Leave No Trace
There are many organizations that use camping as a center of their group activates. But of those many, one of the most well known is the Boy Scouts of America. The Boy Scouts see camping as an outstanding event for boys to have healthy fun, get plenty of exercise, be together in a wholesome way and learn about nature as they go. If you have ever been involved with the Boy Scouts, you know that civic responsibility and education is the heart of the organization. Boys who stay in scouting in their teen years learn survival skills, how to manage a camp out, how to live well out of doors and how to treat nature with respect.
One of the principle concepts for camping in our nation’s great wildernesses that the Boy Scouts teach is called “Leave No Trace.” The name of the concept is pretty self explanatory. The idea is that when you go to camp in a spot, whether it’s a prepared camp site in a park or in the wild, when you leave there should be little or no trace that you were there.
Leave No Trace would make an excellent theme for any kind of camping. Whether it’s a high adventure hike to go hunting or fishing or a family camp out, learning to leave nature the way we found it is a way of preserving this wonderful natural resource not only so it will be pristine and beautiful when you return next year to camp but that it will be just as untouched years and decades into the future so our children and grandchildren have a pure nature setting to enjoy.
Leave No Trace also fits with an environmental awareness and a respect for nature. People who camp as part of their enjoyment of life already have a love of nature and a respect for the natural order we find when we spend some days and nights in the wild. So we want to do all we can to minimize how much we disrupt that natural environment. Leave No Trace means just that. If at all possible there will be little or no trace that you were ever there when you leave a camping spot after you are done with your camp out.
Now, as with all things, we should view our priority on leaving nature as we found it with some common sense. The heart of the ethic is that we will not leave behind any unnatural elements that are part of our human lifestyles. Obviously our trash or synthetic items that may be part of our camping gear count as part of what we want to not leave in nature. But there may be some small impact that you will leave behind that will not have an adverse effect on the natural environment.
If you organize rocks into a fire ring, that is not going to have a terrible effect on the environment. There really is no need to put the rocks back exactly where you found them. Your tent may press down some plant life and leave a small impression on the land. Your camp fire will leave behind a small collection of soot. But these are all natural results of your camping and things that nature can quickly correct and assimilate. As long as there is no long term effect on the landscape, you are in compliance with the principles of Leave No Trace.
The Leave No Trace ethics that really make a difference come from being a responsible camper in general. Some ways to be respectful of your camping home and leave it as you found it are…
– Take all trash with you.
– Do not burn any unnatural items in the camp fire.
– Don’t tie things to trees.
– Take any rope, tent stakes or other small remnants of your stay.
– Thoroughly put out your fire.
– Use dead wood for fires. Do not cut down live trees.
– Do no harm to plants, animals or insects as much as possible while visiting their home in the wild.
Many forest fires are the result of a camp fire that was not put out completely and a spark from that abandoned fire ignites into a huge blaze. So use plenty of water, stir the soot and then drown it again. If there is any smoke still coming out of that fire pit, use your camping shovel to turn the remands and continue to put dirt and water on the fire until it is completely out.
Taking care not to leave any trash is part of daily life in camp and part of breaking camp. It is so easy to leave a tiny scrap of paper or a coke can that got away from camp and is hiding behind a log. The Boy Scouts have a ritual at the end of camp where the entire troop forms a line and walks the camp site inch by inch looking for trash and picking up as you go. This is a fine discipline for all campers to learn.
Also, there is no room for being particular about trash you pick up. If you find remnants of a previous camper that have no place in a natural setting, pick it up and put in your trash sacks. By driving your trash out, you are doing nature the best favor you can do and allowing it to continue to thrive until your next camp out visit. And knowing you are leaving the natural beauty for your own future enjoyment and for the enjoyment of many who will come here after you makes Leave No Trace a way of life that is worth the effort entirely.