The Skinny on Leave No Trace

One of the best parts of camping is enjoying the wilderness at its most natural: when the land around you is pristine and unbothered by humans. At Hipcamp we want everyone to get outside, but we extra-want (it’s a thing) everyone to take care when they go. Unfortunately, even a small group of people can make a pretty big impact on a campsite. Hipcamper Ryan Rankin walks us through the seven Leave No Trace principles. Let’s all heed Ryan’s advice and be easy on our lands.


Leave no trace. Hearing that phrase probably brings a lot of us back to our youth when we were in boy scouts or away at summer camp first learning about the outdoors. For others it brings them back a few months ago to this past year’s Burning Man festival. While these events allow us to go back to a time when we didn’t have a care in the world and all the freedom we wanted before growing up, the Leave No Trace principles where there as a guide for us to use to make sure we left the beauty we had experienced for others to enjoy in the years to come.

The seven principles were developed with the help of the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help minimize hiker impacts in the backcountry. For those who are just beginning to backpack or have been for years, it’s always helpful to review these principles before heading out on a trip.

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare: Before heading out on a trip make a detailed plan and check the trail and weather conditions so you can pack the right equipment. Trust me, nothing ruins a hike like leaving your rain gear in the car when rain is expected or not bringing the right amount of food for the 3 people in your group when you are expecting to hike 15-20 miles each day.

2. Leave What You Find: Spending a few days outside can lead to some beautiful views. When it’s time to head home, make sure you left everything like it was before you arrived and take only pictures. Your mom shouldn’t have to remind you to keep the campsite clean

3. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces: Leaving a minimum impact on the soil and vegetation can be achieved by using pre-established trails and campsites. Taking off-trail trips or camping in unmarked spots can cause serious damage to the vegetation and lead to problems with erosion. If you are with a big group, walk in a single file line down the middle of the trail, even if it’s muddy.

4. Minimize Campfire Impacts: Making s’mores over a campfire can be a nice treat after a long day of hiking. If you do light a fire, keep it small and be sure to douse the fire with a lot of water and stir the ashes with a stick to make sure the fire’s completely out before you leave. If there’s not an established fire ring, consider stargazing instead. If the weather has been too dry or there’s no place to make a fire, cuddling up with someone under a sleeping bag having a few drinks is better than scrambling to stop the forest for being one gigantic fire.

5. Dispose of Waste Properly: Pack it in-Pack it out, it’s nice and easy, everything you bring into the woods gets carried back out. Using biodegradable soap is a great way to wash yourself and dishes, and be sure to scatter the water around when done. And most importantly, if good ol’ #2 happens to make a visit, follow our Ultimate Guide to Pooping in the Outdoors.

6. Respect Wildlife: When out in the backcountry, you are visiting the homes of the wildlife. Keep a safe distance from the wild animals and try to avoid any sudden movement if you happen to get close to an animal. You’ll better appreciate that bear from a safe distance instead of running away from it because you got too close.

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors: You’re likely not the only ones at a campsite or walking along the trail. Many people take some time to enjoy the solitude of the outdoors. No one wants to hear about that awesome party from last weekend, try and keep it down a little. And if you feel like getting a little frisky, follow a few simple rules.

Now you’re a pro at leaving no trace! Minimizing your impact in the backcountry is a great way to preserve the beauty for everyone, and ensure we all can visit, enjoy the views, and watch the wildlife for years to come.

Check out more of Ryan Rankin’s tips and tricks for successful backpacking on his amazing blog: The Amateur Outdoorsman.

Hipcamp Staff

Hipcamp is an online marketplace where you can list, discover, and book campsites and accommodations on private and public land. Hipcamp is your go-to guide to getting outside. If you’re a landowner, Hipcamp creates new revenue streams for your business, which can help conserve your land and keep it wild. #FindYourselfOutside #LeaveItBetter

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