By Ayrel Clark-Proffitt, Office of Sustainability
Utah has some of the most breathtaking natural scenery anywhere in the United States, highlighted in the national parks of Bryce, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Zion, and of course, Arches. Whenever I go out of state and tell people where I live, the reaction is always the same: “Utah is beautiful.” Utahns and visitors alike have a duty to protect this heritage through responsible camping, i.e. Leave No Trace (LNT) camping.
The overall theme of LNT is pack it in, pack it out. However, this description is far from complete. LNT involves more than just waste; its principles reflect reducing the impact on the ecosystem and its wildlife by reducing noise and minimizing impacts from walking and campfires. But with just a little bit of planning, LNT is a an easy way to preserve the beauty of natural settings for future trips and future generations.
Principle 1: Plan ahead
Pre-planning and packing smart help reduce the impact of your camping trip. Plan trips that follow established trails to prevent additional trampling of vegetation. Pack adequate clothing and shelter for the weather conditions to minimize the need for a fire. Remember to bring resealable plastic bags or containers to pack out trash. When on the trail, cook only as much as you plan to eat, otherwise you will need to pack out the excess food.
Principle 2: Hike/camp on durable surfaces
Durable surfaces include bare rock, sand, gravel, snow, fallen pine needles, and water. Stay on established trails to prevent creation of multiple paths. Don’t cut switchbacks — it causes erosion.
Principle 3: Dispose of waste properly
Take all excess food, trash, fuel, and belongings with you. Carry out litter you see left behind by other hikers and campers. To minimize the amount of waste you are carrying, bring food items in bulk. Properly dispose of human waste. Use provided outhouses or bury waste in 6-8 inch holes. Use stones, leaves, or smooth sticks in lieu of toilet paper. If you must use toilet paper, pack it out in a resealable plastic bag. Same goes for feminine hygiene products.
Principle 4: Leave nature behind
Do not take souvenirs. Even a single flower. Period.
Principle 5: Minimize campfire impact
Only build fires in provided grills or metal fire rings. Use camp stoves for cooking instead of building a fire. If you must build a fire, keep it small and use only small pieces of dead wood.
Principle 6: Respect wildlife
Don’t feed the animals! Feeding wildlife endangers their ability to find food through natural means. Keep a clean campsite and seal all food items to avoid unwanted animal visitors. View wildlife from a safe distance and minimize noise.
Principle 7: Be considerate of others
Wilderness areas provide a place to get away from human influences such as cars, cell phones, and computers. Campers and hikers often have varied reasons for escaping their normal routines, so be respectful of their experience by being friendly, minimizing crowding, and reducing noise.
For more information, check out the National Park Service’s video on LNT camping.