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beginners - ettiquitte

Common sense: that is the easiest way to describe trail etiquette. These are not rules, but rather a way to carry out a camping trip. Most of the times when you are on a trip in the backcountry, you will not see a ranger walking around to make sure that every group is following the park regulations. So we as backpackers must learn to govern ourselves.

The first and foremost thing to watch while camping is your trash. An easy way to remember this is if you pack it in, you better pack it out. There is nothing worse than sitting at a nice overlook into a valley or looking up at a mountain only to find a bunch of trash laying at your feet. What a way to ruin the mood. It is a good practice to bring an extra trash bag with you and pick up any trash that was left by a previous group.

Fire rings are another thing that become an eye sore very quickly. When you are camping, try to have a fire either in an established fire ring, or in a place where you can tell there has been a fire. This reduces the amount of black charred circles on the ground. If you decide to make a fire ring with rocks, after the fire has cooled off please put the rocks back where they were, or at least kind of close. Then spread the ashes out a little to try to remove the evidence of the fire.

Campsites fall under the same type of thinking as fire rings, try to use existing places and then remove your evidence in the morning. Often it is easy to tell where the good campsites are because everyone uses them. If this is the case when you are setting up camp, go ahead and use that site instead of making a new campsite. To many campsites scars the land just like to many fire rings.

Going to the bathroom in the woods is a very talked about subject. It really isnít hard, all you have to do is dig a hole, do your business and cover it back up. When choosing a spot for you to become one with nature, please make sure that you are a good ways away from the trail, campsite or water source. If you can see the campsite or trail, you are probably too close. The hole can easily be dug with a plastic trowel, or in cases of desperation sticks and rocks work well. If you use toilet paper there are two schools of thought. You can put the paper in a ziplock bag and pack it out, or you can burn it. Toilet paper does not decompose very quickly and burning it speeds up that process. Just remember to make sure the paper has stopped burning before you fill the hole back in. Forest fires can be started easily this way.

Walking on trails is where most backpackers spend their time during the day. So of course some trails end up looking like highways if they are used by lots of hikers. By walking in the middle of the trail in single file order, the trail is not widened by excessive use. But here is the catch; if you are on alpine tundra where there is not a trail, try to spread out a little. Tundra is very fragile, and by walking in the same place as another person the ground is torn up very easily. By spreading out, the tundra is not damaged as much.

Sometime during a trip in a popular place you are likely to cross paths with another hiker or group. Out of common courtesy say hello or give a nod. This is a simple way to let everyone know that backpackers are friendly people. Often, by talking to other groups you can get a feel for the terrain, find the location of the nearest water source or talk about good campsites.

These are just a few of the ideas in trail etiquette. As it was stated before, there are no established rules for camping. The nearest things to an etiquette guide are the ideas presented by the Leave No Trace organization. They promote a way of camping that is of low impact on the environment.



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