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The 7 Leave No Trace Principles for Camping

Over the winter I kept myself busy looking online at all things related to camping. It brightens my day when I think about campfires and the kids swimming in the lake.

During one of my many searches, I came across a non-profit company called Leave No Trace.

The goal behind this organization is to educate people on how to make less of an impact on the outdoors while camping and hiking. I thought it was a great idea to get a larger awareness out to the public. It’s so important to know how to enjoy the environment without ruining it.

I am happy to be teaming up with Leave No Trace and their cause!

How to Follow the 7 Leave No Trace Principles for Camping

Campfire Safety Is One of the 7 Leave No Trace Principles

Here’s how you and your family can follow the 7 Leave No Trace principles while family camping.

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

No matter how silly you may think this tip is, sometimes it just needs to be said!

Not only does planning ahead ensure your trip is comfortable and enjoyable, but it also keeps your family safe.

For camping, it’s particularly important to keep a close eye on the weather forecast. Also important is reading up on any camping rules like required permits, bear safety and food storage, and any potential fire restrictions.

Involve your children in the planning process. Not only is this fun, but it also teaches them responsibility. Let them help pick where to go, which campsite to pick, and which gear to pack.

Because bringing enough food is always important, we always like to ask our kids for help in the camping meal planning process.

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

In most cases when camping in Minnesota, we stay at a campground that has prepared a campsite.

However, when we are traveling into the backcountry we often have to find a place to set up camp on our own. Examples are backpacking, dispersed camping, and canoe camping.

Leave No Trace encourages guests to stay on existing trails and camp where there has been a previous camper.

I’ve found this tip useful for my family when we are hiking along the St. Croix. There is a clear path through the trees. I tell my children to stay on the path and don’t pick the flowers, otherwise the next person won’t get to enjoy them like we have during our hike.

Another example is cutting through switchbacks. Sure, it might be fun and save a bit of time, but it quickly damages the trail and surrounding wilderness.

3. Dispose of Waste Properly

This is perhaps my favorite of the 7 Leave No Trace principles…I love the Leave No Trace quote “Pack it in. Pack it out.”

It’s really that simple.

Don’t leave behind any clues that you were camping in that site. It’s frustrating when I arrive at a campground and have to spend time cleaning up after the campers before me.

I really get upset when I find broken glass and used cigarettes. I don’t want to have my kids stepping on anything that would send us to a clinic.

Another thing I have found is used water balloon pieces. That can be very harmful to kids and animals!

My biggest pet peeve is left behind human waste or pet waste. Many backcountry campsites are surrounded with poorly disposed of human waste and toilet paper.

Please, please, please, properly bury your waste – or, better yet, pack it out if you’re backpacking. It’s disgusting, horrible for the environment, and has even caused to public land closures!

The same goes for pet waste. Pick up after your dog – and pack out their dog bags. Don’t leave them on the side of the trail.

4. Leave What You Find

There is a natural process that takes place when we leave nature to do it’s thing.

Not only allowing the flowers and plants to do their thing, but keeping the rocks in place is just as important, too.

Animals survive within the natural environment and if we remove or change it we disrupt their homes. 

Observing the environment without changing it helps it to flourish, so we can enjoy it to the fullest.

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

Keep your campfires inside a campfire ring and use wood provided from the campground.

Keep your fire small and use wood pieces that fit within your campfire ring that will help prevent sparks and the chance of losing control of your fire.

Be sure to burn your wood completely and never ever leave sight of your campfire.

The proper way to put out a campfire is to extinguish with water, then stir up the coals with a shovel and pour water over the campfire once again.

To be safe always have a shovel and a bucket of water nearby during your campfire time.

And, remember, always follow all current fire restrictions! If there’s a campfire ban, save the campfire for next time.

6. Respect Wildlife

If you see an animal during your camping trip make sure you watch it from afar.

Don’t try to touch it or chase it and definitely don’t try to feed animals. Keep your pets on a leash during your stay and always keep a close eye on them.

Last year we had a coon come right up to us and without thinking I jumped onto the picnic table!

Trust me, I respect the idea of leaving wildlife alone!

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Everyone has a story of the noisy camper next to them who kept the whole campsite up all night.

So, try to remain respectful to the other visitors during your stay.

If you’re on a hiking trail, step aside for groups coming your way and smile.

Making another person’s experience in the outdoors better by being kinder is always a good tip.

Watch For Leave No Trace Events Near You

An evening view of Paddle Lake in the BWCA

Leave No Trace regularly holds events throughout the year.

Many times these are at state parks. Stop at a State Park next time you’re out camping and ask the office if they have a Leave No Trace booth planned for that week or weekend.

Not only is this a great way to learn more about the 7 Leave No Trace principles for camping, but you’re likely to meet other outdoor lovers.

Who knows, it might even be our family behind the table or leading the family fun activities! We’d love it if you stopped by and said hi.

Happy Camping!