Tag Archives: ethics

Leave No Trace

How do you keep the wilderness wild when millions of outdoor enthusiasts visit state and national parks each year? The Center for Outdoor Ethics created a solution to this problem with their national educational program, Leave No Trace. The Leave No Trace program promotes and inspires good ethical practice when in the backcountry. By following these guidelines, you ensure a gratifying and lasting outdoor experience for all.

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

Like any trip, planning before you arrive at your destination is key.

  • Acquaint yourself with park regulations. You can easily access this information through any of our free Pocket Ranger® apps.
  • Be prepared for extreme weather and emergencies. Pack a first aid kit and a survival kit that includes a flashlight with extra batteries, whistle, multi-tool pocket knife, maps, lighter, fire starters, and iodine tablets.
  • Respect the physical limits of your hiking group by planning a trip that’s compatible with the group’s skill level.
Backpacker in sunlit field [Image: sojourningabroad.wordpress.com]

Image: sojourningabroad.wordpress.com

  • Careful meal planning and packaging is so important when out in the backcountry. Pack only the food you need to minimize waste while you’re out on the trail.
  • Try to visit the outdoors in small groups. This is especially applicable to backpacking trips. If you are a larger group heading into the wilderness, break off into smaller groups to reduce impact on the environment. Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use on the trail.
  • Refrain from marking your trail with paint, cairns or flagging, and instead use a map, compass or your Pocket Ranger® app. In addition to a compass feature, the Pocket Ranger® apps offer users advanced GPS features that can even be used offline!

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

Trampling down an area’s vegetation can result in some undesirable results, such as barren areas and soil erosion. Help preserve the environment by following these tips:

  • In wilderness areas of high use, stick to established trails and campsites. Established campsites can come in a few different forms, such as raised wooden platforms, rock, gravel, dry grasses and snow. Walk single-file on trails and try to stick to the center of these trails. This prevents the trail from further eroding the surrounding landscape.
Hikers on a trail in the woods [Image: www.tripleblaze.com/blog/2013/07/14/how-to-follow-leave-no-trace-principles]

Image: www.tripleblaze.com/blog/2013/07/14/how-to-follow-leave-no-trace-principles

  • However, when camping and hiking through pristine or fragile environments, the opposite is true. Avoid making established trails or campsites by dispersing your impact on the environment. Do not camp or travel in places where impacts are just beginning to show.
  • Whether in high use or low use areas, always make sure to camp at least 200 feet from lakes and streams. This protects the waterbody and riparian areas (the land near a waterbody) from damage and contamination.

3. Dispose of Waste Properly

This principle could be the golden rule of the backcountry: Whatever you pack in, you must pack out! This includes all trash, leftover food, toilet paper (both used and unused), and hygiene products.

  • Before leaving a campsite or rest area, check around for any trash or spilled food you may have missed.
  • Solid human waste should be deposited in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep. These catholes must be at least 200 feet from water, campsite and trails. After use, cover and disguise catholes.
Always clean up after yourself when outdoors. [Image: bartramcanoetrail.blogspot.com/2013/10/people-fish-camp-trash.html]

Always clean up after yourself! [Image: bartramcanoetrail.blogspot.com/2013/10/people-fish-camp-trash.html]

  • Got dishes? Need a shower? To clean either yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lake, and use only small amounts of biodegradable soap. When finished cleaning or bathing, do not dump this dirty water back into the stream or lake! Doing so would contaminate the natural water source. Instead, strain and then scatter the water at least 200 feet (or 80 to 100 strides) from its source.

4. Leave What You Find

Look, but don’t touch! Preserve the past by leaving natural and historic structures and artifacts as they are. This ensures that other visitors to the area will have the same sense of discovery.

  • Leave rocks, plants, feathers and other natural objects just as you find them.
  • Don’t transport non-native species with you! Non-native species frequently become invasive. These invasive species can critically damage the ecosystem.
  • A good campsite is found, not made. Do not dig trenches or build structures, such as lean-tos, tables or chairs.

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

While many believe that a roaring campfire is essential to a great camping trip, fire is not always permitted in backcountry area. Before lighting a fire, always check with park regulations.

  • If fires are allowed, use only established fire rings, fire pans or mound fires. Keep your campfire small and manageable.
  • Hold off on the huge logs! The Center for Outdoor Ethics recommends using sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
Can you spot the two campfire faux pas in this photo? [Image: lnt.org/blog/campfire-challenge]

Can you spot the campfire faux pas in this photo? [Image: lnt.org/blog/campfire-challenge]

  • Burn all the wood and coals in your campfire to ash and put out the fire completely. Then scatter the cool ashes.
  • As for cooking outdoors, use a lightweight camp stove. A lightweight camp stove (rather than a bulky camp stove) will also be a blessing for your back!

