Leave No Trace pioneers science and provides proven, research-based solutions for the protection of the natural world. Please visit Leave No Trace‘s website to learn their story and the critical work they’re doing. Below we introduce the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace that provide an easily understood framework of minimum impact practices for anyone visiting the outdoors.
Principle 1: PLAN AHEAD AND PREPARE: Adequate trip planning and preparation helps travelers accomplish trip goals safely and enjoyably, while simultaneously minimizing damage to the land. Poor planning often results in miserable campers and damage to natural and cultural resources. Rangers often tell stories of campers they have encountered who, because of poor planning and unexpected conditions, degrade resources and put themselves at risk. Learn the details of Principle 1:
- Why Trip Planning Is Important
- 7 Elements to Consider When Trip Planning
- Other Elements To Consider
- Examples of Poor Trip Planning
Principle 2: TRAVEL AND CAMP ON DURABLE SURFACES: The goal of travel in the outdoors is to move through natural areas while avoiding damage to the land or waterways. Understanding how travel causes impacts is necessary to accomplish this goal. Travel damage occurs when surface vegetation or communities of organisms are trampled beyond recovery. The resulting barren area leads to soil erosion and the development of undesirable trails. Learn the details of Principle 2:
- Travel On Trail
- Travel Off-Trail
- Surface Durability
- Camp On Durable Surfaces
- Choosing a Campsite In High-Use Areas
- Camping in Undisturbed Remote Areas
- Camping in River Corridors
Principle 3: DISPOSE OF WASTE PROPERLY: The Center encourages outdoor enthusiasts to consider the impacts that they leave behind, which will undoubtedly affect other people, water and wildlife. Learn the details of Principle 3:
- Human Waste
- Cat Holes
- Toilet Paper
- Other Forms of Waste
- Waste Water
- Soaps and Lotions
Principle 4: LEAVE WHAT YOU FIND: Allow others a sense of discovery by leaving rocks, plants, archaeological artifacts and other objects of interest as you find them. Learn the details of Principle 4:
- Minimize Site Alterations
- Avoid Damaging Live Trees and Plants
- Leave Natural Objects and Cultural Artifacts
Principle 5: MINIMIZE FIRE IMPACTS: Fires vs. Stoves: The use of campfires, once a necessity for cooking and warmth, is steeped in history and tradition. Some people would not think of camping without a campfire. Yet, the natural appearance of many areas has been degraded by the overuse of fires and an increasing demand for firewood. The development of lightweight efficient camp stoves has encouraged a shift away from the traditional fire for cooking. Stoves have become essential equipment for minimum-impact camping. They are fast, flexible and eliminate firewood availability as a concern in campsite selection. Stoves operate in almost any weather condition—and they Leave No Trace. Learn the details of Principle 5:
- Should You Build a Fire?
- Lessening Impacts When Campfires Are Used
- Existing Fire Rings
- Mound Fire
- Fire Pans
- Firewood and Cleanup
Principle 6: RESPECT WILDLIFE: Learn about wildlife through quiet observation. Do not disturb wildlife or plants just for a “better look.” Observe wildlife from a distance so they are not scared or forced to flee. Large groups often cause more damage to the environment and can disturb wildlife so keep your group small. If you have a larger group, divide into smaller groups if possible to minimize your impacts.
Quick movements and loud noises are stressful to animals. Travel quietly and do not pursue, feed or force animals to flee. (One exception is in bear country where it is good to make a little noise so as not to startle the bears.) In hot or cold weather, disturbance can affect an animal’s ability to withstand the rigorous environment. Do not touch, get close to, feed or pick up wild animals. It is stressful to the animal, and it is possible that the animal may harbor rabies or other diseases. Learn the details of Principle 6:
- Sick or wounded animals can bite, peck or scratch and send you to the hospital. Young animals removed or touched by well-meaning people may cause the animals parents to abandon them. If you find sick animals or animals in trouble you should notify a game warden.
- Considerate campers observe wildlife from afar, give animals a wide berth, store food securely and keep garbage and food scraps away from animals. Remember that you are a visitor to their home.
- Allow animals free access to water sources by giving them the buffer space they need to feel secure. Ideally, camps should be located 200 feet or more from existing water sources. This will minimize disturbance to wildlife and ensure that animals have access to their precious drinking water. By avoiding water holes at night, you will be less likely to frighten animals because desert dwellers are usually most active after dark. With limited water in arid lands, desert travelers must strive to reduce their impact on the animals struggling for survival.
- Washing and human waste disposal must be done carefully so the environment is not polluted, and animals and aquatic life are not injured. Swimming in lakes or streams is okay in most instances—but in deserts and other very arid areas it’s best to leave scarce water holes undisturbed and unpolluted so animals may drink from them.
Principle 7: BE CONSIDERATE OF OTHERS: One of the most important components of outdoor ethics is to maintain courtesy toward other visitors. It helps everyone enjoy their outdoor experience. Many people come to the outdoors to listen to nature. Excessive noise, uncontrolled pets and damaged surroundings take away from the natural appeal of the outdoors. Read how to finish the Principle 7 sentences:
- The feeling of solitude, especially in open areas, is often enhanced when group size is small, contacts are infrequent and behavior is unobtrusive. To maximize your feeling of privacy …
- Technology continues to shape the outdoor experience. Personal preferences range from high-tech outdoor travelers, who might want to listen to music and collect images on their devices, to an anti-tech perspective that favors a minimal use of gadgets. Be sure to thoroughly consider …
- The general assumption on a narrow trail is that hikers headed downhill will step aside to allow an uphill foot traveler to easily pass. In many places, there’s an expectation …
- Groups leading or riding pack stock have the right-of-way on trails. Hikers and bicyclists should …
- Take rest breaks on durable surfaces well off the designated trail. Keep in mind that visitors to seldom used places require an extra commitment to travel quietly and lightly on the land. When selecting a campsite, choose …
- Bright clothing and equipment, such as tents, that can be seen for long distances are discouraged. Especially in …
We LEAVE NO TRACE to protect the natural world that sustains us. Please be mindful of and use this information in your adventures near and far.