Leave No Trace is a set of outdoor ethics promoting conservation in the outdoors. After noticing increased impacts on trails, the „US Forest Service“ developed the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace in the 1960s. The idea behind the principles is to leave nature as unchanged by our presence as possible, so that future generations can enjoy it too. In essence, the purpose of Leave No Trace is to keep the wilderness wild.
Leave No Trace is woven into all HIGHLANDER events' DNA.
During our events, we offer LNT educations for all our participants. Although experienced hikers are more often than not people who respect nature, we still try to offer advice and recommendations such as the use of bio-degradable products (soap, toothpaste, etc.) or simple LNT tips&tricks.
And make no mistake, we are very strict when it comes to respecting LNT principles at HIGHLANDER events. Littering and fire-making are strongly forbidden on the trail, and participants are immediately disqualified if these rules are violated.
On the other hand, we try to recognize and reward those participants that take care of nature. On our lastyear's HIGHLANDER Velebit, we had an „LNT Initiative“.
Participants were supposed to collect trash on the 104 km long trail. Upon arriving at the finish line, all the gathered waste was weighed separately. A participant who collected the most waste was rewarded by our sponsors.
Why is it so important
As more and more people chose to hike and camp in wilderness areas, lessening our impact is becoming more and more important. In many areas, some trails are getting pawned to death by too many hikers, trash, and environmental damage. It's incredibly important fo all of us to learn a bit more about how to be responsible hikers.
Share your knowledge about Leave No Trace with others. Talk about the Leave No Trace principles. Communicate LNT on your social media posts, and try to include info about how to Leave No Trace.
The magnificent seven (principles)
There are seven principles of Leave No Trace. Each principle makes it a bit easier to understand and apply the principles. So let' start:
1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
Research is very important. If you do it, you are more likely to have a fun and SAFE hike. You will also minimize damage to nature.
- Check the weather forecast and trail conditions to make sure you have the right gear and you are up to the challenges of the trail.
- Check local regulations to find out about permits, fire regulations, or other policies.
- Bring a first aid kit and the 10 essentials (http://blog.highlanderadventure.com/hiking-for-beginners-after-the-pandemic/).
- Repackage food to create less waste during your hike.
2. Hike and Camp on Durable Surfaces
Stay on the trail to avoid trail braiding. In this way, you will significantly minimize damage to the surroundings. Hike and camp on durable surfaces like rocks, gravel, and snow. Some surfaces like alpine meadows or marshes and are just too fragile to withstand many impacts. The vegetation in those areas can take years to grow. Don't just destroy it by stepping on them.
- Stay on the trail to prevent trampling vegetation. Walk through mud, not around it, to avoid widening the trail. In areas with no trails, spread out your tracks to spread out the impact and avoid creating a new trail.
- Camp in the designated campsites or the ones that have been used before. The best campsites are found, not made.
- Try to camp at least 200ft/70 m from water sources.
3. Dispose of Waste Properly
Pack out ALL garbage. Learn how to poop and wash the Leave No Trace way.
Animals who learn to eat people's food or human waste may stop eating their natural food. It can also make them sick. Garbage, poop, and soap can pollute water. Would you yourself like to step into someone else's poop? Yeah, didn't think so :)
- Pack out your trash, including fruit peels and eggshells.
- Never burn your trash.
- Wash dishes and yourself in biodegradable soap using your largest pot as a sink. Dump your dirty dishwater 200ft/70m from a water source.
- If you have to poop and there is no outhouse, pick a spot 200ft/70m away from trails, campsites, and water sources. (This keeps water sources clean so people won’t get sick.) Bury your poop.
- You can use leaves, rocks, or snow to wipe your butt. Consider that as apart of the adventure :)
4. Leave What You Find
Leave natural and historical items where you find them. Everyone should have a chance to admire all the things that you did too. Take care of the ecosystem. Leaving the trail the way you found it lets others enjoy it too.
- Leave flowers, rocks, and historical artifacts where nature put them. Take a photo and then leave them for others to enjoy.
- Avoid building structures, cutting trees, or digging trenches.
- Graffiti – a big NO.
- Don’t build extra inukshuks, rock stacks, or cairns except for trail marking purposses.
5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
Plan to cook over a stove, not a fire. If you do build a campfire (when allowed by the regulations), try to minimize your impact.
Campfires can have negative impacts. They damage the soil and can lead to excessive firewood harvesting in sensitive areas.
- Cook byusing a stove. It’s quicker, more fuel-efficient, and has less impact on the wilderness.
- Consider having a campfire-free night by using a small lantern instead.
- Check regulations before you go to find out if fires are allowed.
- If you do make a fire, use an existing fire ring and avoid building new ones.
- Keep your fire small.
- Put your fire out completely when you are done.
6. Respect Wildlife
Give animals some space. Don’t let animals have human food. Animals need enough space to maintain their natural behavior.
- Never feed animals. Your human food isn’t healthy for them. Some cute animals like squirrels and whiskey jacks have learned to beg for food. Don’t give in!
- Observe animals from a respectful distance.
7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Share the trail so everyone can have a positive experience.
We all need to share trails and campsites in order to let everyone experience the wilderness. Some people go hiking for fitness, others to socialize and others like to spend time in nature. Respect the way that other people wish to experience the wilderness and try not to let your experience negatively impact theirs.
- Step off the trail to take breaks so you aren’t in someone’s way.
- Give other groups space at viewpoints or in camp.
- Use headphones when listening music. Most hikers and campers want to hear the sounds of nature, not music.
- Keep your group small to create less impact, take up less space, and make less noise. A good guideline is no more than 8-10 people.
And that's it. Leave No Trace is woven into the very essence of hiking. Without a doubt in my mind, Leave No Trace principles will come naturally for all the nature lovers among you. All it takes is a little bit of humility, consideration, and kindness.
„The man who removes a mountain starts by carrying away small stones“-William Faulkner