BackpackingField NotesSkills

Leave No Trace: Why Backcountry Ethics Matter

posted by Boundless Outdoors February 11, 2020 0 comments


Before “Leave No Trace” became a charity organization to teach outdoor ethics in 1994, “No Trace” was a National Park Service pamphlet to educate backcountry travelers in the the 80’s. Then, in the early 90’s, NOLS and other organizations developed science-backed training for outdoor professionals in minimal impact usage.  Throughout the years, the Leave No Trace idea has pretty much stayed the same: To research and educate people on how to minimize their impact on outdoor environments.

Why is LEAVE NO TRACE important?

In this tumultuous time, when there is a war seemingly being waged on public lands, it is more important than ever that everyone enjoying these wilderness areas does their part to protect them. This includes traveling sensibly through them and leaving as little an impact on them as possible.

Think about it – if no one cared about the land and created significant impact on the environment with every hike or camping trip; not only would the precious ecosystems be damaged but – the cost to operate and maintain these areas would go up, costing you – the taxpayer more money. In addition, more cost to operate brings more considerations (and doubts) about land usage and protection, initiating many of the “protection removal” conversations happening in Washington D.C. as we speak. Leave No Trace works with outdoor professionals all over the country to:

  • Clean up natural areas
  • Protect and restore water areas
  • Promote safety and dispels misinformation
  • Protect wildlife – especially human/wildlife interaction
  • Help prevent damaged trail systems
  • Help prevent wildfires
  • Inspire new generations of nature stewards
  • Reduce overcrowding/overuse of natural areas
  • And more.
Leave No Trace Impact Stats

These are just estimates taken from LNT’s website in 2020. The impact that Leave No Trace is continuing to have on the outdoor community is undeniable.

Each one of the following principles has its own set of recommendations for best practices in wilderness areas.

7 Principles of Leave No Trace Ethics:

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

3. Dispose of waste properly

4. Leave what you find

5. Minimize Fire Impact

6. Respect Wildlife

7. Be Considerate of Others


I firmly believe that nature is for everyone. But in order for everyone to truly enjoy the wilderness for generations to come, we all need to educate ourselves on how to be responsible hikers and campers. I’ve been a certified Leave No Trace trainer since 2006, but you don’t need to be an expert to understand Leave No Trace. Many of the principles are common sense.

I’ll be writing a more in-depth “LNT tips and tricks” article in a few weeks, but for now, visit the Leave No Trace website to learn more.


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