News & Updates

Are You Making These 7 Rookie Mistakes When Practicing Leave No Trace?

Leave No Trace - February 13, 2016

Grand Canyon, AZ: Ever wonder if your recreation is 100% Leave No Trace? Below, we walk you through some of the innocent mistakes people commonly make when enjoying the outdoors responsibly.

P.S. – If you've been guilty of one of these less than Leave No Trace acts, not to worry. Here at Leave No Trace we say, "It's not what you did yesterday, it's what you do tomorrow." Happy myth busting!

7 Less than Leave No Trace Rookie Mistakes: 

1. Walking around a mud puddle to stay dry and clean.

Best to walk single file on the trail, even when wet or muddy because the surrounding vegetation and habitat will suffer if trampled. We call this impact trail widening. In severe cases, following a puddle free route has resulted in widening the trail by 48 feet! Please preserve our trails by choosing the muddy path. Pro tip – gaiters are a great way to stay clean, while sticking to the trail.

2. Burning leftover food or trash, including paper products, in the campfire.

Burning trash and leftover food in the campfire usually leads to fire rings full of partially burnt waste that is often very attractive to wildlife, so much so that wildlife may become conditioned to it and seek it out, often to their own detriment. Additionally, burnt waste can release loads of harmful chemicals, including carcinogens, into the air we breath and remain in the ashes for some time to come.

3. Sleeping with your toothpaste and other smelly things.

While most people familiar with Leave No Trace would never dare to sleep with food in their tent, it may not be so obvious not to sleep with other smell-ables, like toothpaste, medicine, beauty products, etc. Point being, animals are attracted to the waft of anything that smells, so make sure to store all fragrant items properly. 

4. Burning toilet paper to avoid littering or carrying it out.

Ever been told to burn your TP? If so, hold your thought right there and consider this: Rarely does toilet paper burn completely, and doing so has been known to cause devastating wildfires to which the participant can be held financially responsible for. Instead plan ahead to pack out toilet paper – in a plastic bag – with you. Alternatively, use as little as possible and bury it in a hole dug 6-8 inches deep.

5. Walking single file off trail.

Surely you want to walk single file to reduce your impact when exploring off trail, right? You actually want to do the exact opposite – disperse use to prevent the creation of trails and campsites.  If we spread out, we are also less likely to cause permanent damage to fragile surfaces. For example, a wildflower stepped on once is much more likely to survive then if trampled by twenty feet. EXCEPTION ALERT – if forced to travel over living biological soil, also know as Cryptobiotic soil, step in the footprints of the person in front of you to prevent killing the soil entirely.

6. Peeing in a water source.

Dilution is the solution to pollution, isn’t it? In some cases – in rivers with a high flow (over 1000 cfs) – yes. In most cases – in water sources with a low flow (under 1000 cfs) – no. Urinating in low volume water sources can change the PH balance and negatively affect the ecosystem. So where can you urinate? On durable surfaces, of course!

7. Camping where impacts are just beginning in remote areas.

The small fire ring and compacted patch of grass may seem like a nice place to settle in for the night. But wait! Let’s give that little campsite a chance to recover to its natural state. Where can you set up camp? On durable surfaces, where there are either no signs of impacts, or if it exists, concentrate use on heavily impacted sites. 

Thanks for doing your part to practice minimum impact outdoor recreation!

Helping keep our wild spaces wild,

Jenna and Sam – Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Team West

Leave No Trace’s Jenna Hanger and Sam Ovett are part of the 2016 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, Deuter, Hi-Cone, REI, Smartwool, The North Face, and Yakima.

Let’s protect and enjoy our natural world together

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