OK. I promised more Leave No Trace information and I am about to deliver. But first, a caveat: I think we all leave a trace. Every day. Just by being and breathing and consuming. So my goal, both in and out of the woods, is to minimize the impact that I create by making both my literal and figurative footprints smaller.
The first principle applies to both hosting dinner parties and going outdoors: plan ahead and prepare. I’m no Julia Childs but I know that if I plan my menu with my guests, my cooking skill, and what’s seasonally available in mind, the feast is more likely to be enjoyed by all.
The same goes for preparing for an outdoor trip. By planning ahead, I’m more able to have fun, meet my goals, and at the same time, reduce potential damage to the environment though which I am travelling.
Done before dinner
Have you ever been to a dinner where the host struggled to get the meal out and forgot to offer appetizers, and by 9 p.m. you got so hungry that you wanted to palm and eat the wax fruit out of the table decoration? Maslow, in laying out his pyramid of needs was right in my book, saying it’s hard to go after self-actualization when our basic physiologic needs aren’t met.
Choose an options that matches our group’s skills, abilities, and goals.
Like the poorly planned party, it’s hard to practise ethical outdoor behaviour when we’re cold, wet, and miserable. Over my career, I’ve heard lots of stories from park managers about how poor planning on the parts of visitors led to huge impacts on natural resources. With that, I know you are eager to know … “What can we plan ahead and prepare?”
We can consider the many options of places to go and choose one that matches our group’s skills, abilities, and goals. With this decided, we can learn about any rules and regulations that govern what we can and can’t do out there such as having fires, the number of nights we can camp in one spot, and what kind of permits, if any, we might need.
We can consult the weather forecast so we know what kinds of clothing to wear and what equipment to bring along to stay warm, dry, and comfortable. We can study the route, terrain, and potential hazards so we can keep ourselves safe along the way (rescues can cause huge impacts on the land as well as search and rescue budgets).
Plan the hike, hike the plan
As with any dinner party, good menu planning is key. Menu planning for the backcountry reduces the amount of packaging we carry in with us, reduces pack weight, which in turn, reduces fatigue, reduces cooking times, and minimizes the amount of garbage we need to carry out.
Proper prior planning prevents piss-poor performance.
My dad, who taught me so much about so many things, used to recite the seven Ps that he learned in his brief stint in the Navy (brief because he was underage and not American but that’s a story for another time), “Proper prior planning prevents piss-poor performance.” I’ve seen plenty of evidence out there of poor performance when it comes to leaving little trace so I invite you to “mind your Ps and Qs” (a mom adage) and take a bit of planning time before heading out.