Any time you are going out for a hike, whether it's just for a day hike or a week long trip, you need to plan ahead and prepare for what’s going to happen, so that you aren’t forced into making poor decisions while out on the trail.
What is Leave No Trace, anyway?
In a nutshell, Leave No Trace is made up of seven principles that guide us to leave the least amount of impact and damage on the natural areas we recreate in.
The Leave No Trace Seven Principles are:
- Plan ahead and prepare
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces
- Dispose of waste properly
- Leave what you find
- Minimize campfire impacts
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate of other visitors
© 1999 by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org
I will write up a specific post about each principle, and even at that I can only touch on the basics in a blog post. For now, let's start at the beginning with plan ahead and prepare.
What do we mean by 'plan ahead and prepare?'
When you're planning on going out for a hike, preparing properly isn't only a Leave No Trace issue, but could also be a safety issue.
Make sure you do your research and ask the right questions before your trip so you know what to expect and you can bring the appropriate gear, clothes, and food.
Before a day hike, you'll want to know the weather forecast, round trip mileage, terrain/elevation gain, how much water you should bring, if are pets allowed (if you have pets,) and lastly, always, always, always bring a headlamp. Just in case you end up staying out longer than expected, if you get lost, injured, hike slower than planned, take a mid day nap and lose track of time. It can happen to anybody!
Download my free day hiking gear checklist
For an overnight backpacking trip, there are a few more things to consider, on top of everything we just talked about.
You need to find out if camping is permitted where you'll be hiking, if you need a permit to camp, if bear canisters are required, where the water sources are, if camp fires are permitted, how much food you need, do you have the appropriate gear and clothes, and what precautions you need to take around the local wildlife.
For safety's sake, always leave a copy of your plan with a trusted friend, so someone knows where you're going and when you'll be back.
Research the terrain and know you're own limits so you don't get stuck in a dangerous situation.
Plan to be able to treat or prevent injury, illness, and sunburns. Bring your own personal medication and let other hikers know of any pertinent medical conditions or allergies.
And please, for the sake of the environment and you're fellow hikers, plan and prepare to pack out all food and trash and anything you else brought into the woods with you and maybe even any trash you may find along the way.
Check out these posts inspired by Leave No Trace ethics:
- How To Poop In The Woods
- Why You Should Always Hang Your Food
- How To Pick A Good Campsite
- How To Travel and Camp On Durable Surfaces
Let me know in the comments what questions you have about planning ahead and preparing for epic hiking trips.
Free 7-Day Leave No Trace
Learn the seven Leave No Trace principles, inside and out, with this free online workshop.
I'll cover everything you need to know so you and your hiking partners can enjoy the trail responsibly without leaving harmful, human impacts behind.
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