6. Respect Wildlife

It’s certainly exhilarating to come across wildlife when outdoors. For everyone’s safety and enjoyment, follow these guidelines for wildlife sightings:

  • Always observe wildlife from a distance. Never approach or follow wildlife.
  • Never feed wildlife! Feeding wildlife can make wild animals dependent on humans, creating opportunities for potentially dangerous encounters.
Black bear takes over picnic at campsite [Image: http://forum.wakarusa.com/showthread.php?11815-ARTICLE-Black-Bears-Tear-Into-Tents-at-Wakarusa]

Don’t let your favorite breakfast cereal become theirs. [Image: forum.wakarusa.com/showthread.php?11815-ARTICLE-Black-Bears-Tear-Into-Tents-at-Wakarusa]

  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing food rations and securely.
  • If you bring pets with you, make sure you have control of them at all times. In many places, leashes are required.

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

While you may head into the backcountry to be alone in the great outdoors, chances are you may come across a few other outdoor enthusiasts.

  • Respect other visitors to the area. Be courteous and yield to other hikers on the trail.
  • Take breaks and camp away from the trails and other visitors. Avoid making loud noises or speaking in loud voices when in the backcountry. Keeping your voice low not only helps others enjoy their time in the wilderness, but also increases your chances of seeing wildlife.
  • If you encounter pack stock in the backcountry, step to the downhill side of the trail.

Any adventure in the outdoors is going to require some quality gear. By taking the Pocket Ranger® State Park Visitor Survey you could win a $350 gift certificate to Backcountry.com!

Ethical Climbing: How to be a Green Climber

Contributed by Michael Restivo, MikeOffTheMap

As we celebrate Earth Day, we must consider the way that we use our land, and how to cherish and protect it. No matter the sport, or how each of us explores the wild, it’s our responsibility to look over our individual lands. Many climbers falsely believe that they have little to no impact on the environment yet their actions have a big effect on the landscape. In climbing, it’s not important only to respect the land and the route, but to also have considerations for your fellow climbers.

Here are ways to be an ethical and responsible climber:

Respect the Zone 

One of the most important responsibilities a rock climber should have is respecting authorized climbing areas. Parks may impose restrictions due to wildlife habitats, erosion of the rock, or the effect that equipment has on the face or the plant life. Sticking to designated climbing areas will minimize the environmental impact that comes with hands and feet shearing away at the face. Before trying out a new route, inform yourself with guidebooks, other climbers, and local shops to find the areas that are deemed safe.

Stick to your Path

When approaching the route, stay on the marked trail as not to disrupt any local vegetation or animal habitats. If you need to move from one trail to another, backtrack along the last trail instead of cutting across the way. When you arrive at the site, prepare all the gear that you intend to use in advance and dispose of any waste such as food wrappers that you may consume before the climb. It’s generally a good idea to bring along a trash bag to store inside the climb pack. Preparation is key here: take only the equipment that you intend to use, as it not only saves on weight but it also reduces the chance of gear being left during the climb.

Mind the Trees

The actual climb has its own laws and ethics. Don’t use shrubbery or trees as anchors for the ropes; the friction can wear away the bark. If using a tree is necessary, use nylon webbing to feed the rope through so that the lines aren’t rubbing against the branches. Steering clear of rocks that have become loose or crumbly is not only safe for the climber, but it also reduces the risk of erosion. Grab a hold of the solid rock and don’t use overhanging branches or vegetation to pull yourself up. Finally be mindful about animals or birds that make their homes inside the cracks.

Leave no Trace

Just as they respect the face, fellow climbers must also be given consideration. When using chalk, use minimal amounts so that it reduces the visual mark left on the surface. Clean up any gear or material that are inserted into the cracks, and don’t remove fixed bolts that might be disruptive to other climbers who might need to rely on them. Stay away from crowded routes and opt for a blank face. You can always return to the original route. This reduces the chance of dangerously overcrowding the rock and many hands wearing down the face.

Support and Sustain

While climbers are responsible for their individual actions, supporting organizations that protect and conserve climbing areas will ensure that the routes are open and safe to climb. Since 1991, The Access Fund has been providing education and conservation to climbing areas, ensuring that they are safe and ethically maintained. The Access Fund works closely with the Alpine Club of America protecting rock, bouldering, ice, and alpine sites. By implementing fundraisers and banding together popular support for keeping climbing sites open, they have been instrumental in respecting the rights of climbers while also supporting environmental causes. Continued support to organizations such as the Access Fund will protect climbers and environmental habitats, making it safe and ethical.

Explore and Protect 

By minimizing their impact on the environment, climbers are responsible for protecting the fragile ecosystems along the route as well as being respectful and courteous to their companions. By being smart and resourceful, they can reduce the visual markings alongside the face and keep the rock natural and pristine. Using safe practices regarding equipment and waste will reduce erosion and the endangerment of natural habitats.

This Earth Day, I urge all climbers to be safe, respectful and ethical!