As people who enjoy being outdoors, we also want to maintain the trails and woods we populate so frequently. This means leaving them in as good, or better condition than we found them and protecting the environment. There is nothing more disheartening than seeing piles of trash left at a campsite, on the side of a trail, or damage deliberately done by people. Trails have been known to be closed down to the public because of these things continually happening.
There are some principles that can be followed in order to facilitate long-term usage of trail systems for overlanding and more. Leave No Trace, Pack In/Pack Out, and Tread Lightly provide guidelines for how we should interact and treat the great outdoors. There is absolutely no reason to leave things in a worse condition than we found. By utilizing the principles listed here, we as overlanders can ensure trail systems stay open for years to come.
Tread Lightly, while applicable to other forms of outdoor recreation, also promotes and provides training for those who particularly enjoy off-road activities. They provide training across to adults and kids that teaches how to have the less amount of impact to the outdoors as possible. Tread Lightly offers some good, self-explanatory guidelines by using their namesake to break it down.
- Travel Responsibly
- Respect the Rights of Others
- Educate Yourself
- Avoid Sensitive Areas
- Do Your Part
Pack In, Pack Out is exactly how it sounds. With the amount of room available in most four-wheel drive vehicles, there is no reason to leave any trash or waste behind. Whatever items you decide to pack into a campsite should be the same items you pack out.
Much like Tread Lightly, Leave No Trace lays out a guideline for how we should treat the outdoors we love so much. Started in 1994, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics has been educating people who love being outdoors on being responsible stewards of the environment. They operate and educate people on seven basic principles to help keep the outdoors clean.
Put some time into researching where you are going to understand the rules, conditions, weather, etc. that you are going to be faced with.
As overlanders, our impact to the environment could be devastating. Making sure we stay on solid ground is pivotal to minimize damage and not have spots become recurring campsites.
Carrying as much gear as we do, it’s easy to take all waste with us once we leave camp. Things like the Trash-A-Roo allows for waste to be carried outside a vehicle rather than on the inside. It also makes it easy to clean up campsites and trails as you go.
There is no reason to carry out natural occurring souvenirs from a campsite, trail or any place you might visit. Leave everything as is, but take lots of pictures in order to recall what you’ve seen.
Campfires are a staple at the end of the day, either for cooking or just sitting around enjoying a beverage. However, they can be absolutely devastating if not attended properly. Either carry in a portable fire pit or use a pre-existing fire pit instead of digging a new hole.
Much like leaving things the way you find them, do not interrupt the natural flow of animals you find while out. This is both for your own safety as well as the animal’s safety.
The old adage of treat others the way you want to be treated is important to preserve the overall experience of being outdoors. Don’t ruin someone else’s experience by doing dumb things.