Adequate trip planning and preparation helps backcountry travelers accomplish trip goals safely and enjoyably, while simultaneously minimizing damage to the land. Poor planning often results in miserable campers and damage to natural and cultural resources. Rangers often tell stories of campers they have encountered who, because of poor planning and unexpected conditions, degrade backcountry resources and put themselves at risk.

The goal of travel in the outdoors is to move through natural areas while avoiding damage to the land or waterways. Understanding how travel causes impacts is necessary to accomplish this goal. Travel damage occurs when surface vegetation or communities of organisms are trampled beyond recovery. The resulting barren area leads to soil erosion and the development of undesirable trails. Backcountry travel may involve travel over both trails and off-trail areas.
Selecting an appropriate campsite is perhaps the most important aspect of low-impact backcountry use. It requires the greatest degree of judgment and information, and often involves making trade-offs between minimizing ecological and social impacts. A decision about where to camp should be based on information about the level and type of use in the area, the fragility of vegetation and soil, the likelihood of wildlife disturbance, an assessment of previous impacts, and your party’s potential to cause or avoid impact.

Proper disposal of human waste is important to avoid pollution of water sources, avoid the negative implications of someone else finding it, minimize the possibility of spreading disease and maximize the rate of decomposition.

Proper disposal of human waste is important to avoid pollution of water sources, avoid the negative implications of someone else finding it, minimize the possibility of spreading disease and maximize the rate of decomposition.

Cat Holes

Cat holes are the most widely accepted method of waste disposal. Locate cat holes at least 200 feet (about 70 adult paces) from water, trails and camp. Select an inconspicuous site where other people will be unlikely to walk or camp. With a small garden trowel, dig a hole 6-8 inches deep and 4-6 inches in diameter. The cat hole should be covered and disguised with natural materials when finished. If camping in the area for more than one night, or if camping with a large group, cat hole sites should be widely dispersed.

Natural objects of beauty or interest such as antlers, petrified wood or colored rocks add to the mood of the backcountry and should be left so others can experience a sense of discovery. In national parks and many other protected places, it is illegal to remove natural objects.

Fires vs. Stoves: The use of campfires, once a necessity for cooking and warmth, is steeped in history and tradition. Some people would not think of camping without a campfire. Yet, the natural appearance of many areas has been degraded by the overuse of fires and an increasing demand for firewood. The development of lightweight efficient camp stoves has encouraged a shift away from the traditional fire for cooking. Stoves have become essential equipment for minimum-impact camping. They are fast, flexible and eliminate firewood availability as a concern in campsite selection. Stoves operate in almost any weather condition—and they Leave No Trace.

Learn about wildlife through quiet observation. Do not disturb wildlife or plants just for a “better look.” Observe wildlife from a distance so they are not scared or forced to flee. Large groups often cause more damage to the environment and can disturb wildlife so keep your group small. If you have a larger group, divide into smaller groups if possible to minimize your impacts.

 

Considerate campers observe wildlife from afar, give animals a wide berth, store food securely and keep garbage and food scraps away from animals. Remember that you are a visitor to their home.

One of the most important components of outdoor ethics is to maintain courtesy toward other visitors. It helps everyone enjoy their outdoor experience. Many people come to the outdoors to listen to nature. Excessive noise, uncontrolled pets and damaged surroundings take away from the natural appeal of the outdoors.

 

The general assumption on a narrow trail is that hikers headed downhill will step aside to allow an uphill foot traveler to easily pass. In many places, there’s an expectation that hikers will yield to equestrians, and that bicyclists will yield to both hikers and equestrians on trails. Stay in control when mountain biking. Before passing others, politely announce your presence and proceed with caution.

 

 

 

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