How To Leave No Trace On A Hike

By Di Westaway | Chief Adventure Chick at Wild Women On Top

This summer Mother Nature has shown us her best and worst. She’s unleashed fires upon our parched lands and hail upon our parliament. She’s watered our wilderness, filled dams and flooded rivers.

She’s also forced us to contemplate what we can all do to live and tread more gently upon her fragile flora, to protect our threatened fauna and to support a healthy, flourishing natural environment.

At Wild Women On Top, we believe in the ‘leave no trace’ philosophy while hiking. The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor ethics was formed in 1987, in an effort to protect the natural world by minimising our impact. The organisation educates outdoor adventurers to leave no trace as well as teaching us how to solve some of the problems we’ve created in nature.

Research shows that a cumulative impact from every discarded wrapper can devastate a natural area and removing rubbish is a simple but important and effective act of service.

The Seven principles of Leave No Trace underpin Wild Women On Top’s approach to hiking and they can also be applied in local parks and your own backyard.

Principle 1: Plan ahead and Prepare.

As our hikers and Coastrekkers know, planning and preparation ensure you stay safe, have a fabulous adventure, build your confidence and minimise damage to nature. Planning and preparing means having the right physical and mental fitness as well as the correct gear and training for your chosen hiking adventure.

Principle 2: Hike on durable surfaces.

Walking on formed tracks and trails where possible prevents damage to the plants as well as making navigation easier. Off-trail hikers need to consider the durability of the surface and the group size to ensure the vegetation isn’t damaged. Grass tends to be resistant to trampling, but wet meadows and moss are not. As a general rule, if you’re hiking off trail, its best to spread out to avoid creating a path.

Principle 3: Dispose of waste properly.

All hikers know they must carry a rubbish bag to take their rubbish out but there’s a few tricks of the trade when it comes to managing our poo. To avoid the embarrassment of having somebody see you, or worse still, step in your poo, it's best to bury it, along with natural toilet paper, in a cat hole away from the trail and away from water.

Tampons must be packed out and pee impact is best minimised by diluting with water. Dishes should be licked clean and leftovers packed out. If you notice rubbish left by others, pay it forward and pack it out.

Principle 4: Leave what you find

Leave nature as you found it by avoiding damage to live trees, plants and soil. Natural wonders such as petrified wood, coloured stones, shells and indigenous artefacts should remain untouched.

Principle 5: Minimise Campfire Impacts

Most National Parks these days are fuel stove only but if you’re lucky enough to find one that has a campfire, or allows you to build one, your priority is to thoroughly extinguish all fires and return the site to nature. This means considering the fire danger, the fragility of the terrain and the presence of fuel without damaging the environment. Stoves are now an essential part of your minimal impact hiking kit as they leave no trace.

Principle 6: Respect wildlife

Travelling quietly and observing wildlife from a distance is recommended for hikers. Do not pursue, touch, feed or frighten animals away. Ensure you do not pollute their water or food sources. Swimming in lakes or streams is ok in most instances but do not bathe with sunscreen or other chemicals on your skin.

Principle 7: Be considerate of others

Many hikers love the tranquillity of nature so resist taking your dog into the wilderness and leave the rock box and drone at home. Be considerate of others with your use of technology and ensure you respect others personal space.

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