Leave No Trace - Plan Ahead and Prepare - Part II

You're ready to hit the trail, your overnight backpack is packed, and it's time to have an adventure!

Before you go, have you thought about your food packaging? Is your backpack full of tiny wrappers with little foil corners? Do you have what you need to properly handle food waste and pack it out? Let's talk about it!

Plastic bags full of colorful dry food.

The first principle of Leave No Trace is Plan Ahead and Prepare. This is the cornerstone of the Leave No Trace ethics and the key to a low impact outdoor adventure.

We are exploring this key principle throughout the month of July. The second focus area of 'Plan Ahead and Prepare' is to minimize waste and micro-trash through good planning before hitting the trail. 


Minimize Waste - Effective Food Planning

We've all seen it. We've all seen the tiny little pieces of shiny wrappers on the trail. These tiny bits of foil and plastic are ugly and pose a risk to wildlife that may eat them. They do not decompose and do not belong in wilderness environments. 

Also of concern is food waste, crumbs, leftovers, and dishwater food bits left behind. These food particles are often eaten by wildlife which can make them sick or worse. They also teach wildlife that humans are a source of food which can lead to dangerous situations. 

These unsightly reminders of human impact can be minimized. Our trash and micro-trash - the term for tiny wrapper scraps - can be minimized through smart and effective re-packaging of food before we hit the trail. Food waste can also be minimized by smart meal planning, quantity control, and Leave No Trace clean-up methods.

Key items to consider for food waste prevention are:

  1. Re-packaging at Home: Can your food be re-packaged into larger reusable packaging? Can you re-package individually wrapped items at home to minimize the potential of micro-trash escaping on the trail?
  2. One Pot / Package Meals: Are your backpacking meals designed to use only one pot or package? Can you re-package or replan your meals to use minimal cooking supplies and/or containers to minimize waste and clean-up?
  3. Minimize Leftovers: Excess food needs to be either packed out or eaten. Is your food amount planned to be just enough for you and your group? 
  4. Campfires vs. Stoves: Do you need a campfire to cook your meals? Can you use a lower-impact stove cooking method instead?
  5. Leave No Trace Clean-Up: Are you prepared to eat all food particles from the pots or pans before backcountry dishwashing to minimize food waste? Do you have a no-soap and/or biodegradable soap method for dishwashing? (no-soap is great!)
  6. Waste Carry-Out Supplies: Do you have leak-proof containers to carry out all food waste and/or food contaminated items? 

The information gathered by the questions above will allow you to create a low-impact plan for your backcountry meals, clean-up, and waste disposal. These are important questions to consider before your trip to avoid making a mess, feeding the wildlife, or causing additional impacts. This exercise will also result in less trash to haul out and dispose of. This is always a great thing!

We will be reviewing additional aspects of 'Plan and Prepare' throughout the month. A smart approach to this key concept can make all the difference for you, your group, and our shared wilderness resources. 

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