Whatever the regulations or accepted practices in any area you might be visiting, it’s vital to learn low-impact camping (sometimes called mini-mal-impact camping or no-impact camping), and to make this your way of being in the wilderness. No matter how careful you are, your presence is going to have at least a small impact on the environment when you camp out. The aim should be to keep that effect close to negligible.
Whenever possible, choose a spot for a campsite where you and your tent will have the least impact. Use a pre-existing site when available. In some parks and forests you’ll hear contrary advice, suggesting that you find a new campsite and allow previously-used sites to regenerate as completely as possible.
Avoid camping in meadows or on other vegetation whenever you can. In some low-elevation areas with abundant and fast-growing vegetation this isn’t so critical. At higher elevations and in other fragile environments you can cause considerable and long-lasting damage. Also, don’t camp right on a riverbank, lakeshore, or in any other location subject to possible erosion.
Be careful where you sit or walk when in a fragile area, treading as lightly as you can. If each step mashes vegetation or leaves a footprint, try to stay on rocks, especially when wearing hiking boots or other rugged footwear. Or change into light shoes to avoid tearing things up.
In the process of breaking camp, do your best to cover all signs that you’ve been there. Look around for bits of paper or plastic that you (or anyone else) might have inadvertently left, and make sure you’re taking everything you arrived with. Unless it’s a formal, designated campsite, scatter some leaves over the area where your tent stood. Conceal any evidence of your stay.
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