As the heat increases, we know summer is well on its way! With sunny weather, comes family trips to local campgrounds, hiking trips, or just being out in nature. Before we step out on the trail, we need to be aware of a few backpacking guidelines and tips that will not only help us in a crisis but very importantly leave the least amount of impact on our local wildlife. It is important to preserve and protect wildlife so generations to come can enjoy it as well!
Recently, I partook in a Beginner Backpacking Class with an emphasis in environmental protection aka “Leave No Trace” at our local Wilderness Station here in Middle Tennessee, located in Murfreesboro at Barfield Crescent Park. After the class, I decided to share some of the Outdoor Guidelines and Tips that were taught. Because while a few of them are taught to us at a young age, it never hurts to go over them again as well as learn some new ones that might just surprise you!
Backpacking Safety Tips
BackPacking Skills: Be Prepared and Have Your Plan Mapped Out
- First-Aid & Survival Kit. Whether you are going on a short hike or a long weekend camping trip, there is never an excuse not to have a first-aid and survival kit with you. Being out in nature means you are exposed to the elements-it’s a good idea to be as well prepared as possible. There are a lot of things that can happen, it’s never a bad thing to be prepared where as it could mean life or death if you are not. REI and many local outdoor-geared shops sell a broad range of survival and first aid kits that are lightweight and easy to carry out on the trail. Depending on what your individuals needs are; anything from camping to a one-day hike will help you decide what you need.
- Travel in small groups. This might come as a surprise but smaller groups have minimal effects on the environments where as larger parties have a greater impact. If you do go in a larger group, spilt the group into groups of 4-6.
- Be prepared: This includes, for terrain, hazards, emergencies, extreme weather conditions etc.
- Be informed: If you are going to a new trail or campground, know the regulations, local species in the area to be on the alert for (i.e poisonous reptiles, bears, poisonous plants, etc.), as well as any other concerns you might need to be aware of. The best way to do this is to talk to the local State Park Rangers! They’ll brief you on anything you need to know. Don’t forget a map of the local area and compass-and your phone (unless solar charged) doesn’t count.
- Prepackaged Food & Water: It is important to bring food that can be repackaged. Trashcans don’t exist out in nature (and no throwing your trash in the fire pit isn’t an option either). So, anything you bring with you has to come back! It is important to keep that in mind when planning out your meals. Water is a crucial resource that you need when you are hiking/camping! Whether you are bringing in your water via camelback or have a water filter. It is an important necessity to not forget.
Travel/Camp For Minimal Impact
- Choose durable surfaces: this includes established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Camp at least 200ft from water: Human waste can have a detrimental impact on the local environment and wildlife, so to avoid having the least amount of impression it is best to camp at the minimum of 200ft away from water sources.
- Reuse campsites don’t make your own: If a campsite or campground is already available, do not make another one. It is best to leave as small of a trace as possible. Whenever you create a new campsite, it can destroy that areas ability to grow plants in the future.
Proper Waste Disposal Methods
- Pack it in, pack it out! This means anything you brought with you, needs to come back, whether it is trash, leftover/spilled food, etc.
- Solid Human Waste Trench: When you have Number 2 out in nature, dig a 6-8 inch trench at least 200ft. away from water, camp, and trails. Once finished, cover it.
- Hygiene Products: Must be packed out including toilet paper.
- Examine cultural or historic structures and artifacts: do not remove or touch them
- Leave natural objects including rocks and plants where you find them
*Pictures are encouraged!
Campfire Impact Minimization
- Use fire rings and only small fires: choosing another location for a fire can have a lasting impact on the environments. For instance, plants can no longer grow because the soil has been damaged.
- Burn wood and coals to ash and when finished put out the campfire in its entirety and scatter the cool ashes
Treatment of Wildlife
- Wildlife should be treated with respect: this means to observe from a distance, not to follow nor approach them. Be aware of sensitive times for animals such as mating, nesting, raising their young, or winter.
- Do not feed the animals [this includes squirrels]. Feeding wildlife not only affects their diets and health but their natural behaviors as well which can expose them to predators and other dangers.
- Store your food and trash away from your tents or campsite in animal secured cases off the ground.
Respectful To Others
- +Be considerate of their experience; avoid loud voices and noises and protect the quality of their experience
- +Yield to others on the trail
This list doesn’t encompass everything. It serves purely as a small guide of outdoor ethics and tips to help you get started and for you and your family to be aware of.
Let me just say, if you live in or are ever in the Middle Tennessee area I encourage you to drop by one of our State Parks! Especially, the Wilderness Station at Barfield Crescent Park; they are focused on offering programs and activities for families and young kids-they always have a lengthy calendar filled with free to inexpensive activities for all age ranges including just adult activities such as an Adult Evening Kayak Float! If you are interested, click the link to see a full list of the programs and activities available.
How do you and your family prepare for the outdoors? Were any of these backpacking and outdoors tips new to you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.