The principles of Leave No Trace (LNT) is a very important set of guidelines that every outdoor enthusiast should always bear in mind, heart and action. Because human activity can easily disrupt nature’s way, it is important to abide by these principles when going outdoors to minimize the impact on the places you visit.
The principles below are taken from the LNT website and edited for clarity and local context (see italized portions)
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you’ll visit.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
- Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
- Repackage food to minimize waste.
- MInimize use of trail markings.
- Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Camp at least 200 feet from bodies of water.
- Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
- In popular areas:
- Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
- Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
- In pristine areas:
- Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
- Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
- In popular areas:
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
- Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
- Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
- Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
- Do not build any structures.
- Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking.
- 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.
- In the Philippines, using a portable stove is standard practice. Use of campfires is generally discouraged, even if practiced by locals.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
- Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, or raising their young.
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
- Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
- Give way to ascending or faster hikers.
- Drinking and merrymaking should be avoided.
- Avoid loud voices or music. Let nature’s sounds prevail.
In addition to above principles, do remember to give utmost respect and courteousness to the locals and being sensitive to their cultural practices and ways of living. Never forget that we are mere visitors and they are the masters of the house.
Let us remember that many of our natural outdoor destinations are not used to human presence. Some are in pristine condition and sensitive to external intervention. It is very important for everyone to be conscious of this fact and to minimize, if not completely avoid, any ecological footprint we leave behind.
As a famous saying goes, “Take nothing but pictures, kill nothing but time, and leave nothing but footprints”.
Copyright (including LNT photo): The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics (https://lnt.org/learn/7-principles)