- Sep 5, 2014 at 6:06 am #1320629
This came up in a topic in the gear forum. I'm sure it has been discussed here plenty in length before, but I would like to bring it up again for those who are new or missed previous posts.
What does Leave No Trace mean to you and how do you practice it?Sep 5, 2014 at 6:20 am #2132878
Ken T.BPL Member
Though I do not necessarily agree about micro litter.Sep 5, 2014 at 7:26 am #2132900
Todd TBPL Member
@texasbbLocale: Pacific Northwest
There's no such thing. The animals don't LNT and neither can we. You can Leave Minimal Trace, and that's what I try to do, but that really means different things depending on the ecosystem, the time of year, the weather, the number of visitors, etc. The LNT Seven Principles are pretty good–slight overkill in some places, maybe inadequate in others.Sep 5, 2014 at 7:41 am #2132903
@lori999Locale: Central Valley
I get tired of piles of TP, fire rings the size of tents, piles of trash, and piles of fish guts in two inches of water.
If more people paid attention to LNT you could actually feel the wilderness was still wild.Sep 5, 2014 at 7:47 am #2132905
Michael GunderloyBPL Member
Watching LNT taught around here, and practiced (more or less) by a variety of Scouting and other groups, it's clearly a continuum. On the one end, you have the absolute hardcore LNT guys (all guys in my experience so far). They won't wear any bright colors, insist on packing out their used TP, swallow their toothpaste, and insist on suspended fire pans for any fire. On the other end, you have kids who at least pick up their litter after camping, and perhaps more that other people left. (Well really the other end of the spectrum is the all-too-prevalent Pig People who don't give a hoot about LNT, but I have no patience with them).
What I try to teach my own kids is to simply leave things better than they found them and don't do anything to make what little wilderness is left around here a worse experience for other people. In southern Indiana, that usually means camping in sites that are already so highly impacted that they're unlikely to ever recover, rather than finding somewhere nicer. And we pack out a lot of trash that other people left.Sep 5, 2014 at 7:50 am #2132907
Sumi WadaBPL Member
@detroittigerfanLocale: Ann Arbor
This is what *I* do but don't, in any way, feel that everyone should do the same.
– The basic common sense stuff about trash, wildlife, etc.
– I pack out all toilet paper and food scraps
– No soap, but I do use a little toothpaste
– No firesSep 5, 2014 at 9:57 am #2132939
I try to be quiet. Seems to be the most forgotten of the LNT principles.
Talk softly, slowly open zippers, …
I can work around the trash but the noise is another story.Sep 5, 2014 at 10:32 am #2132952
Katherine .BPL Member
*careful what I step on, try not to impact any living plant
*pack out TP, if used
*be especially careful around water sources
I'm starting to get in the habit of picking up any other trash I see, especially if it's towards the end of the trip or hike. Don't always, just if I'm feeling virtuous.
I haven't sorted out my views on fire rings yet. I don't create them, I don't dismantle them. I'm kinda glad when I see one, cause I like a fire. Other than some people finding fire rings eyesores, and idiots who cut branches off growing trees, what are the ramifications of fires and fire rings? Does the depletion of downed wood make that much of a difference? Is there an impact on wildlife, vegetation? And why is the distance from lakes an issue — just to keep the yahoos at bay?
I take blueberries/huckleberries. I leave toothpaste, unscented Dr. Bronners, human waste. If I swim, sunscreen residue gets in the water. And there are surely other light traces that I haven't thought of.
Overall I think LNT, on the finer points, gets into: Is this a human-to-human issue (aesthetic stuff) or is this a human-to-wildlife issue? Both are valid, and can overlap, but I give more weight the human-to-wildlife concerns.Sep 5, 2014 at 10:42 am #2132956
Bob GrossBPL Member
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
"Does the depletion of downed wood make that much of a difference?"
In some national parks like Yosemite, there is a lot of forest well below timberline. However, around timberline, the trees thin out to nothing. What little wood that still grows up there is necessary to decompose into the soil in order to keep other live plants growing. As a result, there is an elevation just below timberline where wood fires are forbidden.
Lower in elevation, wood fires are discouraged. Wood fire pits become an eyesore, and forest fires from runaway wood fires are terribly destructive.
–B.G.–Sep 5, 2014 at 10:53 am #2132960
Fire rings are a pet peeve of mine. Fire rings near popular campsites, sure. But people create them in places where they shouldn't be. It really sucks walking up some "remote" river canyon way up who knows where and stumbling across a fire ring that somebody made decades ago. It's like leaving trash.
