9 ‘Leave No Trace’ Tips for Your Next Camping Trip

A few years back, climbers removed nearly 31,000 pounds of trash from Mount Everest. Mountaineers left everything from used breathing tanks to eating utensils.

Even the world’s highest mountain is at the mercy of the humans who visit it. While you may be trekking closer to home, here are a few tips to keep in mind for low-impact camping.

1. Watch where you squat

Picture your last jaunt. The air is crisp, and you’ve been hiking all day. Now you’re ready to set up camp. You roll into your campsite, find the perfect flat spot for your tent — and then step on a wad of toilet paper other campers tried to bury.

These toilet paper blooms are far too common at popular destinations.

Pack it in, pack it out also applies to toilet paper. Bring a small shovel to bury your waste at least six inches, and make sure you’re 200 feet – about 70 paces – from any water source to avoid contamination.

Those with menstrual periods should bring a bag to pack out used tampons and pads — I use a zip-lock bag covered in duct tape — or use a Diva Cup.

2. Camp in established sites when possible

Park your tent or sleeping pad on stable ground. Don’t ruin fragile vegetation just for the awesome view.

3. Stay on the trail

Some days, there’s no choice but to bushwack. Every other time, though, stick to the path.

Don’t try to cut shortcuts between trails that zig and zag uphill. Switchbacks are there to reduce erosion and make your hike easier. When everyone ignores them, plants and slopes are impacted.

4. Leave wildlife alone

Most people know not to pet a marmot or feed a bear. However, there are other ways people can be intrusive to wildlife.

Don’t let children chase after squirrels or birds. Don’t let your dog run after deer. Remember that you’re in their home — not the other way around.

5. Reconsider your campfire


An evening spent roasting s’mores over a campfire can leave a serious impact. Think about trying a camp stove to cook instead.

But if you must watch it burn, build your fire in established fire rings or bring a fire pan. If there’s no fire ring available, make sure to scatter all rocks and ash before you leave — and pack out anything unnatural that didn’t burn.

Watch for fire restrictions, too, especially during wildfire season. As Smokey Bear says, “Make sure your fires are dead out.”

6. Be prepared

The Boy Scouts were right. Being prepared is important.

Pack for emergencies. Repack food in containers that make less litter, even if you’re packing it out. Try to travel in a small group during non-peak times.

7. Leave only footprints

Do you have any unwanted hitchhikers? It’s hard to know. Clean your gear before and after you hit the trail to prevent the spread of invasive plant seeds.

A general rule of thumb: Don’t take anything from the woods home with you — except maybe a handful of those delicious huckleberries you found.

8. Be considerate

Blaring music, flying drones or shouting should be avoided. Others want to enjoy the space too. And noise pollution is already a serious problem for wildlife.

9. Support conservation

Whether you’re volunteering on a trail crew with the Sierra Club or Forest Service, or writing a letter to a legislator to support a new wilderness area, there’s a lot you can do to protect the natural spaces that you treasure.

As Brooke Jackson at Outside Online says, “It’s no longer enough to just enjoy our public lands—you need to help out.”

Recreation can hurt the environment. But you can do your best to cut down on your impact.

Photo Credit: Layne Lawson/Unsplash

52 comments

Christine Stewart
Christine Stewart3 months ago

thanks

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Danuta W
Danuta W3 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Shirley P
Shirley Plowman3 months ago

OUR NATIVE AMERICANS FOLLOWED THIS CARING WAY LONG AGO!!!!!

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JoAnn Paris
JoAnn P3 months ago

Thank you for this very interesting article.

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KimJ M
KimJ M4 months ago

Thank you

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KimJ M
KimJ M4 months ago

Thank you

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KimJ M
KimJ M4 months ago

Thank you

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KimJ M
KimJ M4 months ago

Thank you

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KimJ M
KimJ M4 months ago

Thank you

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Lisa M
Lisa M4 months ago

Noted.

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