Leave no Trace – Plan ahead and prepare

Leave No Trace is an outdoor ethic which promotes responsible stewardship in the outdoors.  It is composed of seven principles (not laws) that promote a minimal footprint when you venture into the outdoors.

The first of these principles is, “Plan ahead and prepare.” Also sometimes stated as, “know before you go.”  By studying up on the land and animals and plants you are likely to encounter, as well as learning and practicing the outdoor skills you will need, you can help to minimize your impact on nature.

There are a lot of cases where you can reduce or minimize the impacts you have on the land, flora, and fauna by knowing what it’s going to be like and planning carefully.  A lot of times, being unprepared forces you to behave in a way that leaves greater impacts on nature.

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For instance, if you manage to get out of your depth and are in an actual survival situation, you may be forced to build shelter or a fire with whatever protected plant is at hand or even eat whatever endangered animal is available.  But by studying the likely conditions of your planned trek, you can often avoid situations where you have to damage your surroundings to keep yourself alive.

That reminds me of a story about a hiker that ate a California Condor – but that is a story for another day!

But it doesn’t even have to be that dramatic.  If you come unprepared, you might have to cut tent stakes or tie your hammock to a tree with a rope that damages the tree.

If you fail to take a GPS or map & compass (and the skills that it takes to use them), you might be forced into a situation where you have to cut trail markers, use marking tape, or build a cairn to avoid becoming lost.

If you fail to carry a bear can or hang your smellables properly, you could attract a bear, which could be dangerous for you – but something you might not know is, “a fed bear is a dead bear!” If you feed a bear and it becomes accustomed to approaching humans for food, the Rangers might have to kill it to protect humans.

Know before you go

Plan ahead and prepare

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