Get in. Get out. Leave behind nothing but…nothing. That’s the philosophy behind LNT—Leave No Trace—backcountry travel. No one wants to bust their chops to get to the back of beyond only to find half-burned candy bar wrappers and whacked off tree branches. Even at popular campsites it’s just as easy to minimize your impact as it is to trash the woods.
But in its original version, LNT was a downer, a bunch of DON’Ts that read like a middle school principal spelling out the rules for the big spring dance. When it comes to camping, though, we’ve all come a long ways from trenching tools and latrines made of lashed poles. Sure, there’s stuff that still ranks a big NOT. Leaving toilet paper on the ground. Cutting standing trees. But we’ve re-tooled a 21st-century version of LNT into a big list of proactive, positive-outcome-calibrated DOs. Now you can be the change. Leave No Trace. Here’s how to vanish from the wilds:
GET IN. Most North Carolina campers can choose from existing campsites, even in fairly remote areas. Better to bed down on a beaten-down tent pad than wreck an undisturbed site—you can always set up the camp kitchen at a scenic vista nearby. Stick to existing fire circles in heavily used areas. If you go off-rail, remember that good campsites are found, not made. Look for a spot just large enough for the tent. The standard LNT mantra is to forgo the fire, but if you go with the burn, prepare a fire site by shovelling out a layer of soil and surface plants and setting aside. Learn to use a map and compass or a GPS. Flagging tape is so yesteryear.
GET OUT. Before you break camp, burn all wood completely. Kids love this job, so give ‘em a stick and make sure they push every little stub into the fire. Saturate the ashes, then scatter them. If you scraped out a fire pit, replace the sod, and toss leaves and twigs over the spot. Scour the camp for tiny bits of micro-trash. This is another great job for kids—offer an ice-cream-cone reward for whoever can find the most micro-trash, stuff like snippets of foil and paper, egg shell fragments, and sippy-cup straw wrappers. Remove all cordage from trees, even if you didn’t place it there. Naturalize the site before you leave. Rake matted grasses and leaves with a branch. Bring in rocks and sticks to hide your tent site. And the same rule applies no matter how near or far to civilization you camp: Pack it in, pack it out. Yes, that means banana peels, apple cores, egg shells, and cigar butts. If it wasn’t there when Columbus landed—or was it Erik the Red?—remove it.
IN THE MOUNTAINS:
Camp just below ridge tops to keep your tent from being so visible by others—you’ll still have a killer view. Burn smaller sticks and burn all wood completely to avoid leaving burned stubs behind. Use a tent with a tub-style floor; you’ll never dig a drainage trench again.
AT THE COAST:
Always build fires below the high tide line. Camp away from the toe of sand dunes. When fishing with live or cut bait, toss shrimp shells and leftover fish in zippered plastic bags and pack out; raccoons and foxes are attracted to such trash, and then prey on sea turtles. Leave any eggs you find on the sand alone; beach-nesting birds rarely build nests.
ON THE WATER:
Carry dirty dish-cleaning water away from the stream and campsite; the next camper doesn’t want to filter water soiled with your leftover spaghetti noodles. Scatter ashes into a strong current and camouflage the fire site with sand.
It’s no surprise that Great Outdoor Provision Co. keeps stock on what it takes to get you into the woods. But we also carry what you need to get out of wilds without giving Mother Nature a bad hair day. Check out these easy-on-the-land ideas the next time you’re headed outside.
P-cord and S-biners
Once upon a time, hanging a lantern or pot-holder was as simple as driving a nail into a tree. What were we thinking? String a length of parachute cord around a tree trunk and slip on a few S-biners to hold whatever needs holding.
Instead of a fire, cook on one of our high-performance cookstoves. Our stores stock stoves from the one-person MSR Pocket Rocket (don’t forget to pack out the gas canisters!) to the Primus Atle double burner, almost big enough to handle Kate, her 8 kids, and a couple of “Survivor” rejects.
Gourmet freeze-dried foods
This ain’t your daddy’s stroganoff. Kung Pao Chicken. Pad Thai. Check out our aisle of backcountry grub and you’ll find stuff good enough to serve at your next indoor supper club. (MULEteam members SAVE 10% on foods)
Therm-a-rest Trekker Chair
You could drag a fallen tree down the creek bank for a makeshift camp chair. Or you could not.
And here are three items that will you help you forget that you never started a campfire:
- Stare at the stars instead of a fire with the Miller Planisphere. Dial up the direction you’re looking, and the mysteries of the heavens reveal themselves.
- Load up on some of our many camp-friendly games such as locally made PHD Discs and the Ogo Sport Games.
- Bunk in a North Face Dolomite or a Mountain Hardwear Flip, cushioned with a Therm-a-rest sleeping pad. These rectangular sleeping bags can be doubled up for a bag built for two. Make your own fire.