Just build a fire, crush up the coals when finished, and scatter the ashes. The rains will wash the ashes away into the dirt and leaf litter will cover it. Mostly LNT. Over you can bury the coals which is totally LNT.
Why do people feel the need to make a fire ring when they camp in a new area? A fire pit serves no function other than to designate an area for concentrated impact.
I've built a lot of fires and the art of an LNT or mostly LNT fire is lost on most hikers.Sep 5, 2014 at 10:54 am #2132962
John HarperBPL Member
@johnnyh88Locale: The SouthWest
Not wearing bright colors? That seems a bit ridiculous to me.
Swallowing toothpaste? I doubt that has an effect in the grand scheme of things.
I'll pack out TP and all my trash. I typically try to use obvious camp sites instead of making a new one. Being quiet is good, but I don't see anything wrong with some laughter or opening zippers normally (no one is around to hear me anyway).
I use fire rings. I think they make a good place to concentrate a group's impact. If you think they impact your "wilderness experience", you have to realize that you're on a trail anyway (probably man-made) and you can walk past them in a few seconds. Edit: I've never built a new one. Justin's technique of burying or scattering coals is what I've used when no fire ring is around, but more often I'll skip the fire if that's the case.
Maybe my views are different from living in the West. I'll often see very few people and frequently go several days without seeing anyone at all. I think a single group of horse packers make more of an impact than many groups of hikers.Sep 5, 2014 at 11:51 am #2132972
Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
I think if people see trash, they're more likely to leave their trash also, so I usually pick up any trash I see, especially little bits like rubber bands or the top of a wrapper someone ripped off to get into their food.
If I see iron pieces like "tin cans" I'll usually just put it in bushes where no one will see it. Let it rust away. Too heavy to haul out. The rust is actually a nutrient.
Aluminum is easy to squish into a ball and haul out.
Cigarette butts are smelly so I just hide in a bush or bury.
I found a big nylon bag which I folded and set there to haul out on the way back, but I went back a different way. Hopefully someone will pick it up and either use it or haul it out.
My pet pieve is the remnants of balloons that someone "released", probably in the city, and drifted into the wilderness where it deflated. It seems like it's socially acceptable to "release" balloons, but to me it's the same as dumping trash out your window.Sep 5, 2014 at 4:21 pm #2133057
John S.BPL Member
LNT approach seems like a failure to me. Their website and principles are not clear enough for people to understand easily what their conduct should be in the wilderness.Sep 5, 2014 at 7:33 pm #2133107
David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
I'd prefer, "Leave it better than you found it." over "Leave no trace" because LNT is not actually possible while LIBTYFI is very doable and tasked with a doable task, most people will engage and excel.
Some of my pet peeves: Don't fricking "burn" aluminum foil. Because it doesn't burn. It just goes to aluminum oxide which is brittle and very hard to retrieve. And if you're going to burn anything (paper, plastics, hot dogs, etc), do it in a very hot fire, not as the fire smolders down to nothing.
And land-use managers: let's acknowledge that people do USE this land to camp, backpack, etc. Rather than have 10 out of 12 backpackers pack in a "bear-proof" container, let's just place steel food boxes in campsites. I KNOW I'm not in total wilderness – I can tell because I hiked in along a CONSTRUCTED TRAIL that was dynamited, stacked up and maintained for the last 80 years. I've thought, for each of my 30,000 steps that day, "Wow, I'm glad someone built this trail here!" so a few accessories at a campsite doesn't change the "wilderness" experience for me. Likewise, a steel fire-circle ring (the well-designed ones with air-holes low on the ring) promotes fire use in one place, produces less smoke, and greatly reduces the forest-fire risk. I'd much rather the JMT simply required one to have food in a bear-proof container (meaning you could carry one or stay in established campsites with steel food boxes) and not have wood fires outside of official fire rings, letting some have those fires and others (no-cook, or canister users) avoid the established campsites.Sep 5, 2014 at 7:55 pm #2133113
Randy NelsonBPL Member
"I try to be quiet. Seems to be the most forgotten of the LNT principles.
