What is the “Leave No Trace” Initiative?

By: Rachel Louise Moore

There is really nothing more magical than stumbling upon an untouched forest, so full of natural beauty that you wouldn’t even be surprised if there was a small group of elves exchanging jokes in the distance. 

Leave No Trace is an initiative aiming to promote the preservation of Canadian natural recreation areas and wilderness by developing educational and charitable partnerships.  Here at Hastings Overland, we ever so gently stress the importance of respecting the outdoors to all of our customers. Not only is it a home for many valuable plant and animal species, but also provides us with an endless amount of adventure and experience. The purpose of these Leave No Trace partnerships is to spread information to both locals and tourists, about their seven principles:

1.   Plan Ahead and Prepare:

The concept of planning ahead is extremely important, and is made up of many different variables.  For example, planning a safe route, considering the weather, understanding the terrain, researching campsites (much of which we can help you with if you choose our custom trip planning services when booking a Jeep), knowing the abilities of all the campers and meal preparation, are all ways that one can feel more comfortable when embarking on an adventure.  By planning ahead, there is a smaller chance that you will cause any environmental damage and a larger chance that you will enjoy your trip to the fullest.

2.   Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces:

Leave No Trace encourages adventurers to stick to marked trails, as this will help avoid soil erosion or any damage to sensitive vegetation. Camping on durable surfaces such as rock, sand and gravel is also an important way of minimizing any damage to the ecosystem.  Camping or hiking through areas containing delicate layers of vegetation, desert “crypto biotic” crust or desert puddles, is discouraged and requires extra attention. 

3.   Dispose of Waste Properly:

Please take your disgusting garbage with you!!!

Here at Hastings Overland, we say “pack it in, pack it out”, when it comes to the items you bring along with you on your camping journey.  By doing so, you avoid harming the environment or any wildlife that visit the area once you have left. If you stumble upon left-behind litter on your route, pack it out and you’ll definitely be in for some good karma. We also encourage sustainable personal hygiene, with the use of biodegradable soap and water 70 metres away from bodies of water, as the fish do not want to see you naked or ingest soapy water.  

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4.     Leave What You Find:

Kindly avoid taking natural items and artifacts from the areas you visit, so someone else can appreciate them as well. Leave No Trace urges you to leave the trails or campsites exactly how you found them by avoiding the hanging items from trees, hacking at trees for firewood and removing rocks. Also, carving your crush’s name into a perfectly innocent tree is NOT romantic!

5.    Minimize Campfire Impacts:

There is absolutely nothing like spending a summer evening sitting around a campfire, roasting vegan marshmallows, with your best friends (shameless vegan plug). Unfortunately, the surrounding environment and wildlife don’t quite care for campfires like we do.  Firstly, always make sure that you are in an area that is safe for campfires and that there are no current campfire bans or restrictions. Secondly, Leave No Trace suggests having campfires around areas that are filled with usable wood and regenerating trees and shrubs.  They discourage people from having campfires in dry, desert-like areas, or at higher elevations. Constructing a fire in an existing fire ring made my previous campers, is the optimal fire location. Make sure the campfire never goes unattended and when you are ready to call it a night, allow the fire to burn down to ash and use water to extinguish what is still burning.

6.     Respect Wildlife:

 It is important to remember that the forests and beaches you are exploring, are the homes to many different wildlife species.  Make sure to observe any passing-by wildlife from a distance, and set up camp at least 200 feet away from water sources so that the animals feel comfortable going to collect water, or for their evening adult swim.  Since many species rely on the available fresh water sources, safe disposal of washing and human waste is exceedingly important in order to avoid polluting water. Leave No Trace also mentions avoiding physical contact with any lost or injured wildlife, as many animal parents will abandon their offspring if they have been in contact with humans.  If you stumble upon an injured or at-risk animal, contact a park ranger or conservation officer immediately.

7.     Be Considerate of Others:

It’s totally cool if you like Cardi B, but other campers in your area may not, which is why it is important to keep music and loud chatter to a minimum.  If you wish to fully immerse yourself in the sounds and sights of nature, select a more remote campsite that is surrounded by rocks and trees. Also, it is important to understand that other groups of campers may wish to keep to themselves, so carefully assess the situation before begging them to join your campfire sing-a-long.


Maxwell Webster