Leave No Trace Principles – Bushcraft Etiquette and Ethics

by | Sep 28, 2020 | Bushcraft

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At Bushcraft Wild, we’re all about helping people reconnecting with nature in a sustainable way. Which is why we’re so adamant about the Leave No Trace principles that help maintain our precious environment, and actually help keep you safe on your travels as well.

If you’re an avid adventurer or bushcraft enthusiast, chances are you already put a lot of these principles into practice. That being said, it never hurts to review what Leave No Trace is, and why it’s so important.

What Leave No Trace Means in the Wilderness

Leave No Trace refers to a set of seven principles and ethics that help minimize your impact when visiting the outdoors. According to the Center for Outdoor Ethics, Leave No Trace started as a way to keep backcountry settings pristine. 

It has since evolved into a way of life for all of our outdoor interactions. From parks to national forests, each Leave No Trace principle covers a specific way you can help reduce negative impacts in the wild.

Are these Laws or Guidelines?

Leave No Trace isn’t a set of law that’s been enacted by a country or an organization. It’s a set of guidelines that’s been developed and followed by enthusiasts who wanted to leave as little impact as possible on the places that they explored. 

Whether you maintain these or not depends completely on you, but we strongly encourage that you do. It doesn’t take much more effort on your end, so there’s really no excuse.

The 7 Principles

Any outdoor enthusiast who cares about the environment understands the importance of being mindful of enacting the Leave No Trace principles. These are the seven principles that you should maintain when you’re traveling to remote areas:

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

Always research before setting out for a place. Without proper planning, you’ll have a tough time while traveling. Here are some of the things you should look into and plan before venturing outdoors:

  • Rules and regulations of your destination.
  • Weather forecast for the duration of your trip.
  • Terrain that may be difficult to traverse.
  • If your destination is best for large or small groups.
  • Prepare enough reserve water and food.
  • Bring gear for safety and comfort.

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

Just because you can travel or camp somewhere, doesn’t always mean you should. Ideally, you want to find surfaces and trails that are safe, dry, and durable. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Always travel following existing trails. These will lead you to places suitable for setting up a camp, and you’re less likely to get lost as well.
  • Avoid camping near water bodies. It’s a general rule of thumb to maintain a distance of 200 feet from water bodies.
  • Find areas that are already impacted when you’re setting up camp.
  • If you’re traveling undisturbed areas, set up your tent and kitchen on durable surfaces, such as rock or gravel so that it’s not impacted.

3. Dispose of Waste Properly

This is an important part, and it includes all sorts of waste. This is what you should do:

  • You should never leave anything at the campsite. 
  • Repack every bit of clothing, gear, and even food to avoid wastage. 
  • Don’t leave any used plastic container at the site, and try to leave the site cleaner than it was when you found it. 
  • Make catholes of eight inches depth at least for dumping human waste. 
  • You can wash yourself and your dishes. but should do so at least 200 feet away from water bodies. 
  • Avoid using soap and other cleaning solutions. But if you have to, use items that are friendly for the environment.

4. Leave What You Find

Take pictures, leave footprints. Nature is a very delicate ecosystem, which is why you want to leave everything where you find it. Even if what you plan on taking seems insignificant. The following are some helpful tips:

  • Avoid touching or taking anything you don’t need.
  • Don’t carry items from one source to another. Before moving to different terrain, clean your hiking boots and bike tires.
  • Don’t dig trenches that will leave a lasting mark.
  • Don’t make things, such as furniture or cabins, that you can’t carry along with you. 

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

Do you need to build a fire? Most people who camp or spend time outdoors see a campfire as a wholesome part of the experience. Keep in mind, campfires are not natural, and can easily get out of control.

Before building a campfire, ask yourself if it’s necessary. If you need one for warmth or cooking, take the following precautions to minimize your campfire’s impact:

  • Check if your location has restrictions, especially during fire seasons.
  • Cover that area with fire rings or other similar things.
  • Use sticks that you find on the ground only, there is no need to cut down tree branches.
  • Try to keep the fire small.

6. Respect Wildlife

For most, the outdoors serves as an escape from our urban or suburban life. Remember, the wildlife lives in nature. So, as guests, it’s only right that we respect them and their homes. An important part of respecting wildlife includes:

  • Refraining from following or approaching wild animals.
  • Avoiding feeding any wildlife you come across.
  • Storing your food safely and securely.
  • Avoid bringing pets, or if you do, keeping them close to you at all times.
  • Leaving wildlife alone when they’re mating, raising their offsprings, building nests, or even in sensitive times such as the winter.

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Last, but certainly not least, be considerate of others when you’re outdoors. Besides wildlife, there are usually other people who are enjoying some time with nature. Here are some tips on how you can be more courteous to others:

  • Respect others whom you’ll meet in your journey.
  • Camp away from other visitors and trails.
  • Avoid making noise so that others can enjoy the sound of nature as well.
  • Make sure your pet doesn’t disturb other travelers.

Final Thoughts on Leave No Trace

Spending time in nature is a privilege, and one you should not take lightly. The Leave No Trace principles are guidelines that will help you enjoy the outdoors safely, while minimizing the impact you leave. Which is both good for you, the wildlife, and our environment as a whole.

Brian Segal

As an outdoor enthusiast, I was drawn to bushcraft at a young age. I constantly find myself trying to learn and improve on my survival skills, and enjoy writing about everything I discover to help pass along to others.

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