If you have spent as much time as I have in the outdoors, I’m sure you have heard of the saying “Leave No Trace”.
As cliche as it sounds, the "Leave No Trace" principles are important words to live by.
With more and more people enjoying the outdoors and going hiking, our love for nature can really take a toll on Mother Nature! Litter, trail erosion and water pollution are just some of the examples of how irresponsible hikers can damage our environment.
These 7 principles of “Leave No Trace” focuses on how we can hike responsibly and preserve our environment for our future generations to enjoy!
1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
You should always plan ahead for your hikes!
Knowing the type of terrain you will be walking and the weather forecast for the day will help you to properly prepare for the trail and prevent any unfortunate situations.
Wear appropriate clothing, plan your route & don't forget to check the regulations for where you are headed! If you are packing food along for the walk, try to repackage the food so as to minimise any waste :)
2. Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces
While it’s always tempting to go ‘off-trail’ on your hike, this can actually damage the environment further. Choose existing trails, rocky slabs, dry grass or snow (depending on the season) to walk instead!
If you are camping in the area, try to set up your base camp more than 70 metres away from rivers & lakes in order to protect the banks. Keep your campsites small & focus your camping activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
If you’re hiking in a group, try walking in a single file in the middle of trail (even when it’s wet or muddy!), to avoid damaging the surrounding path.
3. Dispose of Waste Properly
Everything you bring with you must go back with you - remember this easy principle to ensure you leave nothing behind! This applies to everything from human waste, litter and water!
If you’re having a picnic or camping at the area, always inspect your area for trash, leftover food and litter. If you need to rinse yourself or any dishes, use small amounts of biodegradable soap and rinse it with water more than 70 metres away from the stream.
What if you’re on a hike and you desperately need to go? The best thing to do is to dig a cathole that is at least 20cm deep, more than 70m away from your basecamp, and fill & conceal the hole when it is full :)
4. Leave What You Find Intact
“Take nothing but pictures”. While cliche, this age old principle still stands!
If you come across any cultural or historic structures on your trail, examine them only with your eyes but don’t touch anything! Same goes for the natural plants and rocks you find along your hike.
5. Minimise Fire Impacts
We know how satisfying it is to warm up by a fire and enjoy a few toasted marshmallows after a long day’s hike. However, do make sure you keep your campfires to a minimum!
Instead of a campfire, choose to use a small camping stove instead. They are much more efficient for cooking, and doesn’t leave any impact on the environment!
You should also always check that fires are permitted in the park, and set up your fires at places already used by previous hikers. Keep your fires small, and always remember to disperse your call ashes after putting it out!
6. Respect Wildlife
Never forget that you are a guest in their home! You should always observe wildlife from a safe distance - don’t follow or approach them.
It is also important to not feed the animals you see on your hike. This will alter the animal’s behaviour, making their survival more dependent on humans and putting them more at risk from predators.
Remember to also store your food and trash properly to avoid attracting any animals!
7. Be Considerate to Other Users
You’re not the only one hiking out there. Be considerate to other hikers and make everyone’s walk more enjoyable by greeting them with a smile :) We all came to enjoy the outdoors and to enjoy nature, so avoid any loud voices and noises while you are hiking!
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About our author:
I've always loved the outdoors since I was young. Hiking is the perfect way for me to destress and enjoy the fresh air. And of course, nothing beats the feeling of satisfaction you get when you’re at the top! :)