I wanted to jump straight into a topic that is important to me. As fellow adventurers, I am sure that you have pitched a tent for a night at one point or another (I've seen some of those tagged photos on our page)! Let's take a moment to talk about Leave No Trace, and camping responsibly- what this means and how easy it can be. Even if camping cramps your style, the LNT Principles discussed here are something I hope everyone will take some time to read through, as they are applicable to all of us that enjoy being in the great outdoors for epic adventures.
I live on the road full time in a shuttle bus I converted into a tiny home on wheels, and I absolutely love to travel, see new places, and hike often with my pup. Being outdoors, and especially going camping, seems to have hit a huge increase since the pandemic. This is awesome! However, a lot of new faces around the campsite can also mean some people may not fully understand LNT Principles and what Camping Responsibly might look like. So with this blog, I really wanted to take a moment to make sure we can all visit the spot we want, without compromising our respect for nature. Have you heard of Leave No Trace? You may notice some parallel from those principles.
Leave No Trace and Camping
First is planning! Planning is probably more important than almost anything else regarding your adventure. Make sure you know where you are going, when, for how long, and what the weather conditions will be like so you can pack your gear accordingly. Look for upcoming storms, what the place you are going to has to offer, and what you may need to bring with you so you can be a responsible camper. Make sure you also plan for emergencies- extra money, first aid supplies, solar phone battery bank, plenty of food and water, a way to pack out your garbage, etc.
Next is about your traveling methods. When you are entering your camp destination, please don’t travel on anything other than the provided trails and roads. I have seen 4x4 trucks tearing over beautiful terrain to get to a spot they have their eye on, but all this does is disturb and destroy the vegetation and localized ecosystem, as well as scare off or kill any creatures that may take up residence in that space they have just carelessly drove through. Consider using any provided parking spots/tent pad locations, etc that are clearly there for your use and marked as such. When exploring your nearby camp, do your best to be mindful of existing footpaths, and don't cut through vegetation or switchbacks if you can help it.
Let's address the smelly elephant in the room - waste. No one likes it, but the Earth definitely doesn't benefit with it hanging around. One of the main (and most saddening) things I often see at campsites and on trails is trash. It is so very important to pack out what you brought in! Please bring trash bags, or better yet, check out the amazing, reusable, washable, and versatile Barrel Bag. I have had a small handful of Barrel Bags for the past few years now, and it is something I wish I could have had my entire life! I use one in my bus as my regular trash bag, hanging on a couple of hooks under my sink, and the rest I use for picking up trash everywhere I go. For human waste, if you are at a campsite with no restroom, please remember to look up your local laws on how to properly dispose of human waste in an environmentally conscious way (more of than below for those interested).
No one is perfect, and I am sure we have all taken a token of something here or there on our travels, but this is something to be mindful of as well. The phrase "take only pictures, leave only footprints, kill nothing but time" really is a handy saying to have in the back of your mind. A good example could be pink sand beaches- there is one in Bermuda that used to be beautiful, light pink sand, and over the years tourists have been scooping up various amounts of the sand to take home. Now, the sand is no longer as pink as it used to be, as some “regular” sand had to be brought in from nearby beaches to replenish the shore. Consider taking a photo of that thing and asking yourself if you will realistically ever even make use of the item you think you need to take. If you know you cannot contain yourself, please at least limit yourself to very small pieces of the item(s) as well as a limit on how many things you will take. I know that this will never be a resolved issue, so all I ask is that you are realistic and responsible when finding a trinket you want to take with you as a reminder of the places you've been.
Everyone loves a good campfire, roasting marshmallows, conversation, and seeing the stars begin to shine as the sun goes down. What a great place to enjoy warming up with your camp companions! Please be mindful of any local signs that may restrict fires at any time throughout the year, such as windy days, droughts, the summer season, etc. Always pay attention to the wind and forecast in areas of concern. If the site you are at has a fire ring included, please don't start a fire anywhere else. If there is no campfire, I highly sugggest looking deeper into the best ways to create your own fire ring! One example is clearing a large space from any debris such as leaves and twigs, making sure no overhead branches are nearby, and keeping your fire small.
