Whether you are hiking or camping or both, the golden rule especially in the wilderness, has always been and will always be “take only photographs and leave only footprints”. That means that everything that you carry with you into a wilderness area, you make sure that you carry back out with you. If you are not prepared to do so, then it’s best that you stay at home. Wilderness areas are a blessing and without the proper respect they will be spoilt for everyone. So how do you camp like a pro and leave no trace that you were there at all?
Photo source: http://www.quebecregion.com
It all starts with the correct preparation and planning while you are still at home. Research the area that you will be visiting and be sure to stick to the established trails and camping sites. Do not blaze your own trails. Everything that you take with you must be environmentally friendly and bio-degradable. All the products that fit these criteria can be bought from your local camping store where the informed staff will be only too happy to assist. The best tactical flashlight should be one of the first items that gets packed. A map of the area is essential, even if the trail is marked as this will help prevent you having to cut cross country when you take the wrong turning. Besides avoiding the dangers involved, the pristine environment will be preserved for future generations.
Camp fires, although romantic, are usually totally unnecessary and are often banned outright in some areas. A good quality butane stove and lamp and the best tactical flashlight will be all you will need. Just place the stove on a stable level surface and clear the immediate area of any combustible material, in case the stove is knocked over, you don’t want to be responsible for burning the forest down.
Refuse is a major issue when camping. If there are no refuse facilities at the camp sites, you will have to carry it out with you, burying it is a definite no no. Strong plastic bags that can be sealed tightly are ideal. Candy wrappers eaten on the trail should also be put in these bags, even things like orange peels should not be discarded carelessly. You should put it in the nearest plastic litter bags instead. Contrary to popular belief, orange peel does not rot quickly and is unsightly next to a pristine trail.
Human waste is also a major concern, if you are caught off guard miles away from proper ablution facilities (it happens), the correct method of disposal is as follows. Dig a hole at least eight inches deep, and when you are done, cover the faeces and toilet paper with soil and compact down. Nature will take care of the rest.
If you are in a total wilderness area,and there are no designated camp sites, your choice is critical. Choose an area as free from vegetation as possible, preferably a hard surface such as rock. Alternatively, you can camp on grass which will recover swiftly. Clearing large areas of natural vegetation is not an option.
Other general rules for leaving no trace of your passing, is that you must not disturb the environment you are in. Do not break branches off of shrubs and trees, or overturn rocks and logs as these are homes for many creatures. Do not create new paths or discard cigarette butts as these are not bio-degradable. Plastic bottles are the worst culprits and need to be placed in plastic bags and removed from the area.
Photo source: http://www.okavangohouseboats.com/
If you are to leave no trace of being in an area, you should always remember to be kind to the environment. Think twice before throwing things away and make sure that everything is disposed of properly and removed when you leave the area. Don’t disturb any of your surroundings as there are many creatures that rely on the environment as their home.
Armed with these guidelines you will be setting an excellent example to those around you and teaching them to camp like pros.