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That Leisure Blog

A guide to the Seven Principles of Camping

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Leave No Trace

Leave no trace is a set of seven principles of camping that outline the best ways to protect the natural landscape whilst travelling or out in the wild. Originally made for backcountry explorers, they are now commonly used and some are reflected in UK laws, such as the criminal offence of littering. If you’re new to motorhome or caravan life then it is crucial you learn these seven principles of camping to ensure your travels are sustainable, respectful and not harmful to your environment or those around you.

1. Plan ahead and prepare.

2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces.

3. Dispose of waste properly.

4. Leave what you find.

5. Minimize campfire impacts.

6. Respect wildlife.

7. Be considerate of other visitors.

1. Plan ahead and prepare

Holiday Planning Annie Spratt Unsplash 16 6
Planning ahead can save you time and energy in the long run

Proper planning and preparation doesn’t mean you can’t have spontaneous fun. Rather, it gives you more freedom for impromptu adventures as you know you have everything you need to do so safely. If you’re poorly prepared you are more likely to encounter problems that could ruin your trip or, at worse, endanger you and those around you.
Thinking about these key areas could save you time, energy and stress:

Research local byelaws and regulations for the area you’re visiting.

Prepare for all types of weather – despite what the forecast shows (this is the UK after all).

Plan your holiday, journeys or day trips for off-peak times when possible.

Repackage food and other items before you go to ensure less waste.

2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces

Camp Durable Surface Chulmin Park Pixabay 16 6
Be aware of the different surfaces you can camp on a research what is best

It’s important to understand how travelling through the outdoors can impact landscapes, whether you’re hiking, pitching up or even sitting down for a picnic. Being conscious of the effect of travel can prevent beauty spots from becoming trampled and eroded. Ensure you’re doing your bit to leave your campsite pristine by:

Sticking to established trails to prevent scarring the landscape – this also applies to driving. Plus, motorhomes and caravans don’t make good off-road vehicles! Avoid driving on muddy roads or parking at the bottom of valleys or hills, where there can be run off water. You’re much more likely to get stuck and ruin the ground.

Selecting an appropriate campsite – an established site is always best, but another good option is a spot that naturally lacks vegetation, such as exposed bedrock or sandy areas.

Practising good campsite etiquette – wearing soft shoes around camp and selecting alternative routes avoids trampling vulnerable vegetation.

Spreading out tents – this minimises the number of times any one area is trampled. It’s also important to place key areas such as cooking spaces on the most durable surface available – rock faces make great kitchen sites!

3. Dispose of waste properly

Rubbish Ocg Saving The Ocean Unsplash 16 6
The common phrase pack it in, pack it out means anything you bring you should also take away with you

Preventing waste and pollution from spoiling the landscape is everyone’s responsibility. Just as in the street, littering while camping is illegal and can come with strict penalties of up to £2,500 for some offences. Follow these tips to avoid an unwelcome fine:

If you bring it, take it with you! Inspect rest areas as well as your campsite to ensure you take all rubbish with you when you leave. Make sure not to leave any spilled or leftover food. A simple rule of thumb is to always leave an area cleaner than you found it.

Be mindful when washing – always carry water at least 200ft from its source and use small amounts of biodegradable soap to avoid this seeping back and polluting into the water source.

Dispose of your… ahem… human waste properly if you’re opting to go wild. You must dig a hole 6-8 inches deep and at least 200ft from water, camp and trails and, when finished, cover and disguise the hole. Toilet paper must be disposed of properly, either by finding a suitable bin or taking it away with you. It must not be left on site.

4. Leave what you find

Forest Flowers Annie Spratt Unsplash 16 6
Take only pictures, leave only footprints

We love the outdoors because it looks untouched by human hands. Keep your trip from visibly altering the landscape by:

Leaving plants, animals, stones and other natural objects as you find them. As they say, ‘take only pictures, leave only footprints.’

Looking with your eyes, not with your hands! Preserve historical artefacts and structures by examining them respectfully.

Refraining from digging trenches and building structures or furniture with what you find as this can disturb animal habitats.

Avoiding transporting or introducing species by cleaning boot soles, car and bike tyres and kayak hulls before moving off.

5. Minimize campfire impacts

Campfire R D Smith Unsplash 16 6
Being unsafe with fires can cause devastating wildfires

Campfires are an essential part of any good outdoor trip. Make sure to practise proper campfire etiquette to avoid destroying natural beauty spots.

Always check that fires are permitted in your area and use an established fire-pit to minimise unnecessary ground scars. Using a fire pan or learning to build a mound fire are good alternatives where an established fire-pit is not available.

Keep fires small. Choose short, easily breakable sticks from the ground. Bringing logs from home can introduce new species to an area, so it is best to gather or buy local wood.

Practise good fire safety. Ensure all wood and coals are burnt to ash, put out campfires completely and scatter cool ash over a large area.

6. Respect wildlife

Reflect Wildlife Diana Parkhouse Unsplash 16 6
Don’t approach wildlife or wildlife habitats

A wildlife encounter during an outdoor adventure is a truly unforgettable experience, but it could stun the animal or have negative effects. Follow these tips to keep from disturbing the fauna on your trip:

Don’t approach or follow wildlife. Use binoculars or a zoom lens to observe them from a safe distance.

Avoid wildlife habitats during key times such as mating season or nesting.

Do not feed wildlife. This can disrupt their natural behaviour and have an unintended effect on the food chain. Store items and food securely to avoid attracting unwanted visitors to camp.

Keep pets under control or leave them at home.Camp at least 200ft from water to allow uninterrupted access routes for wildlife.

7. Be considerate of other visitors

Campsite Etiquette Lex Sirikiat Unsplash 16 6
Be considerate of your campsite neighbours

This one is especially important during the Covid-19 pandemic. Remember some visitors may prefer to practise social distancing, and equally some may be exempt from mask wearing in indoor areas.

Be mindful of where you set up camp. Leave enough space between your campsite and others’ to ensure privacy is maintained. Take breaks in quiet spots to avoid disturbing others.

Keep pets under control at all times, especially around other wildlife and be courteous towards others when crossing trails and yield where necessary.

Keep loud noises to a minimum to let everyone enjoy the sounds of nature.

Most importantly, enjoy your trip!

Most of the negative side-effects of travelling through the outdoors can be avoided by staying conscious of these seven principles of camping. Generally, a bit of common sense will be enough to help preserve the outdoors for everybody. Informing yourself and your co-travellers will ensure your camping experience stays as enjoyable as possible.


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And remember to enjoy the journey

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