Leave No Trace

Family camping is a great way to strengthen the bonds of your family and to introduce your children to the wonders of nature. Leave No Trace is a movement started by people who were concerned about the increasing number of outdoor enthusiasts and the potential damage they could unwittingly do to the environment.  Here are seven principles to help you camp responsibly.

Leave No Trace Sign

Plan Ahead And Prepare

Make a camping checklist.  Choose your menus carefully.  Bring plenty of food for your hungry campers.  Package your food in zip-loc bags and label them according to meals, i.e., dinner-Friday, breakfast-Saturday.  There are freeze dried meals available in your outdoor stores, but many items can be found on your supermarket shelves.  Rice and macaroni combinations, where you just add water, work well.

If you do not have clean water available, plan on bringing some type of water purification system, such as a water filter or iodine tablets.

Leave No Trace CampsiteTravel And Camp On Durable Surfaces

Pitch your camping tent on the cleared ground of your campsite.  Try not to disturb the vegetation that is growing around the perimeter of your campsite.  Stick to established paths to the water faucet or the bathrooms.  However, if you are camping in the backcountry, the opposite is true.  Allow plenty of time to choose your campsite.  It should be near a source of water, if possible, and out of sight of the trail.  Spread out your tents and use alternate paths to the stream or to the “bathroom” area.

Dispose Of Waste Properly

If you have leftover food, wrappers or tinfoil, etc., you must pack it out.  Store your food in your car or in a “bear bag” which should be suspended from a tree branch high enough so that a bear cannot get to it.

If you are in the backcountry, you must dispose of human waste by digging a “cat” hole six inches deep and at least 200 feet from your campsite and your water source.  I always have a special trowel just for this purpose that I carry in a plastic bag.

Leave What You Find

Resist the urge to take souvenirs home.  They could be as simple as a rock, flower or pine cone, or some artifact from a historical site. Many small animals make their homes in the natural vegetation that comprises the forest floor.  They may eat the seeds of the flowers  or make their homes in downed logs. Use your camera to record items that are of interest to you. Your pictures will last longer than any flower you take home.

Minimize Use And Impact Of Fire

If you can, use a portable camping grill for cooking.  If you must have a campfire, use the fire ring that is provided.  Never leave the fire unattended.  Have water available at all times to put out the fire.  Don’t ever strip wood off of trees for firewood.  Use only dead wood that is lying on the ground.

Respect Wildlife

All animals in the outdoors are wild and should be viewed from a distance.  Here’s where the best binoculars you can buy comes in handy.  Be especially careful in the Spring when mamas are out with their babies.  If you see a baby fawn or bear cub, back away quickly.

Be Considerate Of Visitors

When you are camping around others, be conscious of noise levels.  The campsite is not the place for roughhousing or loud play.  There are usually play areas for noisy games.  If you must have your music, please wear headphones.  Those campers next door might not enjoy your choice of music.

When you go camping you want to enjoy the natural environment around you.  These Leave No Trace guidelines will ensure that you and those coming after you will experience the beautiful natural world around us.  Have a great camping trip!

Author Bio:  Stephanie is the publisher of Always-Outdoors.com, which features many articles about outdoor activities and product reviews for outdoor products.  She enjoys hiking in the nearby Shenandoah National Park.

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