Make Like Bigfoot and Leave No Trace!

Posted on Friday, Apr 17th, 2015
Little Kai kitchen at our whale camp on Vancouver Island

People often wonder how to minimize their footprint on the environment when they travel - or how they might "leave no trace." The good news is that there is an entire organization that teaches the best practices for such goals!  

Leave No Trace is an organization that "teaches people of all ages how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly, and is the most widely accepted outdoor ethics program used on public lands. Through relevant and targeted education, research and outreach, the Center ensures the long-term health of our natural world."

These practices apply to all situations where we enjoy the outdoors - whether its a casual day hike or a backcountry trek. LNT practices are also important to utilize in the adventure travel world. Many of our trips involve camping and exploring an area by foot, bike, kayak or raft. We practice Leave No Trace principles in all of the countries we visit. From a one-day rafting trip to a safari in Africa, we’ve implemented these tools because we understand the importance they have on our world.

At it's most basic level, Leave No Trace literally means just that: pack it in, pack it out; take out what you bring in, don’t harm nature, and don’t take ‘souvenirs’ from the wilderness. But what are the Leave No Trace principles? 

Luckily, on ROW trips we take care of the details for you, but it's always important to know and understand what the guidelines are. On our trips, our guides are there to make sure everything not only runs smoothly, and that you have a great time, but also that we are making the smallest impact on nature (as well as the biggest impact on the local economy). 

The Seven Leave No Trace Principles

1. Plan ahead and Prepare

  • Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you are visiting.
  • Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
  • Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use (to minimize impact)
  • Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups when possible.
  • Repackage food to minimize waste.
  • Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  • Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
  • Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
  • Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
    • In popular areas:
      • Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
      • Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
      • Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
    • In pristine areas:
      • Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
      • Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.

3. Dispose of Waste Properly

  • Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
  • Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
  • Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
  • To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.

4. Leave What You Find

  • Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
  • Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
  • Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
  • Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

  • Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
  • Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
  • Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
  • Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.

6. Respect Wildlife

  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
  • Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
  • Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
  • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

  • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
  • Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
  • Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
  • Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
  • Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.

For inspiration on how to Leave No Trace, keep Bigfoot in mind - he's been doing it for years!

The member-driven Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics teaches people how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly. This copyrighted information has been reprinted with permission from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: