Allow others a sense of discovery by leaving rocks, plants, archaeological artifacts and other objects of interest as you find…
The use of campfires in the backcountry was once a necessity and is now steeped in history and tradition. This tradition is so entrenched in our minds that for some the thought of going on a backcountry camping trip and not having a fire is almost unthinkable. Yet the natural appearance of many areas has been compromised by the overuse of fires and the ever-increasing demand for firewood. The development of versatile and efficient campstoves has facilitated a shift away from the traditional fire, making them essential equipment for minimum-impact camping. Stoves are fast and flexible, and they eliminate firewood availability as a concern in campsite selection. If you typically depend on fires as a light source, consider using a light-weight candle lantern as an alternative. The most important factors in determining whether or not to have a fire are:
Carefully designing your trip to match your expectations and outdoor skill level is the first step in being prepared . Make inquiries with local land managers about the character and popularity of your intended destination. Many wilderness areas suffer from overuse and it is important to seek alternative locations when possible. The information gathered can assist you in planning your clothing, equipment and fuel.
Concentrating use in popular or high-use areas is a simple and effective method to reduce the impact of a backcountry visit. Main travel corridors and popular destinations usually have well-established trails and campsites. Continued use causes little additional impact to these features although overcrowding diminishes the overall experience for some.
Respect other visitors’ need for solitude. When traveling in the backcountry, care is required to minimize disturbance of other visitors. The feeling of solitude is enhanced when contacts are infrequent, party size is small and behavior is unobtrusive.
Pristine areas are typically remote, seldom visited and have few obvious impacts. Visit pristine areas only if you are committed to and knowledgeable in the techniques required to Leave No Trace in that particular area. Rocky places with shallow soils, sandy areas, low heath balds, cliffs, bogs and wetlands often harbor residual populations of endangered plants and animals in the Southeast. Avoid travel through these areas altogether.
Hike in small groups. The impacts associated with cross country travel are minimized when group size is small, routes are carefully selected to avoid fragile terrain and critical wildlife habitat, and special care is taken to avoid disturbance. If you are traveling with a large group, hike in groups of no more than 4-6 people.
Camp organization and cleanliness take on heightened significance in bear country. The primary concern here is safety, both for the visitor and the bear. Although black bears are shy and usually prefer to stay away from people, a bear can be a very dangerous animal if provoked or habituated to humans. Personal safety is the first priority, but safety of the bear is also a concern. Once habituated to people-usually because it associates people with food-it can rapidly become a “problem” bear and will have to be dealt with accordingly, ultimately at the expense of its life.
Where bears are present, carefully follow the practices listed below. If a bear encounter occurs, it should be reported to the appropriate wildlife agency or land management office.
Selecting a Leave No Trace fire site.
At established sites, use existing fire rings. These help concentrate the impact associated with fires and keep surrounding areas in more natural condition. Constructing new rock rings for campfires or building fires against boulders or ledges is inappropriate as it blackens rocks and disturbs underlying soils. If you choose to have a fire where there are no existing fire rings, you must take the extra responsibility to learn and practice stringent Leave No Trace techniques, such as those outlined below.
Campfire impacts are among the most common and obvious recreational impacts in wildlands. In backcountry areas of the Northeast, campfires are generally discouraged, and in any of the region’s alpine zones, fires should never be built. Backcountry visitors should always carry the appropriate equipment for warmth, shelter and light, and a lightweight campstove for all cooking needs.
This recommendation against a once-traditional part of back country camping is due to ecological and aesthetic problems at recreation sites caused by overuse and abuse of fires and wood supplies. Because of these cumulative impacts, some land managers and owners have prohibited the use of campfires. Others allow their use in designated sites, or by permit only.
Reduce your impact on other visitors. Being friendly and outgoing toward other hikers and campers is a natural trait of backcountry visitors, but every visitor has a desired level of socialization or solitude. Around shelters or designated camp sites, share news of the day’s events with other groups, and enjoy the camaraderie fostered by a dry spot in a rainstorm, but remember to be respectful of others’ needs for cooking and sleeping space, and for a good night’s sleep.
Portable radios and tape players often disturb other visitors and wildlife. Technological “conveniences” such as cellular phones, GPS devices, etc. harms the integrity of the wilderness experience for many people. If you plan on using such items, do so unobtrusively and consider whether they contribute to the backcountry experience you are seeking, or instead cause you to miss elements of it.
Leave natural and cultural artifacts. Natural objects of beauty or interest, such as antlers or mineral crystals, should be left alone for others to discover and enjoy. In national parks and some other areas it is illegal to remove natural objects, or to do so without a permit.
Archaeological, cultural and historic artifacts preserve an important part of our nation’s past. Some artifacts and locations are sacred to Native Americans, others may contain clues to the past that a historian can help us interpret.