If you’ve ever spent time in national parks, you’ve probably heard the term Leave No Trace. Leave No Trace is vital to protect our parks and the natural world, but what does it mean, and how does it help? This article will give tips on the best practice of Leave No Trace and why you should implement them wherever you go.
1. Plan and prepare.
This seems like a given rule, but it can make a big difference in your trip. You’ll want to make sure you always check the regulations of the area you’re staying. There may be restrictions on campfires or essential updates about hiking trails. Knowing the fire danger levels and trail closers will help prevent any damage to the landscape. Additionally, if you do prior research on the wildlife in the area, you’ll discover the best ways to store your food.
2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
When you settle in, make sure it’s a spot with little vegetation and is at least 200 feet away from any bodies of water or streams. If you’re staying in a campervan, this won’t be a concern in a designated campsite. Designated campsites will often have roads (some paved, some dirt), fire rings, and picnic tables. However, if you are doing dispersed camping, be aware of the land around you and avoid parking in these vulnerable spots.
3. Dispose of waste properly.
This is the number one rule people think of when practicing leave no trace, and for a good reason. Waste means various things, including food scraps, human waste, and trash. You want to ensure none of this waste is left behind or littered. When you leave food scraps around, it attracts wildlife—teaching animals that campsites have food for them to eat puts campers at risk. It also makes animals reliant on human food and weakens their hunting abilities. Regarding human waste, read our article on how to use the bathroom to learn how to dispose of it properly. Lastly, trash. This one is self-explanatory. Make sure you don’t leave any garbage of any kind.
4. Leave what you find.
When you go camping, bringing home a natural souvenir like a rock or flowers is tempting, but those are not meant for you. Luckily, many national parks have gift shops if you want to bring home something to remind you of your adventure.
5. Minimize campfire impact.
Like Smokey Bear says, “only you can prevent wildfires.”. Keep your fires small and contained. This means putting your fires out at night and always being aware of the fire danger levels in the area.
6. Respect Wildlife.
Getting to see wildlife on a trip is a thrilling experience. Most of the time, you see certain animals for the first time, which is incredible! You must always be respectful of their space, especially during sensitive seasons. During mating season or the spring, when many animals have offspring with them, you’ll want to be extra sure you are keeping a safe distance. Additionally, never feed the wildlife. We always encourage bringing binoculars and enjoying wildlife from afar.
7. Be considerate to others.
To respect nature, we need to respect one another. This one is less about leaving no trace, but it’s courteous to be aware of the people around you. Be kind to others, and let us work together to protect our amazing lands.
Another tip is to stay on the path. Most hikes have designated pathways for you to follow. Going off the path can destroy vegetation. If it’s a narrow pathway, walk in a single file, we don’t want the trails to become wider. Going off the path can destroy vegetation.
Why is ‘Leave no trace’ important?
These tips are great and should always be followed anytime you go outside, but why are they so important? The big picture is to help keep our planet clean and happy, but there are severe consequences if we don’t follow these rules. When we are careless with our waste, things will get into our water, polluting the entire system. This means that everything, including you, is exposed to the chemicals and waste that get into the water. Protecting wildlife is key to keeping a balanced ecosystem. Animals need to be equipped with hunting skills and stick to their diets. When a disturbance occurs in the ecosystem, it may affect the population of a given species, rippling out and causing an imbalance of wildlife. For example, bears won’t have enough food if the deer population diminishes because they rely on human food. Vegetation will also become overgrown since no deer are eating the plants. Everything in the ecosystem is deeply connected, and it’s our responsibility to care for the environment whenever we use it.
Native Campervans take pride in keeping a clean environment. Nature should stay wild, and it’s our duty to protect it. We are partnered with Protect Our Winters and have worked to offset carbon emissions during travel. We want you to have an extraordinary adventure while also caring for the planet. If you have ways that you like to protect the environment, share them with us at [email protected]. Don’t forget to share your adventures with us on social media @NativeCampervans.