Whether you’re headed to the top of a mountain or are simply strolling around your local park, the number one rule of exploring the outdoors is to Leave No Trace. In today’s fast-paced world, it’s more important than ever to make the time to get outdoors and disconnect. But it’s also important to be aware of the potential impacts that our adventures can have on the very environments that we cherish. To ensure that we can keep enjoying our beautiful wild places for generations to come, we must take steps to protect and preserve it. Here are seven tips to help you minimise your impact on the outdoors and Leave No Trace.

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

Poor planning can lead to a stressful outdoor experience and can also damage the land, so make sure that you plan your trip well ahead of time. This means planning your route and booking your campsite so that you can familiarise yourself with the rules of the area you plan to visit. You might want to schedule your trip to avoid busy periods, and visit in smaller groups to reduce your impact. In terms of what you pack – take the right gear with you to prepare for extreme weather and emergencies, and repackage your food to minimise unnecessary waste.

Leave No Trace Planning

2. Walk & Camp on Durable Surfaces

It’s important to cause as minimal damage as possible to natural areas when travelling and spending time outdoors. Stick to marked tracks and campsites where possible in popular areas, or otherwise look for durable surfaces like rock, gravel, and dry grass or snow. Walking single file on-trail and containing campsites to a small area helps to minimise degradation to the surrounding vegetation. However, if you’re hiking or camping in wilder areas, fan out while walking and spread out the campsite to avoid creating new trails and defined campsites. You should never alter a campsite, if it’s not the right spot then keep searching – it’s all part of the fun! Head to our camping tips post for more information on sustainable camping.

Running with trail runners

3. Dispose of Waste

Waste is one of the most crucial aspects of leaving no trace – there are so many ways that humans can leave behind waste that can have damaging impacts on the environment.

Food scraps attract animals and can lead to unsightly campsites but also cause harm to wildlife as parts of packaging might be eaten. When you prepare food, ensure you collect any scraps that may have fallen to the ground and store the garbage above ground. Using a shopping or small garbage bag to line a dry sack will ensure that there is no leakage, will keep odours in and stop animals from feasting on your rubbish while you sleep. Make sure that you thoroughly inspect your campsite before you leave for rubbish or spilled food.

If your campsite provides toilet facilities, be sure to use them. If none are available, bury your waste and any toilet paper in a hole 12-20 cm deep and well away from campsites, tracks and water (at least 100m). Pocket trowels are easy to carry, affordable and do not take up much space. If any sanitary items are used be sure to pack them out to avoid drawing wildlife to the campsite. You don’t need to pass on all luxuries when no toilets are available. Most toilet paper is biodegradable and can be kept dry with this nifty toilet roll holder.

Some campsites may offer facilities for washing, but in most cases you will need to set up your own personal and dish washing. Only use biodegradable soap and dispose of any food scraps in a plastic bag before washing up. When washing yourself or your dishes, make sure you carry water 100 metres from the water source and use a small amount of biodegradable soap. Use a foldable bucket or kitchen sink to carry water into your wash site, then scatter strained dishwater and pop the small scraps into the rubbish. 

NOTE: The label “biodegradable” on soaps does not mean you can use it in streams, lakes or rivers! The used water will need to naturally filter through the soil. This happens best if you spread it over a wide area at least 100m away from the water source.

Flatbread hiking lunch idea

4. Leave What You Find

Respect the landscape and ecosystem, and don’t take anything natural away from the places you explore. Natural objects may play a vital role in the ecosystem by providing essential nutrients or habitat. Discovering interesting objects like colourful rocks, plants and archeological artefacts is fun – so give other people the chance to find them too. Try not to alter the landscape by building any unnatural structures, hammering nails into trees, or digging holes. If you are foraging for edible plants, follow local guidance to ensure you are not depleting surviving vegetation or slow reproduction. You can avoid transporting and introducing invasive or non-native species by cleaning your outdoor gear after every use.

Leave No Trace

5. Minimise Campfire Impacts

Campfires can add to the enjoyment and experience of camping, however they can have a lasting and sometimes dramatic impact on the environment. Check if fires are allowed in your camp area, and, if permitted, only use well established fire rings (don’t create new fire pits). Wood is a natural habitat for animals, bugs and birds, so keep fires small – a simple rule to follow is if you can’t break the stick using your hands, then don’t burn it. Make sure you fully burn the fire down to ash and that it is extinguished before you leave the fire for the night or when breaking camp. It is best practice to use a stove for cooking instead of an open fire and a lamp or headlight for illumination.

6. Respect Wildlife

Remember, it is their home, not yours. As exciting as wildlife encounters can be, interacting irresponsibly with native wildlife can lead to animal aggression, a decline in health of the ecosystem, and relocated or euthanised animals. Luckily, all we have to do is let them be, by observing from a respectful distance and not approaching them. It’s important to be even more careful during sensitive times like mating, nesting, or when they are with their young. Feeding animals can damage their health, alter natural behaviours, and expose them to predators, so don’t be tempted to throw them your scraps (even if they seem to know exactly when mealtime is). Always pack out your food and rubbish securely so that animals are not attracted to it. When adventuring with our own furry friends, make sure that they are on leash and controlled so that they do not harm the wildlife or become prey themselves.

Leave No Trace Wildlife

7. Be Respectful of Others

It’s important to be considerate of others on trail to ensure we all have a fulfilling outdoor experience. Be respectful and courteous by walking single file on busy tracks, yielding to uphill users, and announcing your presence if you are moving quickly on trail.

Many of us spend time outdoors to enjoy some peace and tranquillity, and disturbing this with excessive noise, uncontrolled pets, and damaged surroundings can take away from the appeal.You might be spending the weekend with your mates, but another camper may be seeking a few nights of peace in solitude – so minimise loud voices and music to respect their experience.

Everyone has a right to enjoy the outdoors, and we can help to foster an inclusive community by displaying a little bit of kindness. Say hi as you’re passing by a fellow walker, or if someone looks a little lost – ask if they need some help. This can help create an environment where everyone feels welcome to explore and enjoy the outdoors.

Group of overnight hikers in the mountains

To find out more about how to respect wild places, head to the Leave No Trace website.

About The Author

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Some 80 years ago, a young bushwalker's dissatisfaction with the limited and heavy bushwalking equipment available prompted him to design and make his own. Before long, word spread, and Paddy Pallin's lightweight, functional designs were soon in demand among fellow bushwalkers. From its early days the company has concentrated on supplying bushwalkers, travellers and adventurers with the highest quality and most advanced products and knowledge. Since 1930 the company has grown to become Australia's leading supplier of specialist outdoor and travel gear. The company, still owned by the Pallin family, now has thirteen stores throughout Australia as well as online, mail order and corporate sales divisions. We are using our vast wealth of knowledge, and experience, to build an online community where we can share our stories, reviews and tech tips to help you research and plan your next adventure.

4 Responses

  1. Daniel Charles

    Hey Dave,
    I just read your article. I hope you enjoy your camping trip. You shared great information & tips about camping and keeping the environment safe. How long have you been camping?
    Keep it up.
    Thanks

    Reply

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