7 Myths About Environmental Impact While Camping

Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace. It’s not just about disposing of your trash properly and it doesn’t just apply when you’re out in nature. There is so much more to it…

If you are backpacking or camping there are lots of articles out there that go deeper into the LNT principles and are great resources. What I’m sharing with you here are the highlights, an overview to give you a moment to pause and ponder the concepts and how you can relate it to everyday life. 

1. Plan ahead and prepare


Biggest Myth: Planning takes the fun and spontaneity out of the trip.

Biggest Take Away: Planning ahead actually allows you to be more spontaneous and in the moment because you know you have the knowledge, gear, and net to catch you if things go off course. It also helps you reduces impact, fatigue and fear.

Taking It Home: When you have the right gear, tools and information you can meet the unexpected challenges with confidence and clarity. Whether it's in the wilderness or at home, getting clear on the situation you are walking into helps you stay grounded in who you are and how you want to show up.

2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces

Biggest Myth: The best camp spots are by the water.

Biggest Take Away: Camp spots right by the water can actually be pretty buggy and in the backcountry the ground near water tends to be more vulnerable. Camp and hike on areas that are resilient and durable (rock, gravel, dry grasses, packed dirt, snow).  The rule of thumb is to camp at least 200 feet from lakes and streams and off trail on already established sites.

Taking It Home: Knowing your strengths and the paths that are going to keep you grounded and clear are important components for sustainability. Follow your strength and the paths that you know lead to success. Sometimes it looks like there is a beautiful path by the water or a straight line to the view, but keeping in mind the overall impact of your choices helps you get where you ultimately want to go.

3. Dispose of waste properly

Wow, this one is so relevant today and to be honest, a principal I have not quite figured out how to live by when I am in my daily life. But by thinking about it, talking about it, and writing about it my hope is that it leads to increased awareness and discussion.

I am open to hearing your thoughts! 

Biggest Myth: Throwing away “biodegradable” waste in the wilderness is ok. For example, orange peels or apple cores or toilet paper.

Biggest Take Away: When we leave behind food and paper scraps animals dig them up, eat them, and things that are not natural to the environment get introduced.  Whatever you bring IN while backpacking it is your responsibility to take OUT. Pack it in -- Pack it out. While backpacking there are specific ways to do dishes 200 feet away from water, and if you are disposing of human waste make sure to dig a hole 6-8 inches deep. (If you are ever on a backpacking trip with me you will get to hear all about how to go poop outdoors by remembering the 8 D’s of Duki lol)

Taking It Home: We live in a throw away culture and in reality nothing goes away. Whatever we “throw away” ends up somewhere else. Whether it is in a landfill or the ocean. Thinking about what we use and what we leave behind is a big part of waking up to what it means to be a human with an impact and what our impact is. 

4. Minimize campfire impacts


Biggest Myth: Campfires are an essential part of camping. “While campfires are a timeless camping ritual, they can also be one of the most destructive ones.” - REI 

Biggest Take Away: Sometimes the most alluring of things are the most destructive. Finding alternatives can be magical. 

If campfires are already established at a campground, then use those. If you are in the backcountry, creating a new campfire can char the earth and take generations to heal.

  • Use what is already established. 

  • Keep fires small.

  • Make sure fires are completely out and don’t leave them unattended. 

Taking It Home: We can all find ourselves stuck in old habits, patterns that have been passed down through the generations. But sometimes those ways of being no longer serve us and it is important to find new and creative ways to honor our roots but transition to methods that honor our higher good. 

5. Leave what you find

I’ll be honest, I have definitely taken things from the wilderness that I thought looked cool (I still think they look cool). But I’m working on this one, trying to remember this principal and connect to the greater good.

Biggest Myth: Taking just one small cool rock or artifact from the natural world isn’t going to make an impact.

Biggest Take Away: Overtime and with how many people are heading into the outdoors, taking rocks as plants home for our own use can have a major impact on the land. Leave behind rocks, plants, and other objects

  • Avoid introducing new non native species through bringing in wood or unwashed kayaks, boots etc. 

  • Do not build structures, fire pits, furniture, or dig trenches. 

Taking It Home: I think about this in life and how sometimes I see something someone has and I want it. I don't take it, but I can get caught up in focusing on what I think that “thing” can offer me. If I have ______ (a new car or sweet gear) then I will be _______(happier, more confident).

Ok maybe you don't think like this, but I know for me I can definitely find myself lost in wanting things so I feel better. And sometimes that actually leads to harm. Either because in the moment it leads to me feeling dissatisfied, or, in the case of nature, it will lead us down a path of destroying what we love. 

6. Respect wildlife

Biggest Myth: Animals love food, so it's totally cool to feed them!

Biggest Take Away: There is a saying in the eastern sierras that a fed bear is a dead bear. Feeding wildlife is harmful not only to bears but to other animals and well.  Even though we love animals, it’s important to give them their distance and let them be in their environment without our influence. Especially keeping distance during mating season, nesting, or around their young. Although it's just nice to give space at all times. 

Taking It Home: We all operate in different ways. Giving space to the things we love, animals and people is really important. Sometimes people move at a different pace than us. They want more or want less than us and the more flexible we can be and just observe what's happening the more we can be engaged. 

7. Be considerate of other visitors


Biggest Myth: The outdoors is a great place to be able to get loud and party. 

Biggest Take Away: Again I have been backpacking and camping and been that person that is super excited and loud and got my music on full blast. But as I have ventured deeper into the wilderness I now really appreciate the silence and stillness that nature has to offer. It is a treat to hear the natural world so it’s nice to allow others to hear that as well. 

  • There is some basic trail etiquette like horses have the right away along with uphill travelers. It’s a good idea to get clear about the etiquette before heading into the backcountry. 

Taking It Home: Whether you are sharing the wilderness, a neighborhood, an apartment building, or a wall in your apt., taking into consideration what your space sharers are up to and what they are all about is just nice. No one can impose their silence on you but you can totally impose your noise on others so it’s polite to think about that and be considerate of others.

How will you apply these concepts on your next camping trip or in your everyday life? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!