Spending time in the backcountry is both worthwhile and rewarding. There’s nothing like lacing up your boots, pulling on your pack and heading for the hills. Learning to live with only what you can carry on your back and seeing some of the most beautiful places the world has to offer are more than enough reason to get after it in the great outdoors. But backpacking in the wilderness is not something that is devoid of rules. It is essential that we as outdoorsmen honor the law of the land when we venture into the wild, so as to preserve the environment and the heritage for others who come after us. There are certain guidelines that you should always follow when heading off the beaten path. They should always be understood and adhered to.
Leave No Trace
It’s sad, but if you really think about it, how many times have you chosen to go out into nature only to find discarded cans, bottles, plastic wrappers and other trash strewn along the trail? These materials do not biodegrade. Part of our responsibility as backcountry outdoorsmen is to preserve the outdoors by leaving no trace. As the saying goes, “leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photos.” Or, perhaps more succinctly, “if you pack it in, pack it out.” When you head out on a backcountry adventure, pay attention to how much disposable trash you will be generating, and make arrangements to pack it out with you.
Sump It Up
Burying the grey water you produced from washing your camp kit is important. You should never wash your pots or mugs, and then toss that soapy water into a fresh mountain stream or lake. This one is simple, when adventuring in the backcountry, dig a sump hole and pour your grey water into it. If you can manage to bring a screen, this will aid in keeping leftover food particles from going into the hole and attracting unwanted camp visitors, like bears and raccoons. You can then pack those unwanted pieces of food into a Tupperware or plastic baggy and pack it all out.
Share the Trail
When backpacking with a large group of people, the trail can get crowded at times. This is particularly the case on backpacking trips in peak seasons and near monuments of natural wonders that draw a great deal of folks. Places like waterfalls and lookout points can draw a lot of people when the weather is good. If possible, step aside on the trail and allow the smaller group to pass you. This is an absolute necessity if you encounter people on horseback, or those with younger children or elders.
Use the Wood You Find
While it is romantic to think of taking your hatchet and cutting the wood you need to make a fire each night, try to focus on only taking wood that is already on the ground. Fallen timber and brush burn just as well as the fresh stuff. Tree fall and die naturally in the forest, and there is no need to unnecessarily alter the landscape that you’ve come out to enjoy.