To some, going camping is about getting shitty.
You pull up to some overused campsite in your truck and start pounding brews with one hand while pouring gas on a tree trunk with the other. Then, just as you toss your sixth tall boy into the woods, you punch a lynx in the neck while wearing fleece gloves utilizing the static electric spark created by the right-cross to ignite the gas fumes. As the trunk is engulfed in a glorious flame, you disrobe and begin whisper-screaming Nickelback lyrics. Before passing out amongst the remains of a destroyed picnic table, you spray everything with urine, you know, for protection.
While this may sound overly sarcastic (because it is), it’s not far from the truth.
When it comes to the outdoors, there is a growing movement that one-ups the ‘leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures’ mantra. It goes under the moniker of ‘leave no trace camping.’
For argument’s sake, the only true way to leave no trace is to never go out. To stay on pavement, or inside your home; to only be where traces cannot be left. To some this is a good idea (camping haters), but for many this just isn’t a reality. The outdoors offers way too much positivity to one’s life when visited. And here we are.
Started in Colorado in 1994, the Leave No Trace Center For Outdoor Ethics began the trend of not running roughshod into the trees and tearing everything down as if the woods was your enemy. They brought the idea of harmony back to existing with the outdoor world. Both the original group and the current Leave No Trace Canada arms focus on several key principles.
Know where you are going to go:
Be it a hike in the river valley or a multi-day canoe trip on the Churchill River System, educate yourself on the geography. Where can you camp/rest where there will be the least amount of impact on the surroundings? Are there any regulations or special concerns in the area? The more you know about the place, the least amount of damage you’ll do (and the safer you’ll be).
Dispose of waste properly:
In the city, this is a bit easier. Edmonton is lousy with garbage bins, but in the outdoors, you have to pack it in and pack it out. Some think burning garbage in the wild will ‘get rid of it’. This is both ignorant and silly. You are still leaving a charred, carbonized mass. Pack everything out, or better yet, prepare for your trip by repackaging everything in smaller, easier to handle portions. Also: poop and pee. Your urine can stay (at least ten meters away from any water source and spread it around). Your stool can either be pooped into an already pooped in area (outhouse/thunder box) or you can dig a hole. And soiled toilet paper should be packed out too. Yes, yes it should.
Leave it as you find it (or better):
If there is garbage there, pick it up. If there isn’t a fire pit there, don’t make one (there are portable fire boxes that can be used). If there is a tent pad, use it. Don’t cut anything down for firewood, try to find standing deadwood (if you need a fire, that is). Think of it like an Airbnb except, instead of the owners charging your for not cleaning the sheets, karma kicks your soul in the gut and your kid’s guts and your kid’s kid’s guts.
Take only what you need, but use what you take:
Don’t over pack and don’t go out and buy a whole bunch of gear because you think you’ll need it. Minimalism is key. While you should bring everything you do need, you won’t need that axe or that case of beer (spirits pack far more easily).
Animals are a part of it all:
Please do not feed the wildlife. Like living next to a McDonald’s, one may forget how to actually feed themself. This leads to animals coming into the city or worse, affecting their diet and making them sick. Also, this is their home. Would you go over to your friend’s house and throw rocks at their kids so you can take better pictures of them? If so, see the next category.
Don’t be an ignorant dick:
We all want to have fun. We all want to be free and have unique experiences and feel a special, squishy vibe, but honestly, respect the natural world. It is pretty rad to share, and in order to share it, it has to be respected for what it is: utterly delicate (in the short timeline that is our lives).