Ahh, the lovely Leave No Trace. You’ve probably seen signs or see someone pick up a piece of litter and say “Hey, LNT, right?”. But what does it actually mean? What is Leave No Trace? Isn’t it just a bunch of rules?

LNT is a program of principles to follow while enjoying the beauty of nature to leave the least amount of human impact possible. It is not about rules and regulations, LNT is more of a framework of ideas to keep nature natural! Some are more obvious than others but they are a great set of principles to follow!

Here is a quick starter guide to the seven Leave No Trace principles. Enjoy!


1.Plan Ahead and Prepare

    • Plan your route in advance in order to have:
      • Proper permits and passes
      • Proper skill and difficulty level
      • Proper equipment to pack
      • Proper knowledge of regulations, such as regulations on campfires
    • Plan your meals in advance to:
      • Cut down on backpack weight
      • Cut down on waste
    • Look at weather and terrain conditions to:
      • Pack appropriate clothing and gear to keep everyone safe and happy
      • Know how many miles your group will be able to travel

Bottom Line: Planning ahead for terrain and meals can increase group moral, safety and confidence!

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2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

    • Durable surfaces are considered
      • Established trails and campsites
        • This is preferred because the vegetation is normally nonexistent in these areas
      • Rock and Gravel
      • Dry Grasses
      • Snow
    • Hike in the middle of established trails
      • Trails are made to be traveled on, but try not to veer off the path. This can ruin new vegetation growth and increases erosion.
      • If looking for restroom privacy or cool new spots to explore, be mindful of where you are
      • When one person makes a new trail, someone else will follow, further increasing their impact.

Bottom Line: Pick established areas when you can and when you can’t make sure they are sturdy to avoid problems and future impact.


3. Dispose of Waste Properly

    • Pack it in, pack it out
      • Just like your mom always said, pick up after yourself! But in this case, hoard it all in a bag for the duration of your trip and throw it out in the end.
    • Do your business at least 200 feet from a water source, campsite, and trails
      • If it is solid waste, dig a hole 6 to 8 inches deep and cover when done
      • For liquid waste, try to do it on gravel, rocks or pine needles to avoid animal attraction
      • Pack out all toilet paper and hygiene product
        • Ladies, the best feminine product I have ever bought was my Diva Cup. A perfect camping alternative to tampons! I love my cup! They are leak proof and last 24 hours before you have to dump it.
    • Try to wash dishes 200 feet away from water sources as well using biodegradable soap
      • Some sweet smelling soaps will attract animals- lions, tigers, and bears!

Bottom Line: Whatever you come with, leave with. For human waste, do all your business 200 feet away from a water source to avoid contamination.


4. Leave What You Find

  • Avoid altering your site
    • Try not to break off living plants or vegetation
    • Do not build structures or dig unneeded holes
  • Leave rocks, pine cones, flowers, and natural objects
    • I know it may be tempting but some plants may be invasive or carry invasive organisms or you may be transporting non-native species elsewhere

Bottom Line: If you didn’t come with it, leave it where it is


5. Minimize Campfire Impact

    • Use existing fire pits and rings
    • Collect firewood from a range of areas
      • Try to avoid using all down wood in one small area
      • Use wood already on the ground if you can, no bigger than the size of your wrist
      • Never bring firewood from home, this can spread invasive species like bugs and plants
    • Use a backcountry stove when you can for cooking
      • The biggest impact is the leftover ashes can pollute the area
    • Only have fires in permitted areas
      • There may be a reason for fires not being allowed such as a high fire risk
    • If you need a fire for warmth, by all means, build one.

Bottom Line: Only have fires where permitted and spread out your impact. If you can cook on a stove, try to go that route instead.


6. Respect Wildlife 

  • Do not try to interact with animals
    • Do not follow, feed, chase, or approach an animal. You do not know how they are going to react.
  • There are extra sensitive times for animals, know when these are and act responsibly. Look for mating, nesting, raising young, and hibernation seasons.
  • Control your pets and properly dispose of their waste
  • Properly store your food
    • Food canisters or proper tree storage 

Bottom Line: Give wild animals their space and make sure your food is stored properly.


7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors 

  • Be respectful to everyone else exploring too!
    • Yield to other people on the side of the trail
    • Take breaks off of the trail
    • Be friendly
    • Embrace the sounds of nature and try to keep your voices down
  • Be in control
    • If on a mountain bike, make sure to be cautious of your surroundings
    • If hiking, be aware of people on bikes or other hikers

Bottom Line: Be respectful, pretty simple stuff!

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That’s it! All of the headers are linked to the Leave No Trace website where I got the information. It has a lot of good, in depth information if you are interested!

You’re a master of LNT! If you have any questions, feel free to ask! I’d be happy to chat with you about it!

I got the information from this post from the Leave No Trace website, however, some of it is my perception and paraphrase of it. I am not a licensed Leave No Trace Instructor. Thanks for reading!

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