Ontario Parks are now open for adventures, so get your trekking poles, your trail mixes and your hiking shoes on and go explore the outdoors!
Before you get out there and start exploring, remember the Leave No Trace Philosophy. What is the Leave No Trace Philosophy, you ask? Don’t leave anything behind; what you bring in, you bring out. It’s fairly simple, yet a lot of people simply do not adhere to this philosophy.
As the snow was slowly melting, it exposed really bad things that humans have done during the colder months; leaving trash whenever they pleased in the woods. I have stumbled upon too many poop bags left behind in Gatineau Park that I was disgusted by my fellow outdoor enthusiasts. Seriously, if you are going to go as far as to pick up the poop with a poop bag to then just leave the bag in the snow bank, just never mind about the bag and leave the poop alone. It’s highly upsetting to see a plastic bag in the middle of woods when the matter in the bag could have decomposed. I am certainly not telling you to stop scooping your dog’s shit, I am telling you to stop leaving the plastic bags everywhere. I am telling you to not be lazy and to actually throw that bag into a garbage can. With these incidents in mind, I decided to build a small guide to help you plan better on your next adventure. They’re great rules for the newbies and great reminders for the experienced.
Before leaving the house
Before you leave the house, make sure that you are prepared with the right tools for the adventure you are about to take on. What you bring with you on your hike/trek/camping, you bring back home with you.
- Make sure you know the rules and regulations. Some areas do not aloud cans for example, so make sure you read up on what you can and cannot bring with you.
- Package your food in advance for minimum product waste. There are products wrapped in more plastic than they should so unpack and repackage for less waste on your trip.
- Use a GPS device, maps and/or compass so you don’t have to mark Nature around you (ribbons, paint on trees, etc).
- Lay out everything that you are bringing with you to make sure you are not leaving anything crucial at home.
- Have a list of what you need and follow it when packing, both at home and on your adventure. This will ensure that you have the necessities as well as not leaving anything behind.
- Understand the area you are visiting. Nature has a lot of edibles that are filled with vitamins; you just have to know what is good to eat and what is not! Do some research on the type of ecosystem you are visiting. This could save you space when packing as you may have options for food that you did not consider before. A great example is the Spruce tree. It’s packed with vitamin C and makes a tasty tea. A bit sour depending on the time of year but add some honey and you’ll have a great warm beverage straight from Nature!
Choosing a campsite
When adventuring in the wilderness, finding a decent site to rest your head can be slightly challenging. I usually follow these 3 simple rules and always end up finding a decent site.
- A backcountry campsite is found, not made. Altering sites is never necessary.
- Select a campsite that is 200 feet away from lakes. In terms of weather, you do not want to be next to the water. The trees provide you with a natural shelter from certain weather and it may not be the best form of shelter, but it will protect you and your things a lot more than being next to the water. You also have to take into account the water movement on land. It’s possible to set up the tent and a few hours later the water is surrounding it. Like I mentioned above, know your area.
- Set up your tent in an area where vegetation does not grow. Try to impact Nature as little as possible!
Disposing of human, food and water waste
This is where the leave no trace philosophy really blooms. Human, food and water waste seems to be something some outdoor enthusiasts have a hard time to grasp. Following this rule will actually ensure your own safety. Hungry bears are generally not that friendly I must say.
- Pack in, pack out. What you enter with, you leave with. Inspect your campsite before you leave to make sure that everything has been taken care of.
- Build catholes about 6 to 8 inches deep, 200 feet or more away from your campsite, trails and water for human waste. All toilet papers, feminine hygiene products and other things you may use require to be put in a trash bag. You keep that bag until you can dispose of it at home.
- For ladies, menstruating during camping can be such a pain (in more than one way). Keep your waste in plastic sandwich bags as it is more weather/smell proof and we all know that a bloody mess in the middle of the woods is not wanted nor ideal. If you have not heard about the menstrual cups, I highly suggest that you look into it. It will change your every life and will make camping a lot easier to handle.
- For cleaning yourself up or washing your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams and lakes. Use a small amount of biodegradable soap as to not harm the environment too much with harsh chemicals. Scatter the water once you are done. Do not dump it all in one spot, this could be quite harmful to the area.
Respecting the environment
Respecting your surroundings is high on the list. You are a visitor. Never forget that. Your modern lifestyle do not belong in Nature and you should never alter it. Enjoy Nature in all its untouched glory.
- Do not, under any circumstances, bring a different specie of insect, animal or plant. Areas have certain life forms for a reason and introducing a new specie could be dramatically harmful.
- Leave things where they are. Do not make furniture, dig trenches or alter Nature in any way. Leave the past untouched and simply bask in Nature’s breathtaking landscapes.
- Leave plants, animals and insects alone. Take all the pictures that you want but leave Nature alone. Especially with animals, but then again, they will let you know if you are being an asshole, so be careful. Observe Nature from a distance and move on.
- Never feed an animal. Obvious but some may not realize how badly it impacts them and you. Again, observe from a distance and move on.
- Control your pets. If they cannot be controlled, do not bring them. It’s a harsh reality. If you cannot control your pets, they may harm themselves or put you in danger. Avoid this at all cost.
- Respect other adventurers. Leave no trace to assure a wonderful experience for all. Also, yield on the trails when encountering other humans. Acknowledgements of how awesome you guys are is always appreciated.
- Keep noise to a minimum. Enjoy the soundtrack of Nature and love your surroundings.
Campfires can destroy environments, we all know that. So if you are backcountry camping, the area will most likely not allow you to bring your own wood (This relates to the specie invasion part above.) Sometimes, the weather is too dry for a campfire as well so you must know if it’s okay to have a fire or not prior to leaving on your adventures.
- Check the area’s fire policies prior to leaving so you are equipped with the right tools in case you cannot have a fire. Tools would be things like candles, stove, etc.
- If a fire is permitted in the area you are visiting, use the fire ring or the designated fire area. If you happen to stumble upon a campsite that somehow does not have a fire ring, build one with rocks. Make sure you know what you are doing so you don’t impact Nature. If you have no idea how to build a fire ring, either learn prior to leaving the house or refrain from building one.
- Keep fires small. You are not having a huge frat bonfire party here, there is no need to impress other humans with a huge fire. Trust me, I love huge fires but it’s unnecessary to have a big one on a backcountry adventure.
- Burn all the wood and coals in the fire ring. Make sure the fire is put out completely and scatter the cold coals and ashes in the fire ring.
I hope this small guide will help you in making conscious decisions when planning your next adventure!