Saturday, October 22, 2011


If you packed it in, pack it out.  This is one of the hardest rules to follow.  It’s our nature not to want to carry trash.  Cans, glass, foil, plastic, paper, hygiene products and food waste should never be burned or buried.  All trash should be wrapped in double sealed Ziploc bags and carried out.  Look at it this way, it was bulkier and heavier carrying it in, it’s going to be easier carrying it out.  Cans can be crushed, foil, plastic, and paper waste can be balled up to save even more room in your pack.  Inspect your site before leaving for trash (including trash others left behind) and spilled food.  You should leave your site in better shape then when you arrived.
◦There are now two different camps on how to deal with human waste.  Some low impact rules teach leaving fecal matter on the surface, to allow bacteria present to die off.  Others recommend burying the matter.  OutdoorPlaces.Com recommends burying all fecal matter six to eight inches underground in a cat hole.  The best way to do this is with a shovel remove a divot of ground in one piece about eight inches deep.  When you are done using the hole simply replace the divot back over the hole.  Again all paper and hygiene products should be carried out.  If you are camping in an arid or semi arid climate, urine can be disposed of in fast moving clear water downstream from your campsite (and others).  Urine left on the surface in a desert environment can take months to wash away and can leave a powerful smell that will affect wildlife.
◦When you wash your dishes, do it at least 200 feet away from any natural water source.  Some camps teach that if you are traveling less than five days, using hot water to wash your dishes is all you will need.  If you do use soap use it sparingly and use biodegradable low-phosphate products.  Disperse your gray water out over a wide area and don’t leave any meaningful pieces of food waste in the gray water.
◦If you are visiting historical or cultural areas feel free to examine and look, but do not touch, move or alter these.  The desert petroglyphs across the southwest are in grave danger from such activity.  The oils in your hand are very destructive to fragile artifacts.
◦Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects where you find them.  Moving a rock to use as a stool can affect the wildlife and leaves a visible scar.  The collection of plants rocks or geological features is illegal in most parks, and in some settings can be a very serious felony.
◦Make efforts to prevent introducing non-native species to an area.  If you have traveled a long distance to a new habitat, make sure your gear; especially your boots and tent are free of all dust and dirt.  This can harbor seeds, which can damage an ecosystem by its introduction.  If you are using horses or other pack animals source your feed locally and check with local authorities.  Equestrian introduction of non-native species is a serious problem today.
◦Do not build structures, make furniture, dig trenches, or make a pit toilet area.  Again, a good campsite is found, not created.  Only build a structure in a survival situation where you life absolutely depends on it.
◦Campfires can cause long lasting scars in the backcountry.  When possible use a cooking stove and gas lantern for cooking and lighting.
◦When fires are permitted in a backcountry area, use provided fire rings, grates, pans or other provided areas.
◦Don’t make large fires.  Only use dead wood found on the ground that can be broken by hand.  Large fires can be hard to manage.
◦Burn all wood and coals down to ash (or as far as possible).  Put out the campfire completely with water and stir the ashes until no embers or hot spots are left.  Scatter the cooled ashes (done properly it is actually good for the environment).  Any coals that may be left should be brittle enough to be broken down by stepping on them.

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