trail. When camping, pitch your tent at a designated location. If you are camping in a national park, this means setting up camp on your reserved spot.
The guidelines differ for backcountry and wilderness camping. First, set up your tent 200 feet from the nearest waterway to ensure that nothing from your campsite contaminates the water. Second, if you notice that an area is starting to show signs of degradation, pitch your tent elsewhere. Third, avoid vegetation and stay on surfaces such as grass, sand, or dirt.
3. Properly dispose of your waste
Bring absolutely everything back home with you. In fact, try to leave the site even cleaner than you found it! Food, plastic, cardboard containers…everything. If you’re tempted to throw your leftover fruit into the woods because of its biodegradability, just remember that a single banana peel takes up to five weeks to decompose.
Always use the washroom facilities provided. If there are none, wash yourself using biodegradable soap well away from any waterways (about 200 feet). The same goes for cleaning any dishes and clothes. Finally, we know it’s not pleasant, but if you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of nowhere, dig a hole of about 15 cm and be sure to fill it in before you leave. Don’t forget to pack up your toilet paper when leaving the site!
4. Keep the wild in wildlife
Respect nature, keep your distance from wildlife, and don’t damage the flora. As tempting as it is to pick flowers and feed birds, doing so has negative consequences for environmental sustainability.
Many at risk, endangered, or simply delicate plant species can take decades to regenerate. Avoid picking flowers or mushrooms and be sure to leave stones (home to many species of insects) alone. Additionally, don’t cut down trees for your campfire or to build structures for shelter.
5. Consider campfire safety
Although a camping classic, the campfire is particularly destructive if left unchecked. In national parks, only build fires in designated areas. It’s not just a matter of avoiding a forest fire, keep your flames as small as possible to reduce fumes and avoid collecting deadwood as it is essential for biodiversity.
Choose a suitable stove for your kitchen and lanterns or flashlights for lighting. Finally, why not forget the fire altogether and take the opportunity to stargaze? The beauty of the night is best observed without light.
6. Store food correctly
Protect local wildlife by keeping your food in a secure area. Feeding wildlife has a direct impact on their hunting and gathering abilities, ultimately affecting their capacity to feed themselves.
Observe wildlife from a safe distance and leave them in peace. If you are adventuring with your dog, do not let it stray from the campsite. Keep him on a leash if possible. This will help avoid some unwanted visitors!
7. Respect other outdoor adventurers
Outdoor enthusiasts camp to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Whether you’re camping in national parks or in the backcountry, avoid talking too loudly. Sit back, relax, and let the sounds of nature take over.
By keeping these tips and tricks in mind as you set off on your next camping adventure, you can do your part to create a rugged, memorable experience for you and future campers to come. Embrace the Leave No Trace movement and help create a better tomorrow.