The concept of “Outdoor Ethics” might not be at the top of your list when you are focused on surviving in the wilderness and when your very life could be at stake. It may seem irrelevant when you are spending the night in a remote part of the woods, where you are pretty sure you are the first human being to ever set foot on the same area of dirt. Why bother about cleaning up your trash or keeping your campfire in check if you are the only one around for miles?
The simple fact is that the LNT (Leave No Trace) principles, which are the foundation of said “Outdoor Ethics”, are put into place not only to protect the beauty of the wilderness around you-but yourself as well. As you follow these principles you will be given a guideline on how to respect the beauty around you, respect wildlife conservation, and keep yourself safe. These principles are as follows:
● Plan Ahead & Prepare
● Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces
● Dispose of Waste Properly
● Leave What You Find
● Minimize Campfire Impacts
● Respect Wildlife
● Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Plan Ahead & Prepare:
As someone who is on this site, this idea of planning ahead will come naturally to you. This is the mantra you live your entire life with. There are too many stories of campers and hikers who by failing to plan ahead and getting the equipment necessary squander the resources of the area they are in. This puts the wildlife and themselves at risk, and it is unnecessary. By planning ahead and being prepared for whatever situation comes your way, you are much more likely to have an enjoyable and safe journey.
You should first identify what your expectations are and record them down in your journal. This will set you up to know exactly what you are preparing for: a comfortable, easy trip, or one where you need all your resources in order to be safe. From here you need to assess your skill level and get gear and equipment that fit you best. After going through a survival situation or trip, self-assess and see how you can improve next time.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces:
This principle focuses on the travel that will be done as when hitting the trail. As much as possible it is important to search for trails to follow instead of walking aimlessly around the woods. It is not hard to accidentally crush vegetation underfoot and single-handedly change the landscape of that area for a long time. This is not only helpful to the wildlife but also to you as you won’t get lost as much if you follow a pre-made path.
It is also important for you to camp in safe areas. A good rule of thumb is to set up camp about 200 feet away from any water sources in order to give wildlife an ability to come and go as they please. It is also smart to make sure your campsite is in an area separate from the trail and in an area where you aren’t crushing vegetation. Sandy and already worn areas are best.
Dispose of Waste Properly:
This is the principle that many people associate with LNT. Waste can do many horrible things to the environment it is left in. It can attract animals to areas near to trails, and if any of these animals are considered dangerous to humans (bears, panthers, etc.), then that sharply increases the likelihood that they will be shot and killed. Waste can also contaminate nearby water sources and cause wildlife and other campers to get sick when drinking it. It also takes away from the natural beauty of the wilderness itself, which no one wants.
Human waste needs to be buried in a 6-8 inch hole 200 feet from any water sources. It is also helpful if this area is at a high elevation. Other trash and waste needs to be packed out. Pack It In, Pack It Out. Very simple, and very easy to take care of our natural resources!
Leave What You Find:
Do your best to leave the site looking as you found it. As much as it depends on you and your situation, the creation of shelters, tables, lean-tos, etc should be kept to a minimum for the sake of others who may come through and are looking for a wilderness experience. Of course, if your survival is at stake, do not hesitate to do what you need to do in order to survive. Just do your best to respect the nature around you, and nature will have a way of respecting you back.
Try to leave an abundance of interesting rocks, flowers, plants, and other materials where you found them so that others can also enjoy how interesting they are. Foraging for food should be done conscientiously keeping any lasting effects on the landscape to a minimum; only take what you need for yourself and the people you are with. You never know when another LifePrepper will come through needing the same resource.
Minimize Campfire Impacts:
There are plenty of different ways of creating fires, and although we will not discuss them in the scope of this article, it is important to brush up on them. Find out the basic regulations for your area that you may or may not have a survival situation occur in, and do your best to contain your fires when you make one. Keep them away from other small pieces of wood and leaves. Also, if you ever find yourself in the Yukon, make sure not to build a fire underneath a Pine (How To Build a Fire by Jack London covers this topic very well).
You can also use your stove system as a backup to campfires, as they are easier and faster to set up. Whatever you end up up doing, remember to put out the fire when you leave. Smoke is still considered burning, so cover up the fire in dirt and sand, and use any extra water to create a boundary around the ashes as well.
Come on, you all know this one. Observe the beautiful wildlife of the area you are in for a distance. Getting closer puts both you and the animal at risk. They don’t want to fight you as much as you don’t want to fight them, so give them the distance they need to have access to water, their OWN food, and cover up human waste. Make sure to hang bear bags in bear country, and even consider doing it outside of bear country to make sure no animals are harmed, and you have all the food you need to survive.
Lastly, they don’t need you to feed them. They survived for hundreds of years without you, and hopefully they survive when you leave because you decided to listen to the LNT principles.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors:
This is quite simply just good outdoor ethics, to treat your fellow outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen with respect. This means staying away from making excessive noise, controlling the animals you are traveling with, and helping keep the trail and campsite safe. This is quite a simple rule, so make sure you are considering the others around you and use the Golden Rule: Do unto others what you want done to yourself.
These rules are put into place for the betterment of yourself as well as the animals, the natural habitat and visitors you come into contact with. Take these rules seriously and you will be a safer and happier camper! The Goal is to promote wildlife conservation so people can enjoy this wonderful world in its natural environment for generations to come.