Hikers on a ridge following leave no trace principles.
Whether you’re backpacking alone or with a group, it’s important to be responsible to preserve natural landscapes and hiking trails. Having a respect for Mother Nature can help future generations enjoy the great outdoors as well. One of the primary ways to do this is to become familiar with the “leave no trace” principle.

“Leave no trace” is a set of outdoor ethics that guides responsible people in best practices that, when followed properly, help the conservation of wildlife and natural ecosystems around the world.

For your next backpacking trip, follow these tips to leave no trace:

Hike on established trails and walk single file

If you’re hiking alone, make sure you stay on already-established trails to avoid disrupting your surroundings. Also, be sure to walk single file if you’re traveling with a group. If you’re unsure about what kinds of trails are already marked in the area, do some research and planning beforehand so you can prepare for the various terrains you may encounter. This can also help minimize any damage or disruption to the surrounding environment.

Leave what you findTent set up in the wilderness, at night.

As you backpack, you’ll encounter plants, rocks, insects and natural artifacts that play a unique role in the surrounding ecosystem. While it’s encouraged to look around and explore the area and enjoy the natural landscape, it’s important not to take or move anything you find on the trail. In some places, doing so is against local ordinance and could lead to fines.

Dispose of garbage and waste properly

Removing and disposing of your waste is crucial when backpacking through the backcountry. This enforces sustainable camping practices. Make sure you keep track of any food containers or wrappers, toilet paper and hygiene products, and even biodegradable waste like orange peels. When you pack it in, pack it back out. If your campsite isn’t close to a disposal area, make sure you dispose of any human waste in a cathole far away from any water source as well.

Limit campfires, if possible

While campfires are an enjoyable part of camping, they can cause lasting impacts to the environment. There are still plenty of ways to make your trip special and practical. Instead of an open fire, try using a lightweight single burner stove for cooking your meals, and instead of a late-night campfire, try using a camp lantern for some ambient lighting. If you aren’t able to use alternative heat and light sources, keep your campfire small and use existing fire rings to avoid damaging more of the environment, and make sure you extinguish your fire completely before moving on. You may also want to research the fire danger of the area you plan to camp in so you can be extra cautious, as campfires are off-limits in certain parks and forests.

Be respectful of wildlife

Wildlife is one of the most exciting parts of a backpacking trip. You’ll likely have one or two animal encounters, such as birds, reptiles, deer and other woodland creatures on your hike. As tempting as it can be, it’s important to keep a safe and respectful distance from any wildlife you encounter, and disturb them as little as possible while backpacking. Remember that you’re in their home, and they should feel safe and undisturbed in their natural habitat. Do not try to attract or approach any animals you see during your hike, and please avoid feeding them.

Author Bio: Derek Edwards is a Southern California outdoors enthusiast and environmental advocate.  When he’s not exploring all that SoCal has to offer, you can find him cruising down the boardwalk or enjoying fish tacos at a local watering hole.  If you enjoyed this post, you can follow along his journey over on his blog, Outdoor with Derek.

©2018 Melanie McManus – All Rights Reserved

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