But the gift nature provides can’t be a one-way relationship. Here’s how to look after the countryside, and even better, how to give something back.
Hiking in countryside comes with a responsibility to “Leave No Trace”, this means leaving the area as you found it. Follow our guide to make sure you are leaving your trek with good karma, man.
The quintessential line when heading out to the wilderness is to Leave No Trace. This is simply the idea that you leave nature as you found it. Leave No Trace was developed by the United States Forest Service in the 1960s after noticing the impact hikers were leaving on the trail. Its seven principles are:
# Plan and Prepare
- This is researching your route, the weather, the rules and the conditions of your hike.
- By doing this you will increase your ability to complete the route safely and with minimal disruption to the environment.
- By researching site specific rules, you can avoid disturbing the local flora and fauna.
# Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Where possible use existing trails and camping areas.
- The best campsites are found, not made.
- If no campsite is available, choose gravel, dirt or dry grass areas.
- Some surfaces are fragile and certain vegetation can take years to grow.
- Walk through mud rather than around it if it is on your trail (check our article on Cleaning Your Hiking Boots if you need to do so after).
# Dispose of Waste Properly
- Always pack a bin bag or two to take any litter with you in your backpack.
- In the case you forget a bin bag, take litter in your standard backpack and clean it later.
# Leave What You Find
- Preserve the past when visiting cultural or historic sites, do not touch and enjoy from a distance.
- Leave everything as it was found, don’t interfere with plants and animals.
- Don’t take things away with you, the memories are better staying with the area.
- This may seem extreme, but if everyone took something the impact would be damaging.
# Minimise Campfire Impacts
- Campfires can be very damaging to wildlife, opt for lightweight cooking stoves or candles for light.
- If campfires are allowed, then ensure it is contained and safe – and a good distance from the tents!
- If you need wood, don’t damage trees, take deadwood.
# Respect Wildlife
- Don’t get too close to bugs or animals, respect their beauty from a distance.
- Don’t feed animals, this can be harmful to native species.
- Keep pets under control or leave them at home.
# Be Considerate of Others
- Keep noise to an acceptable level, part of nature’s beauty is its peacefulness.
- Be friendly and polite to others on the trail.
- Don’t camp too close to trails.
While these guidelines may seem stern, it doesn’t mean you need to be worried or over the top with them. Have fun, laugh and ponder over the beauty of the countryside with your family and friends, but just make sure you are respectful of the area and of others visiting. Keep calm, and hike.