Whether you’re car camping, backpacking, bikepacking, rafting, or simply picnicking at your local park this summer, Leave No Trace principles can be utilized in any outdoor setting. If you’re new to outdoor recreation, make sure to read through The 7 Principles thoroughly explained by our friends at Leave No Trace, Center for Outdoor Ethics. If you’re an outdoor pro, a quick review of these seven principles will keep you feeling confident while you explore new areas and old stomping grounds.
Principle #1: Plan Ahead and Prepare
Not every adventure will go according to plan, and that’s exactly why planning ahead is so critical. The things you can control have been thought through, and the things you can’t control can be anticipated like sudden changes in weather, unexpected terrain, local regulations due to COVID, and potential fire restrictions. Your trip will likely be safer and you’ll maximize your time spent outdoors.
Sometimes planning a trip requires planning a backup trip as well. Tiffany Lin from followtiffsjourney.com plans a lot of adventures. Even through COVID, Tiffany has spent countless hours during the week researching a Plan A and Plan B trip for the weekend. In the last year, Tiffany has spent almost every weekend sleeping in the dirt and knows all too well that a higher calling can get in the way of a planned adventure. From wildfires, to high winds, or the latest shutdowns of National Parks in her area, Tiffany has relied on Plan B more often than not. Research and preparation have always been her strong suit, and in the outdoors, this type of attention to detail is so important for the safety and success of her journey.
Principle #2: Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces
“Things I consider when picking a good campsite: the ground, the weather, and the views.” Prior to a gram worthy sunset, Tiffany starts by scouting a campsite far from other campers, trails or roads and any sources of water. This allows her privacy, while giving her the daylight to carefully assess grounds for evidence of previously established camps, as well as the durability of the surface and how level it is.
“Another thing to consider when picking a campsite is the weather – if it’s going to be windy, look for a spot with tree coverage and always stake out your tent. I recently camped in the open valley of the Southwest desert surrounded by small canyon walls and the ground was too hard to stake down, so we put large rocks on all the outside corners before setting up our sleeping pads and bags inside. If it’s going to rain, do not pick a spot that is concave, and try to avoid these uneven spots anyway – in the desert when it rains, these potholes can become a source of water or a home to smaller inhabitants of the area.”
She doesn’t just “do it for the gram” – Tiffany wants those 5-star views on a budget like the rest of us and has learned that the most important thing about recreating in the outdoors is to preserve the beauty she captures so often on her blog.
Principle #3: Dispose of Waste Properly
From human waste to litter, there’s a lot to review here. The main thing to remember is “pack it in, pack it out.” One of our biggest gripes is extremely small – it’s called micro trash!
What is Micro Trash?
Small bits of trash that are typically dropped by accident and never picked up. This includes: candy wrappers, bag ties, can tabs, cigarette butts, shreds of toilet paper, etc.
A good way to prevent your own accidental micro trash is to do a “site sweep”. After you pack up your tent, do a site sweep. After you pack up your lunch, do a site sweep. Before you pull off from the beach in your raft, do a site sweep! Not only will find the micro trash that got away, you might even find things like the clothesline you left up to dry out your gear overnight, or the paddle to a SUP Board you left behind. A site sweep will give you peace of mind, and you’ll be doing your part to leave no trace.
Principle #4: Leave What You Find
“A good campsite is found, not made.” You shouldn’t have to do much to an area to accommodate your camp. If you find yourself making changes to the site, take care to revert it to exactly how you found it.
We all have phones on hand, even in the outdoors, and this small tip from Tiffany can make a big impact in the bigger picture. Once she has identified where she’ll camp for the night, she’ll snap a quick photo. “I like to clear the ground of all larger rocks and twigs to reduce the risks of puncturing my tent and I use a footprint to help protect the tent floor and keep it clean.” After a solid night of sleeping in the dirt, Tiffany packs up her tent and reviews the photo to make sure she carefully replaces each large rock and leaves the campsite looking exactly how she found it.
Principle #5: Minimize Campfire Impacts
With summer in full swing, we are seeing fire restrictions and bans popping up in our county and surrounding areas throughout Colorado. This goes back to planning ahead for meals, light sources, and temp ratings on your gear – can you manage your trip without a fire?
You’ll rarely if ever spot a campfire photo on @followtiffsjourney, that’s because Tiffany hates lighting fires, not to mention the fire restrictions all over California and her favorite place to journey, Inyo National Forest. Tiffany puts in so much work between the scout, setting up camp and taking summit and sunset photos, that when the daylight turns to night, she’d rather be star gazing sans fly in her Salt Creek tent. “The roof of the tent is slightly curved like a dome so lying down and staring up at the stars through the tent felt like I was at the planetarium. I loved it so much that we slept without the rainfly for the remainder of the trip.”
Principle #6: Respect Wildlife
The outdoors is not a magical theme park, although it sometimes feels that way, it is the home to wildlife. Respecting these inhabitants means admiring them from a distance, not disturbing their natural environment with loud noises or sudden movements that can cause them stress. If you come across an abandoned, sick or injured animal – do not touch or feed the animal, notify a game warden.
When camping in the backcountry, Tiffany uses a bear can for food storage and places it far away from her tent, hidden by rocks or brush. By selecting the right campsite and being careful to contain food, waste, and all other scented items, Tiffany reduces any potential encounters with wildlife, and prefers it that way.
Principle #7: Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Tiffany scouts her campsite far from the crowds to enjoy a little slice of nature in solitude, but while camping at popular campgrounds, that’s not always possible. Tiffany recommends “if you camp near others, try to be respectful of your noise levels especially during the evening and early morning hours.” When camping with her trail partner’s furry friends, they are always considerate about keeping them on leash or under voice command.
Every journey is different but everyone can follow these seven principles while recreating outside. As you’re reading this, Tiffany is probably off on another picturesque adventure, living these principles through her own journey and we hope that you will too, through summer and every season you spend in the outdoors.
About Tiffany Lin – Tiffany lives in the city on the weekdays, and the mountains on the weekends. She is hooked on hiking and since 2014 she has documented her hikes with trip reports, gear reviews, and other posts about her lifestyle as an outdoor enthusiast and blogger. Subscribe to her newsletter for occasional updates including new blog releases, group hikes, special discounts and more!