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If you want enjoy your outdoor experiences and also want others to enjoy your track the same way that you are enjoying it, follow this guide about the basics of the behaviour that it is expected from you when you go hiking.

Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Know the regulations and concerns for the area you’ll be hiking, backpacking, or camping in. Restrictions are based on any past abuse and the special conditions of an area.
  • Avoid the popular areas during heavy use times.
  • Repackage your food into re-usable containers like Ziploc bags. Avoid tin or aluminum cans and glass. Reduce the amount of trash you bring into the woods by eliminating all unnecessary packaging like cardboard boxes, etc.
  • Make sure you have a way to properly dispose of your trash (use your Ziploc bags and bring an extra garbage bag).
  • Get back to the basics. Rough it! Select your gear and plan your trip by thinking about how it will impact the environment and also how it may affect others as well.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  • Stay on designated trails while hiking or backpacking. Walk single file in the center of the path. Leave only the lightest of footprints.
  • Use existing trails. Don’t shortcut switchbacks.
  • Stay on the trail if it is muddy or wet. Hike through it. If you walk around the mud the trail will widen and become even muddier in the future. Mud is part of the backcountry challenge. Wear waterproof boots and gaiters to protect your feet from mud and water. Stay on the trail!
  • If traveling cross-country hike on durable surfaces (rock, sand, gravel, snow, pine needles, or dry grasses) to prevent vegetation damage and erosion. Have your group spread out while hiking off-trail so that new trails aren’t created.
  • Be sure to camp on durable surfaces too. Avoid fragile areas that will impact easily and take a long time to heal after you leave. Try to concentrate use into campsites that are already established. Give places just beginning to show impact a chance to heal themselves.
  • Good campsites are found, not made.
  • To minimize trail damage, wear as light a boot as possible for the conditions. Heavy boots with deep treads compact the soil more and tend to tear up the trail. Wear camp shoes (sandals, sneakers, moccasins, etc.) to minimize impact while in camp.

Dispose of Waste Properly

  • If it wasn’t there when you came then don’t leave it there when you leave! You are responsible for anything you bring into the backcountry. Carry out all your trash.
  • Make your site or travel route look like nobody was ever there. Leave no signs of human influence. Remove all evidence of your stay. Inspect your campsite for trash or misplaced gear before you leave.
  • Do not bury your trash. Animals will dig it up or it will become exposed later on for someone else to find. Pack it out.
  • Contrary to popular belief tin foil and plastic bottles do not completely burn. Pack them out!
  • Practice «Negative Trace». Pick up trash that others may have missed or that were dropped by accident. Pick up trash you find along the trail. I put trash I find into my back pocket or into a side pocket of my pack. Educate any inconsiderate slobs you encounter about Leave No Trace and low impact skills and ethics.

Leave What You Find

  • Take only pictures, leave only the lightest of footprints, and bring home only memories.
  • Resist the temptation to take home souvenirs. Leave stones, feathers, artifacts, shells, petrified wood, etc. so that others may enjoy them.
  • Leave the place you’re visiting in a natural condition. You can’t improve Nature. Do not alter a site in any way. Good campsites are found, not made. Don’t pound nails into trees or damage live vegetation or trees.
  • It is alright to take any trash you find home!

Minimize Use and Impact from Fires

  • Don’t build fires! Instead of building a campfire for your cooking, use a small backpacking stove. Campfires are forbidden in Spain.
  • There are different kinds of lightweight backpacking stoves. Some use alcohol, white gas, butane, propane or isobutane as fuel. There are also multifuel stoves available. There is even a small wood burning stove that will let you have a mini contained campfire without scaring the environment!
  • If you don’t have a stove then get one!
  • If you must build a fire in case of emergency make it as small as possible and use established fire rings. If there is no fire ring contain your fire in a fire pan or build a mound fire to protect the area from the eyesore of old coals and blackened rocks. Keep your fire small. Use small (wrist size or smaller) dead wood that was already on the ground. Break wood into smaller pieces as needed. Using small wood will ensure that it burns more completely. A nice fine ash that will blow away when the wind blows is ideal.
  • Leave your saw and axe at home.
  • Don’t break or saw off branches from dead trees, live trees, or fallen trees. Use only wood that’s on the ground. Don’t burn green wood. Don’t peel the bark off trees for use as fuel. It takes many years to heal and remains an eyesore in the meantime. Don’t make a fire ring with rocks. Blackened rocks are very unsightly and stay that way for many years.

Respect Wildlife

  • Treat the animals you encounter with respect. Remember that you are a visitor and are traveling and camping in their backyard.
  • Observe wildlife from a distance.
  • Do not feed the animals! You will create a nuisance because the animal will develop a taste for human food, associate humans with food, and then raid our campsites to steal our food.
  • Learn how to properly store your food to protect it from bears and other animals.
  • Don’t camp near water. Camp at least 200 feet away from water sources. Animals come to water to drink and may be scared off. Areas near water are also more fragile and camping too close can lead to erosion.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

  • Preserve the solitude. Respect other hikers by traveling and camping quietly. Keep radios at home. Camp as far away from other visitors as you can to avoid creating noise and visual «pollution».
  • Pets are best left at home. If you do bring a pet keep them on a leash and under control at all times (this includes barking).Keep them away from water sources and clean up after them. They are your responsibility. Some areas don’t allow pets.
  • Uphill hikers have the right of way.
  • Base your backcountry decisions not only on how your actions will impact the environment but also how they may affect others as well.

Most of the content of this page has been obtained from this site, a courtesy of Chris Conway. Visit it to know more.