Leave No Trace: Principle 2 - Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces

Leave No Trace: Principle 2 - Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces

Author: Tina Eckerlin

If you have been following Terrain UL, you know that we are committed to Leave No Trace (LNT) practices. So much that we partnered with Leave No Trace Canada even before launching our kickass Canadian cottage gear company!

In our partnership, we promised to help promote, educate and advocate for good land stewardship and the 7 Leave No Trace Principles. This collaboration is at the heart of Terrain UL's mission to educate, empower and support our local and outdoor communities to ensure the outdoors are kept wild for everyone. It is a perfect match.

So, here we are in 2023! We decided to celebrate the New Year with a 7 week focused blog series on the amazing world of LNT. 

If you are new to LNT, there are 7 Principles. These are principles and not rules. They are guidelines, advice, and a methodology to lessen our impact on the natural world. With some practice, they can become second nature and a way of life.

Even if you are well versed in the 7 Principles, there is always room for improvement. Here at Terrain UL we are trying to bring our LNT practices to the next level. We can always do better!

This week we will be exploring Principle 2. If you missed our last blogpost, you should check out Principle 1 - Plan Ahead & Prepare!

Leave No Trace - Principle 2

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

We all explore natural areas for different reasons. But, our love of travel can do a lot of damage to natural areas, many of these impacts are at the surface level but our activities affect micro-organisms, which we cannot see with the naked eye. Our common goal should be to move through these areas, whether via land or water in a manner that does as little damage as possible.

Travel and Camp on Existing Trails and Campsites

If you are following LNT Principles, you have already Planned Ahead and are Prepared. You have researched the area, rules, boundaries, maps, trails, campsites... You are ready to travel and camp on durable surfaces.

High Use Hiking Areas

  • If there is a constructed and identifiable trail, use it
  • Don't skirt the trail due to mucky or wet areas, or make your own path
  • Hike singe file in the middle of the trail to minimize human impact
  • Do not create switchbacks or zigzag off trail to take the easier route
  • Avoid taking breaks off-trail and disturbing the natural areas

High Use Campsites

  • Camp at designated and reserved campsites
  • Set-up camp within the designated campsite. Make sure beforehand that the site is large enough for your group size
  • Stay within the campsite area when possible, concentrating your activities in areas without vegetation
  • Avoid altering the campsite. Do not move rocks or cut trees or build fires outside of designated areas
  • Many parks provide toilet facilities at backcountry sites like privy boxes or outhouses. Make sure to use facilities provided
  • If no toilet facilities are provided, follow park guidelines and bury human waste in a hole at least 60 m away from campsites and water systems, or use WAG bags if required by park system

Managed trail systems and campsites have been constructed by land managers to concentrate the impact to smaller areas in heavily used systems. This means hike and camp in designated areas to prevent further degradation of the area.

Remote, Isolated  and Undisturbed Areas

  • Ensure the park system allows off-trail travel and remote camping. Check park for guidelines
  • For off-trail travel, stay on durable surfaces: bare ground, rock, sand, dry grass, deep snow. The durability of the surface will determine how quickly the area and vegetation can recover
  • Protect shorelines by camping at least 60 m from lakes and streams unless designated by the park system
  • If in a small group, disperse and spread out, to prevent the creation of new trails or campsites
  • When free-camping, choose your campsite carefully. Do not create one. The best campsites are found and not made
  • Try to disperse your activities while free-camping, for instance cooking away from your camp area

Whether you are on a well-maintained trail or off-trail think of how you can lessen your impact. Some areas like lichen covered rocks are especially susceptible to damage. Did you know that some lichens grow less than 1 mm per year? This means that the smallest amount of damage can take many years to recover or grow in new locations.

Quite often when selecting a campsite while free-camping, we need to access the area, and trade off what may be more comfortable experience for what will have lesser impact.

When traveling off-trail be mindful of the terrain you are on. The durability of the surface, such as: gravel, rock and deep snow will have less effect on the area. 

No matter where you are traveling or camping, adventurers should be prepared to follow Leave No Trace Principles. Make the commitment to keep the backcountry wild for everyone!


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




7 Principles of Leave No Trace

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Thanks @Dudley!

Terrain UL

Totally agree, nice post!


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