Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

Leaving No Trace

Leaving No Trace

A recent encounter with an article on the Explore website from 2021 reminded me of the principles of Leave No Trace, so I decided to add a place for them on here. Since that article was Canadian in origin, it pointed readers to the Canadian version of these. However, the ideas began in America, even if the wording and ordering could differ from place to place. For instance, here is what you find from Ireland:

  1. Plan ahead and prepare
  2. Be considerate of others
  3. Respect farm animals and wildlife
  4. Travel and camp responsibly
  5. Leave what you find
  6. Dispose of waste properly
  7. Protect nature from fire

The North American counterparts, perhaps the originals, are:

  1. Plan ahead and prepare
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  3. Dispose of waste properly
  4. Leave what you find
  5. Minimise the impact of campfires
  6. Respect wildlife
  7. Be considerate of other visitors

While there is an Irish expansion on the first set, it appears not dissimilar to the entire intent, even if local conditions and culture alter the top-line message slightly. European hiking is more likely to bring you closer to farmland, which has one effect on the wording as much as having less of a campfire tradition.

Nevertheless, the need to enjoy the outdoors responsibly while minimising any impact on nature is a universal one. Practices like staying on established trails, packing out all rubbish, not disturbing vegetation or wildlife, properly disposing of human waste and being respectful to others enjoying the outdoors are applicable, no matter where you are in the world. They also encourage stewardship, fostering a culture of respect and care for natural environments, so that natural landscapes are not degraded and that ecosystems remain healthy and diverse. After all, sustainable recreation allows people to enjoy natural areas without causing long-term damage, ensuring these places remain available for future use.

While much of this is common sense, there often is a learning curve, so it does no harm to spell things out. Here then are some ideas for enacting the principles. The wording may be North American in origin, so there may be a need to rethink it in light of local conditions elsewhere:

Plan ahead and prepare

  • Research the area you plan to visit.
  • Understand regulations and special concerns for the area.
  • Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
  • Schedule trips to avoid times of high use.
  • Visit in small groups when possible.
  • Use maps and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns, or flagging.

Travel and camp on durable surfaces

  • Stick to established trails and campsites.
  • Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
  • Camp at least 65 metres from lakes and streams.
  • Use existing campsites rather than creating new ones.
  • Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.

Dispose of waste properly

  • Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for rubbish or spilled food.
  • Deposit solid human waste in cat holes dug 15 to 20 centimetres deep, at least 65 metres from water, camp, and trails.
  • Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
  • To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 65 metres away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.

Leave what you find

  • Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artefacts.
  • Leave rocks, plants, and other natural objects as you find them.
  • Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
  • Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.

Protect nature from fire

  • Since campfires can cause lasting impacts in the backcountry, it is better to use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
  • Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
  • Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
  • Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.

Respect wildlife

  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
  • Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviours, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and rubbish securely.
  • Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.

Be considerate of other visitors

  • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
  • Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
  • Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
  • Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
  • Let nature’s sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.