How to Leave Without a Trace After Camping: 7 Principles

If you spend a lot of time outdoors, it’s likely that you’ve heard the phrase LEAVE WITHOUT A TRACE (Don’t leave a trail), but what does this phrase mean? Simply put, these are the best practices we must follow to take advantage of and protect our natural spaces.

The number of visitors to national parks and reserves has grown a lot, and this sudden increase can cause damage to the environment. Impacted areas suffer from garbage, invasive species, accustomed wildlife, trail erosion, polluted water sources and much more.

Although most of us don’t intend to harm our environment, we may not have the knowledge necessary to preserve it, or we may simply be ignoring some important behaviors.

These are the seven principles of “Leave without a trace” after camping:

1. Prepare in advance.
2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
3. Dispose of waste properly.
4. Leave what you find
5. Minimize the use of campfires.
6. Respect wildlife.
7. Respect other visitors

Find out below the main characteristics of each of these principles.

1. Prepare in advance [leave without a trace]

The less you are prepared, the more you are likely to encounter small worries. A lack of preparation can put you in situations where you will be forced to make bad decisions. How do you prepare…? Research your destination and intelligently prepare your bag.

  • Find out about the specific regulations covering the area (s) you plan to visit.
  • Prepare for unexpected extreme weather and emergencies.
  • Plan your excursion during periods of low traffic.
  • Reduce the packaging of provisions to minimize waste.
  • Organize your trip and avoid moments of high attendance.
  • If possible, organize your visit in small groups (4 to 6 people).
  • Inform relatives of your route.
  • Use a map and a compass to remove pennants, paint rocks, and other directions.

2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces.

Another great point of leaving without a trace is to travel and camp on durable surfaces. If you want to stop for a picnic or camp, always look for a fairly “resistant” place.

Ideal surfaces are trails, campsites, rocks, gravel, oily lawns or snow. The objective of touring wild spaces is to move through the territory while avoiding doing damage to the land.

  • Be careful not to expand your camp, try to favor existing campsites.
  • Keep your campsites small.
  • Focus your activity where vegetation is absent.
  • Use established paths. Walk-in single file in the middle of the trail, even in the event of puddles or mud. This will avoid trampling on the surrounding nature.

In wild and unspoiled areas:

  • Disperse to avoid creating new campsites or new trails.
  • Avoid places that have had a recent impact so as not to damage it further.

3. Dispose of waste properly.

Properly disposing of human waste is important to avoid water contamination. Before leaving a place, carefully inspect. Do not leave trash, food scraps, or waste.

  • Take home what you bring. camping places; do not leave any waste, food remains, or trash.
  • Take with you the toilet paper as well as the hygienic products.
  • Return used toilet paper and personal hygiene products.
  • Place your excrement in holes 15 to 20 cm deep in the ground. Fill the hole carefully after you finish.
  • To wash yourself and your dishes, the same speech. Minimum 60 meters from lakes or water points. Also, use small amounts of biodegradable soap and disperse the used water.

4. Leave what you find

Allowing people to have a sense of discovery and discovery by finding rocks, plants, and archaeological remains arouse interest and is a good way to promote education. But always remember to leave the place as you found it.

  • Preserve the past: examine, but without touching, care for historical or cultural structures.
  • Leave stones, plants, and other natural objects where you found them.
  • Do not transport or introduce native and non-native species.
  • Do not build any form of structure or layout.

5. Minimize the use of campfires.

Making campfire is an important skill for every camper. But it can also be extremely destructive. However, nature has been threatened by forest fires, commonly caused by the mishandling of fire by irresponsible people.

  • Campfires have an irreversible impact on the landscape. Bring a small stove and opt for a candle lantern to light up.
  • When bonfires are allowed, use traditional, licensed, fire-resistant pans, pots, and stoves.
  • Encourage the use of a gas stove for cooking.
  • Keep your campfire small. Use only dry sticks that you find in the ground, and that can be broken by hand. Don’t damage trees to make fire.
  • Burn all the wood and coals down to ash, turn off the heat completely, and then scatter the ashes.

6. Respect Wildlife.

Learn about the wildlife of a place through silent observation. Don’t disturb the activities of animals or the environment of plants just to get a “good shot.” Observe wildlife from a distance so they don’t panic or run away.

  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach wild animals.
  • Never give food to wild animals. This can affect their health, alter their behavior, expose them to predators and other dangers.
  • Protect wildlife and your food by putting your rations and waste in a safe place.
  • Take control of your pets or leave them at home.
  • Avoid disturbing wildlife during delicate breeding and nesting periods, when the young are growing or even during winter.

7. Respect other visitors: leave without a trace

Respect others, and protect the quality of your visit.

  • Be respectful of other visitors and concerned about the quality of their experience.
  • Be courteous. Give way to other hikers on your way.
  • Take a step to the side of the road when you meet a large group.
  • Stand sideways, downstream, when you meet a rider and his horse.
  • Stay out of the way when taking a break or setting up camp.
  • Avoid speaking loudly and making noise; pay attention to the sounds of nature.


Leave without a trace is not the easiest thing to plan on your adventures. Despite everything, the simple reflexes exposed above will preserve the nature that we love so much. And will allow us all to continue to enjoy our favorite activities while respecting others and our planet.

Enjoy your walk, always with respect!

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