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Leave no trace: The whys and hows of ethical camping

23rd June 2020 Print

You arrive at a wonderful area in your hiking or wild camping trip. The scenery is beautiful, the location practical and you’re excited to pitch your tent and relax after a day’s trekking. You look down and, lo and behold, you see the signs of human interference: rubbish, damaged trees and disrupted ground. What a sinking feeling.

Ethical camping is the responsibility of everyone who shares the enjoyment of the outdoors and spending time in them. Let’s look at a set of practical tips on how to avoid being part of the solution and not the problem.

Pack it in, pack it out: Just as it's helpful to compartmentalise your gear and store your food separately, so too is it vital to do the same with the remaining waste. Bring spare clear plastic bags with you so that you’re not caught without a means of keeping waste together and be diligent in catching any kind of waste you produce, such as the peels of an orange. It’ll keep your campsite clean and your conscious clear. 

Fires? Be safe, be smart: There’s no denying the love we all have for campfires after a day’s hiking. If you’re allowed to have one in your area, make sure that you ring the fire with dead and downed wood. The pieces shouldn’t be bigger than your forearm and it’s important you avoid burning any kind of trash in your fire. Allow your wood to burn down to ash and cover it before leaving.

Comb your site: Before you leave, it’s practical and effective to get everyone together and comb through the site in separate areas. This is a fast and easy way to find smaller pieces of rubbish, helping you to get as close to leaving no trace as is humanly possible. It’s quick, it’s easy and there’s no excuse not to.

Manage your own waste: If you can, look towards using outhouses and bathrooms. If that isn’t available, you’ll want to get digging. Human waste should be buried in a hole that is between six and eight inches deep. This isn’t hard to do with an entrenching tool or small plastic trowel. You can also consider portable toilet equipment as an alternative if weight isn’t a dealbreaker. Check for great gear lists that make camping better. 

Bring the right tent stakes: We’ve all been there: you bring the wrong tent stakes and they break and bend in the rough terrain. Put a review of your tent stakes against the terrain you’ll be camping in on your mandatory checklist and be sure to bring enough with you for you – with a few spares for other people. Bringing proper tent stakes means you don’t have to disrupt the local terrain by using logs and rocks to either pin your lines or smash tent stakes into the ground. 

Get your pets carrying: Dog harnesses for hiking can be bought easily and they’re a great way to have your pet carry its own food. Make sure you don’t allow your pet to create waste that’s left at the campsite; they count towards leave no trace just as much as you!