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What It Means to Leave No Trace

Article What It Means to Leave No Trace

From the serenity of pristine riverbeds fanning out to endless stretches of unknown wilds to experiencing the full spectrum of fantastic creatures and farcical flora: Nature is a treasure which we seek every time we venture off into the unknown, turn a bend in the wild road or open up our campervan door to have a fresh glimpse of newness and life.

But as more of us venture out into the wild, the very precious essence of this environment is in danger. The cumulative footprint of thousands of campers in some of the world’s most delicate biospheres has a profound effect on the very nature that we seek.

“I am I plus my surroundings and if I do not preserve the latter, I do not preserve myself.” ~Jose Ortega Y Gasset

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

As Sir Edmund Hilary once said, “Good planning is living the experience in advance.” When prepping for your camper trip, consider the local knowledge, technical skill and communication requirements that will enable a rewarding trip.

Think through every aspect. Where will you go? What are the specific conditions and possible scenarios? Have you thoroughly planned each night’s stay to make sure it is an ecologically responsible and locally respectful option?

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Ground

Get wise to the differing grounds upon which you will tread on your journey–both by foot and by campervan. If you see any meadowland, muddy trails, soft plants or fragile soil, avoid trekking over them (in any manner) at all costs. These areas are easily damaged even by minimal impact and can take years to rejuvenate.

The best practice is to stick to pre-existing trails and campsites. When you are off the trail, stay light and avoid making heavy impacts on any particular areas. This means that the hardest and most durable surfaces are the ones to set up camp and hike over.

3. Dispose of Waste Properly

Not only will misplacing your waste make you the most unpopular campers in the area, it is completely disrespectful of and does a world of damage to the environment around you. If you’re truly up for a camping adventure, it’s time you learn how to properly dispose of your waste.

For fully self-sufficient campers, taking care of business is a little easier in the wild (see how to use a dump station in New Zealand), but when you’re out on the trail and nature calls, you need to know what to do. That means, relieving yourself without leaving a trace.

"How?” one might ask…start by digging a hole about 15 cm deep and at least 50 metres away from water sources, campsites or trails. You’ll have to be prepared with a few key tools: toilet paper, zippable lunch bag and hand sanitizer. Next, take a squat and enjoy the view. Once you’re done, cover up the hole with the dirt from digging and hide the TP away in a zip locked bag until you can properly dispose of it.

Peeing ProTip: Aim for rocks instead of vegetation. Certain mammals will rustle through all kinds of delicate foliage and endangered flora to lap up the salt from your urine.

Remember that soap is not a naturally occurring substance. Avoid a sudsy mess by using antibacterial gel, and if you absolutely must, use soap sparingly and at least 50 metres from water sources.

4. Leave What You Find

"Whatungarongaro te tangata toitū te whenua." As man disappears from sight, the land remains.~Maori Proverb

Take in the fresh breeze, the jagged rocks, the incredible pines and all the aspects of the moment when you’re out on the trails. Take pictures, write in your journal, sing, laugh, cry—do anything to experience this moment in full force, but don’t be tempted to change the environment in any way by physically taking a piece of it.

5. Minimise the Effects of Fire

Admittedly, one of the most exciting and relaxing parts of camping is cozying up in front of a fire. Before you indulge, make sure to keep a few things in mind:

Check to make sure fires are allowed in the area. Some parks are extremely dry, some campgrounds forbid fires, some areas require a permit to build a fire. Make sure you are respecting the local culture and ecology when it comes to this.

Only build a fire in an existing pit or fire ring. Check to be sure your firewood is no bigger than your forearm, and of course, extinguish all flames thoroughly to make sure you don’t contribute to a devastating forest fire.

6. Respect the Wildlife and Farm Animals

The idiot tourist is a common sight in the wild: camera in hand, taunting a wild animal with sudden movements or a scrap of food, only to be charged at full force. It goes without saying but just to be clear: don’t be that guy.

Leaving the forest as you find it includes leaving furry friends unprovoked and as you found them.

7. Be Considerate of Others

"He wake eke noa." A canoe which we are all in with no exception. ~Maori Proverb

The wild is a special place for all of us to care for and to share. Respect your neighbors and fellow campers by preserving the tranquility of the environment. Let the sounds of the wild prevail and keep loud noises to a minimum.

Travel light and in small groups in order to avoid disturbing the peaceful atmosphere. When camping, make sure to leave your neighbors with plenty of space.

SHAREaCAMPER is a proud partner of Leave No Trace New Zealand, so check out their site before your trip for more tips, tricks and opportunities to get involved.

Featured Image: Dunedin NZ on Flickr</small

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