Leave No Trace: Principle 1 - Plan Ahead & Prepare

Leave No Trace: Principle 1 - Plan Ahead & Prepare

Author: Tina Eckerlin

With the New Year upon us, I can't help but think about moving forward with a renewed, and more determined sense of land stewardship.

Most people have heard of Leave No Trace in some form, but if you haven't - Leave No Trace is a set of outdoor ethics created by the Leave No Trace Center of Outdoor Ethics promoting conservation in the outdoors. Wikipedia.

Before launching Terrain UL, there were many values that I wanted to make certain this cottage gear company had at its core. These codes of ethics were to be superimposed at the heart of everything we do, no matter how big we may scale up. Social and environmental responsibility to our community are branded on our hearts, Leave No Trace Principles were at the top of my list.

Terrain UL is a proud partner of Leave No Trace Canada. The word proud falls short. Our partnership with Leave No Trace Canada is a promise to help promote, educate and advocate for good land stewardship and the 7 Leave No Trace Principles.

So, in an effort to spread the word and to try to improve our own outdoor habits, we will explore the 7 Leave No Trace (LNT) Principles for the first 7 weeks of 2023!

Most people think that LNT is just about picking up your garbage. This is definitely a big part of LNT, but it is so much more than that. Every action has an impact, and can have a trickle effect that you may not have even thought of. 

So before even heading out, lets be prepared!

Principle 1 - Plan Ahead and Prepare

Planning ahead can make the difference between a great trip and a potentially miserable, or even a dangerous trip. 

Beforehand, decide what your goals are, and what each participants skills, abilities and expectations are.

Know the Rules

Before heading out on an adventure do your research! Knowledge is power.

  • Does the site, trail or water system have specific rules, bans and guidelines?
    • Group size
    • Camping areas
    • Waste disposal
    • Seasonal or temperature closures
    • Recommendations or restrictions
    • Food storage rules
    • Fire bans
    • Camp cookstove type restrictions
    • Can and bottle bans
  • Are you required to register?
    • Permits
    • Reservations
    • Free camping or reserved sites
    • Parking
  • Is there a recommended skill level required?
    • Are there mandatory information sessions like in many National Parks
    • Does the Park recommend specific skills or experience
  • What are the access rights?
    • Park land
    • Private land boundaries
    • Public land
    • Trail closures or re-routes
    • Seasonal or temperature closures 

By researching the rules and guidelines, you can better ensure trail etiquette, avoid park fines and most importantly -stay safe and preventing search and rescue.

Natural Hazards

Sometimes, nature has other plans for us. Preparing for bad weather, natural hazards and other emergencies can mean the difference between being uncomfortable and extreme danger.

  • What is the weather forecast?
    • Check local weather forecasts, and plan routes accordingly
    • Pack tested gear suitable for weather and temperatures
    • Avoid summits in bad weather
    • Be ready to change your plans or routes based on in-coming weather
  • What potential natural hazards are there?
    • Check campsite areas for possible threats of dead tree falls
    • During a storm, are you situated in a flash flood, avalanche or rock slide/fall area
    • Know what to do during lightening strikes and thunderstorms
    • Are there fire closures or potential wildfires
    • Dangerous plants, know how to identify 
    • River crossings
    • High altitude
    • Ice
  • Other Emergencies
    • General physical injuries and other medical emergencies, have first aid training and supplies. What types of injuries can occur in area?
      • Dehydration
      • Heat exhaustion and heat stoke
      • Sunburns
      • Frost bite and hypothermia 
      • snake and insect bites
      • Anaphylaxis
    • If part of a group, make sure your medical needs are shared with the group
    • Know what to do if you get lost or separated from your group, have a plan
    • Threatening animal encounters, know what to do
    • Leave a plan with a contact person at home with your itinerary

Make sure you have any required medication, a first aid kit and the knowledge of how to use it! At the very minimum take a simple First Aid course, learn what to do and how to do it.

Learn about the climate, weather patterns and terrain you will be visiting. Make sure that you have tested and quality gear that is appropriate for that climate.

Low-Traffic Periods

When planning trips, you can lessen your impact on the environment by visiting during low-traffic periods. This can allow the eco-systems of sites and trail systems to recover between visitors.

Things to consider:

  • Time of year, why is it a low-traffic period. Are there increased hazards during this time?
  • During high-traffic periods, search and rescue can take longer to arrive due to increased demand
  • Lower-traffic periods mean less trail congestion, which in-turn will lower trampling and deterioration of environmentally sensitive areas; allowing them to regenerate faster

Divide Large Groups Into Smaller Groups

When exploring less frequented areas, divide larger groups into smaller groups of 4-6 people.

Breaking up into smaller groups can reduce:

  • noise
  • crowding
  • trash
  • poor sanitation
  • trampling and the deterioration of environmentally sensitive areas; allowing them to regenerate faster

Smaller groups are more likely to stay within campsites and not sprawl out past site boundaries. Also, it is easier to stay on the trail single-file and prevent trail deterioration.


Always bring an up-to-date map and compass, and know how to use it! So often, we see adventurers with an outdated map or those who just don't have basic navigation skills.


  • Use the most current map possible
  • Know how to read the map, navigate and find your location
  • Use the proper compass for your navigation (base plate vs lensatic compass)
  • If using a GPS device, carry a standard map to. Devices fail
  • Ensure each participant has their own map and compass, and knows how to use them
  • Learn what trail markers and blazes are used for your direction of travel
  • Take frequent stops to make sure you are on track

If possible, try to carry a satellite communicator with personal location beacon in the backcountry for emergencies. Even the most skilled adventurers can get injured or lost.

Repackage Food

Repackage your food into reusable containers to minimize waste.

  • Repacking food means you will bring less waste into the backcountry, and you will be able to recycle packaging at home
  • Use reusable containers to cook and store food. Try 1 pot meals and dehydrating your own food
  • Portion and plan your food to prevent leftovers

Always pack out what you pack in. This includes leftover food. Never burn, bury or toss your leftover food or packaging. Bonus, by repacking your food you can lessen the weight and bulk of your load!

By preparing an planning ahead, outdoor enthusiasts can minimize their impact on the environment by having the necessary skills, tools and mindset.

Let's move forward this year and lessen our impact!

Follow us on Instagram for Leave No Trace Thursday's for weekly tips and tricks!



7 Principals of Leave No Trace

What tips & tricks do you use to Leave No Trace? 

Let us know in the comments below!

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