Talk softly, slowly open zippers, … "
I don't know about this one. I feel if I have to slowly open a zipper, I've chosen a poor campsite. I thought about it and the last time I can remember camping near enough to someone else where they might even hear me was on the very busy 4 Pass Loop in Maroon Bells 2 years ago. And even then it was only because my friend wanted to push on and leave a perfectly good out out of the way campsite and we ended up having to camp wherever we could. Totally our fault. I apologized the next morning to the guys we camped next to for showing such bad form. They had no problem with it all, which was nice.
If I have to camp near a trail, I walk a good quarter mile past the spot I'm considering to make sure no one else is around before putting up my shelter. If I need to whisper, then I should have picked a better site, and will move on until I find one, if that is possible. I know that's not always possible (see 4 Pass Loop above), but that's my goal.Sep 5, 2014 at 8:11 pm #2133116
Ralph BurgessBPL Member
Don't build cairns.
If trail crews or rangers feel that hikers should be directed a particular way, for safety or to preserve fragile landscape, they will mark the route. If not, leave the wilderness in its natural state and respect the ability of those that follow to find their own way. Don't take it upon yourself to decide that the dumb route that you think you were so uniquely clever to find deserves a memorial.Sep 5, 2014 at 8:16 pm #2133117
Katherine .BPL Member
I don't generally think of auditory offenses as part of LNT, since they don't really stay, but…
People playing music WITHOUT headphones really bugs me. Twice on a group trip people played music on their iPhones and recently I encountered guys hiking part of the PCT with a radio playing.Sep 5, 2014 at 10:28 pm #2133138
brian HBPL Member
@b14Locale: Siskiyou Mtns
To anyone who builds rock fire rings in the wild, except for where theyre washed away by rivers etc, I ask you to ask yourself Why?
The answer is undoubtedly " out of habit". The Rings serve virtually no purpose other than blackening rocks most Permanently, and Leaving a Trace. If your thought is, The purpose is to block wind, You probably shouldn't be building a fire in the first place. Fire & wind in the backcountry, not a good combination.
Next time dear fire ring builder, for once please experiment with no ring at all…you may find your fire burns just fine, and is rather enjoyable, and you will leave less trace for the rest of us.
And please be responsible with aluminum foil. The backcountry Rangers in the High Sierra are absolutely exhausted by years of retrieving tiny bits of aluminum foil from ash pits, which is very very difficult. Foil users should take it upon themselves to LIBTYFI as David says.Sep 5, 2014 at 10:37 pm #2133140
Agree with everything you said Brian. However, sometimes I will stack up a wall of rocks on one side of the fire to block the wind or to create a heat reflector. Always take it down.
If I stop by a creek and want to cook something I will make a small fire and kick the coals/ashes directly into creek when done. That's an easy way to take care of it. Most streams already have large pieces of burned wood in them so I'm pretty sure it's not an issue.
It's possible to incinerate foil. I've sifted through the ashes to be sure. Takes a big winter warming fire to do that.Sep 5, 2014 at 10:42 pm #2133141
Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
Burned wood is fertilizer. Just let it be and it will get spread around and used by plants.
It's better to just let the wood decompose naturally and slowly, but not that bad to burn it. The nutrients are quickly released, which is sort of a bad thing.Sep 5, 2014 at 10:45 pm #2133144
I will say that there are some places in which there is so much dead wood that the dead wood is crowding forest floor space and likely making it difficult for undergrowth to develop.Sep 6, 2014 at 12:28 am #2133149
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
> some places in which there is so much dead wood that the dead wood is crowding forest
> floor space and likely making it difficult for undergrowth to develop.
But that is how that bit of the forest is. That is not a justification for burning it all up.
On the other hand, some of our rainforest areas have a totally clear floor: the canopy is 100%. Any dead wood around is WET right through.
CheersSep 6, 2014 at 12:38 am #2133151
My point is that fuel depletion is not an ecological issue for low elevation forests outside of well used campsites.Sep 6, 2014 at 5:34 am #2133158
@hknewmanLocale: Western US
Basically picking up after ones self is my def of LNT. There's also following the various environmental codes and in some western US counties it could be the county (sheriffs now have their own environmental patrol units) or state, in addition to federal forest rangers.
All it takes are some bad apples to add layers of law enforcement and more rules to the American backcountry experience.Sep 6, 2014 at 7:21 am #2133168
Dale WambaughBPL Member
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
Joe asked, "What does Leave No Trace mean to you and how do you practice it?"
Leaving no trace of my visit so someone else can enjoy it. That means doing my best by not using campfires, trenching or otherwise modifying campsites, damage to foliage, leaving garbage, etc.
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