Putting your fire down into a hole or building up rocks around your fire are a great way to keep it contained and prevent the wind from picking up hot embers and spreading it to a different part of the area, potentially starting a forest fire. Keep in mind the size of your fire- as much as I love a huge bonfire, forested areas are not the place for this. Keep your fire small- try not to use larger branches/logs, but rather use dead and downed branches small enough to be hand broken, and be mindful of what you do when you are done for the night. Especially in windy areas, make sure you drown your fire with water until there are no signs of hot embers. If you are primitive camping, please make the area look like it did before you got there; redistribute rocks, clean up/distribute the ashes, and- well, leave no trace that you were ever there.
Photo shoot, anyone? Please look out for any signs letting you know an area may be off limits due to to dangerous moving rocks, protected vegetation, and anything else that needs our protection and respect. In line with this would also be wildlife. In most places, not only is it frowned upon to feed, harass, or get too close to certain animals, it is also illegal. There are tons of photo spots to use in the spectacular places you will go, so when taking photos please try not to cause harm to the ecosystem!
Here is the down and dirty section: how to use the bathroom in the wilderness. Please never use the bathroom near any water source, as this can contaminate the water and wreak havoc on its ecosystem. Different areas of the world will have different requirements on this, so check with your local sites for how far is far enough from water. When nature calls, dig a hole 6-10 inches deep, and make sure your waste is buried (again, always look up local requirements). While compostable camping toilet paper does exist, most people do not take this with them. Always try to pack out your used toilet paper- I recommend a paper bag that it can all go in, so as to avoid the mess of just tossing it into your regular trash bag.
Here are some friendly camping tips and habits to keep in mind:
-Inviting or joining others around a fire. This can be a great time, but always be respectful of anyone that you are sharing a space with. This means being considerate of topics, not trying to scare off new camp friends by being overbearing, and knowing when it is time to call it a night.
-Generators. Possibly one of the most annoying things that can happen while camping is drifting off to sleep only to hear someone next to you cranking up their generator that will run all night. Not only are generators not good manners if you are in tight quarters, they also give off a lot of noise pollution. If you have a generator, I suggest finding a spot where you can have permission to use it at any hour, or considering turning off your generator during quiet hours if possible. On the topic of being loud, also consider keeping excited conversations, loud music, etc down to a nice low after it starts getting late. Some people are there just for nature, not for hearing the disruption of loud human-caused noises late at night.
-Snooping. I should really hope this goes without being said, but please never take it upon yourself to snoop though another campsite. Perhaps to you, it’s more of “seeing what your camp neighbors are like” but I can assure you that no one wants their stuff gone through while they are on a hike or have stepped away for a moment. Instead, be the helpful camp neighbor that keeps an eye out on what is going on around you. Perhaps you may see negligent behavior nearby, and can take down any information to report to proper authorities or the owners of the camp where an incident happened.
-Space and intruding on other’s trip. You can generally tell if the person you may want to
approach for a beer around the fire is up for visitors. If they are closed off in their vehicle or tent, they may want to be left alone. If alone, especially as a woman, being approached by strangers can be worrisome- thinking that they may not be in a safe place to camp alone, no matter how good your intentions are. If you are going to approach someone that is on their own, try to keep things lighthearted and optional; an example of this could be walking about to the edge of their campsite but not impeding on their space, and starting with “Hello! We are going to have a fire soon and make s’mores if you would like to join. We’re just two sites over. Feel free to stop by!”
-Not quite camping related, but when out on a trip, always try to support local businesses whenever possible! If you travel but continue to use global conglomerates, you aren't helping the small town you are visiting, but rather just using it for the space and photos, so try looking for those local restaurants, car washes, gas stations, and farmer's markets/grocery stores!
**On the note of camping alone, I will make another blog post about how to be prepared to camp or travel on your own, including what precautions to take, how to feel secure in your campsite choice, what to say when you prefer to be left alone without making it obvious you are alone, and other preventative measures. If you have anything you would like to add, reach out on social media or email and let me know your thoughts!
Until Next Time,