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Minimum Impact

Why is it important to practice minimum impact camping?
How does one choose a environmentally safe campsite?
What are the problems with established campsites?
How does one store and prepare food and dispose of food waste?
How does one wash with minimum impact?
How does one dispose of waste with minimum impact?

It is important that while exploring and enjoying the outdoors one inflict little or no impact on the surrounding wilderness. It might seem that a single piece of garbage or setting up camp a little bit away from an established site will not hurt. However, one has to realize that many people use the area, and those small impacts eventually will add up.

When searching for a campsite, use designated or already impacted campsites for popular areas, and avoid camping in pristine areas whenever possible. Select a campsite 200 feet or more from wet meadows, lakes, streams, and other water sources, as to avoid contamination. Also, camp on well-drained sandy or rocky sites with few or no fragile plants, which can take many years to recover. Lastly, wherever you choose to camp, one should be aware of any regulations or special conditions of the area.

Unfortunately, even when established campsites are used, the campsite environment can still suffer from numerous undesirable and unhealthy conditions. (e.g., filth, infestation of ants, flies, and mosquitoes). Therefore, it is important to continue minimum-impact camping even after a site has been selected, particularly with preparing food, washing, and disposing of waste. The best way to transport food and reduce the impact on the environment is to repackage any food that is being taken in reusable containers. When preparing food, a backpack stove is a more efficient and environmentally friendly way to cook than using a fire. However, if fire is the only option, find a small pit or mound where there is no vegetation and build a small campfire there. When finished using a campfire, extinguish it with water, scatter the ashes, and replace any topsoil that was removed during the building of the fire pit. Bury any biodegradable food waste (eg. animal entrails) in a hole at least 6 inches deep, where they can slowly decompose without being offensive to other campers or attracting any unwanted visitors. The best way to store any extra food in the backcountry is to hang it high on a nearby tree or pole. Never wash or clean within 200 feet of a natural water supply. Wash with a small bowl of water and a small amount of biodegradable soap. Once finished washing, do not return the dirty water to the lake or stream. Rather, scatter it away from the water source or bury it in a hole. The most environmentally friendly way to deposit human waste is to move at least 200 feet from the campsite and any water source, dig a small hole about 6 inches deep and deposit waste there. Cover the hole when finished. Toilet paper should be used sparingly and either burned or packed out with the trash.


A basic minimum impact camping principle to stick by is to leave the campsite in a better condition than when it was found and leave no trace. When in a remote area, double-check the campsite to make sure there is no trace that may encourage repeated use by other visitors. In well-used locations, replace any moved material.

To learn more about how to enjoy camping with minimum impact, please visit the following site:
http://www.usscouts.org/camping/bslowimp.html