Most backpackers have a deep respect and appreciation for nature. Not all backpackers understand that it is important to demonstrate this respect by backpacking in a manner that ensures the land used is not harmed or damaged in anyway. If all backpackers follow some basic conservation practices, we can preserve these beautiful lands for future generations.
1. Leave No Trace
This is the golden rule of responsible backpacking. There should be no sign that you and your group passed through. You should tread as lightly as possible on your hikes. Do not cut down trees to use as firewood. In fact, many public lands forbid the lighting of fires. Even if you just burn dead wood, you could still be causing damage to the local ecosystem. Many small animals and insects live in rotting timber. Burn dead wood, and you could destroy their home.
2. Pack It Out
If something came with you into the woods, it needs to leave with you. This includes personal items such as toilet paper and tissues. Leaving bits of paper and garbage behind will only spoil the view for the group that hikes through after you.
3. Camp Strategically
When you pick your camp site, you should stay at a designated, predetermined site if possible. If you are hiking in an area where people just pitch their tents as they see fit, you should try to camp on a piece of pristine land. Although this might seem counter-intuitive, it is actually better for the site. As long as you are careful and clean up after yourself, your campsite will quickly recover from your overnight stay. If you stay at a site that shows some signs of use, you will be further damaging that site. Others will see the used site and camp there are well. Grasses will die, and erosion due to heavy use can occur. It is better to camp on an unspoiled piece of land that will quickly recover than to add to the deterioration of a heavily-used campsite.
4. Stay On The Trail
Keep the wilderness as pristine as possible by staying on the trail. If the trail is impassable at a certain point, cut around the damaged section but stay as close to the original trail as possible. When you return to civilization, report the damaged trail to the park ranger or other authority.
5. Avoid Overused Parks
Some parks are so overcrowded that when you hike their trails you have quite a bit of company. If a park is used too much, significant damage can occur. To prevent this, some parks require permits and reservations to keep foot traffic down to a responsible level. Other lands, despite unsustainable use, do not follow this practice. If you visit an area and believe that it is being used irresponsibly, go somewhere else for your next hiking trip.
When she’s not enjoying the great outdoors on land or sea, Louise Baker is a freelance writer and blogger. She most recently has written for the Zen College Life directory of online colleges. Her most recent article dealt with ranking the best colleges online.