How to Leave No Trace

Guest Writer: Adam LaPlante

What does Leave No Trace (LNT) and/or Pack-in Pack-out (PIPO) mean?

It really isn’t any harder than it sounds. If you go somewhere for any activity, when you leave, there should be no evidence that you made your visit. Except for maybe some footprints left behind.

This means that vandalism, litter, and destruction of any kind is restricted. The goal is to leave our favorite places as nice (if not nicer) than when we visit them. This doesn’t have to mean that your entire experience needs to be altered. You just need to act responsibly. That being said.. If you do want to alter your experience and truly help the conservation and preservation of these places by participating in a “clean-up” trip, the positive impact that leaves is invaluable.

I understand that we all cannot be perfect, no one is asking you to be. It’s the conscious effort that matters.

Oh, and one more thing… This is not strictly limited to “natural” places. We’ve all see the negative impacts from humans. With a little thought, respect, and selflessness, we can help reverse our global impacts. And, hopefully, overcome the current Climate Crisis that we are experiencing.

The 7 Principles of Leave no Trace

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

Proper planning for your trips will not only create a more enjoyable experience for yourself, but it can also help guide you in leaving the smallest impact passible. By doing some brief research, and having a general understanding of what to expect, you can eliminate self-risk (which can impose degradation) and enjoy your next trip safely (both safe for you AND the environment!).

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

This one is pretty self-explanatory. I’d be willing to bet that every destination you plan on visiting has an intended path of travel whether it be roads, sidewalks, trails, or whatever! By sticking to these dedicated routes, you are eliminating even more of your personal impact. Yes, this means routes that are clearly not supposed to be used, but may look like others use. Thinking “others do it, so my choice can be that much worse”, is not the mindset to have. Be the example, because you never know the true damage already in place. 

3. Dispose of Waste Properly 

C’mon people! It’s the 21st century! We all hopefully know not to litter. But this can be taken a step further, for even more benefits. By disposing of waste properly (think recycling at proper centers, composting, and eliminating unneeded things), it creates a chain reaction from the moment that decision is made. Don’t believe it? Just google average human waste… It made my stomach flip too. 

4. Minimize Campfire Impacts

This principle is important and applies more to a casual bon-fire with some good company. By using principle #1, you can find the regulations on open flame for your destination of choice. Take a look at the fires of 2020… There is a reason why rules and regulations as such are in place.

Related: Camping in New York Like a Pro

5. Leave What You Find

I totally get it, grabbing a rock or shell to have a physical piece of a wonderful memory is like a relic to your heart. But most times, it is better practice to leave it where it lays, and let the memories and photographs speak for themselves. But it isn’t just the gatherings that we need to aware of. This principle applies to defacing the environment as well. Carving your name into a tree, or your initials in rock… well, you got it, not the best decision. Besides, are those actions really going to make your experience that much more enjoyable? Probably not. Let others experience the place for the first time, just as you did… hopefully without any visual impact.

6. Respect Wildlife

The urge to get as close to nature is real. Especially when dealing with wildlife. But is important to remember that wildlife is… well… wild. You are technically a visitor to their space, so act like one. Keep your distance, mind your actions, and eliminate (as best you can) your disturbances.

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Last, but certainly not least, maintain respect for others. This principle is basically a wrap-up of all other guidelines for Leave No Trace. None of us want our experiences to be ruined or impacted by someone else, or their behavior. So do your neighbors a favor, do yourselves a favor, and show your courtesy. 

By putting these principles into practice, you will become a part of the change. Believe me when I say “It feels good to do good”. Because when I do my part, I really do feel better about myself, and it generates a cycle of positive influences.

Meet the Author: Adam

Want to read more like this? Check out Adam’s blog at and explore more about road trips, national parks, and sustainable travel ideas.

“Whenever I can, I do my best to get out and explore. Experiencing as much of this incredible planet that I can; And by sharing my experiences, hopefully influencing others to do something extraordinary, and pay regards to our big blue marble.”

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Santa Barbara, California