8 Things You Must Not Do While on a Camping Trip

— The highly practical guidelines for ‘leave no trace’ camping

The concept of Leave No Trace camping has been developed by the nonprofit organization of the same name.

leave on trace

Their goal is to educate and encourage individuals to responsibly enjoy and actively steward outdoor environment throughout the world so that wild spaces can be preserved for many generations to come.

As such, they’ve developed some highly practical guidelines that will make your camping trip safer and more enjoyable for all involved.

1. Don’t Leave Litter Behind

campsite rules( Photo by johnnyalive )

One of the first rules of Leave No Trace (LNT) camping is to pack out what you pack in, which means essentially: don’t be a litterbug! Not only does littered trash take a long time to decompose in the wild, it also creates hazards for wildlife — and an unsightly mess for the next camper to boot!

So plan to either minimize the quantity of packaging and waste you take in (wrappers, cans, bags, and toilet paper) by taking reusable containers, etc, and/or be careful to inspect your campsite before you leave to remove any offending stuff.

2. Don’t Steal the Wild Things

beautiful pictograph( Photo by mikebaird )

Whether you find a nifty flower or spot a beautiful pictograph on camping trip, leave it where you found it so that the next person can enjoy it.

Not only does this make for a more universally enjoyable outdoor experience, in the case of flora and fauna, it helps to preserve the delicate balance of the local ecology. When in doubt, hands off! Look with your eyes only.

3. Don’t Use the Outdoors As Your Toilet

lnt toilet( Photo by inhisgrace )

As natural as it might seem, human waste left out in the open can create hazards for you and for wildlife alike.

Excrement can spread disease and pollute local streams, rivers, and lakes and thereby harming wildlife, and it can also attract animals to your campsite. To protect yourself, create a LNT toilet for yourself or pack out your own waste (yup, you heard us right!).

4. Don’t Leave Coals Burning

coal burning( Photo by Genista )

Practicing safe fire habits while outdoors is also important. Be sure to keep fires small and contain them in fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.

Then, don’t forget to make sure that all wood is burned to ash and cooled completely before you leave. Then scatter the ashes to minimize the scar you leave behind.

5. Don’t Feed the Wildlife

wildlife( Photo by Genista )

As fun as it might seem to you to try to get close to wildlife by offering them a morsel of your lunch, you’re doing them a disservice in the long run.

Offering human food to wild animals while on the camping trip can harm their health and create negative patterns of behavior in them that may cause harm in future. Observe wildlife from a distance and protect your food by keeping it in secure containers.

6. Don’t Let Your Pets Run Wild

pets( Photo by dionhinchcliffe )

It’s a great idea to take your pets with you while camping, but be sure to maintain order and control so that they don’t harm wildlife or damage the local ecosystem.

Keep them close and leashed when possible to avoid any negative outdoor interactions between them and the local inhabitants. You don’t want either to be harmed!

7. Don’t Wash Dishes in the River

washing dishes( Photo by Mike Burns )

Washing your dishes, clothes, and bodies in local waterways (rivers, streams, and lakes) can pollute these water systems, causing harm to wildlife.

In general, when washing up, do so 70-80 adult steps from any freshwater sources, and use only soaps that will biodegrade rapidly (such as castle soaps). Better yet, don’t use soap at all! Then dispose of any washed water by sprinkling it well away from the water system while on the camping trip.

8. Don’t Forget to Plan Ahead

preparation( Photo by Elsie esq. )

Preparation is the key to having a safe, enjoyable time in the great outdoors.

Be sure to check weather forecasts to determine whether it’s safe to travel and to plan properly for where and when to set up camp. A hurried campsite set-up is likely to damage vegetation and create more waste.

More resources:

Tips for Camping without Electricity

Camping Gadgets You Must Have

Modern & Creative Camper Trailers

Canadian Camping Destinations