Exploring the great outdoors is an excellent way to escape the city and be one with nature—yet leaving any evidence that you were there can impact our natural environment. To minimize your impact on natural spaces, it’s important to equip yourself with environmentally-friendly camping accessories and practicing less wasteful camping etiquette. Review the following principles for responsibly interacting with the surrounding wilderness.
Tip #1 - Plan Ahead and Be Prepared
Beyond investing in the proper camping equipment, it’s every explorer’s responsibility to study maps and area regulations. By being well-educated regarding specific area concerns and knowing how to best interact with the land, you can expect to be better prepared for an outing. As your trip nears, review upcoming weather reports and consolidate items that reduce waste when traveling. Working with a park ranger well in advance can help your group avoid impromptu detours that take hours out of your trek.
Tip #2 - Practice Proper Waste Disposal
As a rule of thumb, never leave trash behind when you camp. Take along Ziploc bags that you can pack away to dispose of responsibly after your trek. To dispose of human waste, dig a 6-to-8-inch hole, covering it up at least a quarter-mile away from any streams of water.
Tip #3 - Minimize Campfire Impacts
Explorers will usually associate camping with sharing stories and tall tales around a flickering campfire, yet tend to forget the potential impact a campfire can leave on natural grounds. Keep your campfire small and in control, making use of existing fire rings—if any—and making sure to burn all your wood and coal to ash. Sprinkle the ash across the surrounding vegetation as fertilizer. If your campsite adheres to a fire ban, opt for lanterns instead.
Tip #4 - Leave Natural Souvenirs Behind
Campers tend to forget that Mother Nature’s rocks, plants, flowers, and wildlife are always thoughtfully placed. By taking them away, you can inadvertently encourage the introduction of non-native species that damage natural structures. Not to mention, removing artifacts and building commemorative structures are often considered illegal.
Tip #5 - Be Respectful of Other Visitors
Every camper holds a special reason for immersing themselves in nature. For some, it’s to achieve a level of solitude unavailable to them in urban spaces. For others, it’s research or photography. Whatever the case, refrain from being loud or taking up too much space in camping areas. Despite the lack of property lines and city ordinances, it’s important to practice boundaries and respect.
Tip #6 - Camp on Durable Surfaces
If you’re camping in a previously traveled site, chances are you’ll stumble upon already-established campsites or choose to camp on areas with rock, gravel, or snow. Keep your campsite concentrated and avoid camping in areas that are lush with vegetation. Camp at least 200 feet away from streams and avoid pristine areas.
Tip #7 - Respect the Wildlife Around You
When camping in an area rich with wildlife, refrain from approaching, feeding, or following them. Feeding wild animals can negatively impact their health and expose them—and you—to predators. Properly store your food and trash and leave wildlife to their business.
Low-impact camping is easy to achieve and well-appreciated by nature that is left clean and unspoiled. In keeping it up, future generations can continue to enjoy well-preserved nature and wildlife.
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