Part of the allure of going bush is the opportunity to immerse yourself in pristine wilderness, to marvel at its beauty and appreciate its untouched state. It’s about getting away as much as possible from all that constructed environment and man-made waste. So there’s nothing more annoying than spending hours walking into a secluded spot only to find those before you have come, gone and left behind an awful mess, spoiling the landscape and your experience.
With that in mind, and in the interests of preserving nature’s beauty, you should always tread as lightly as possible when you are out camping. There are plenty of things you can do – from the way you travel to the things you use when travelling – that ensure you leave nothing but footprints behind.
Leave No Trace
The aim of any wilderness excursion is to leave where you visit as though you’d never been there. There are seven broad principles to ensure you ‘Leave No Trace’: plan ahead and prepare; walk and camp on durable surfaces; dispose of waste properly; don’t remove or change things; minimise the impact of campfires; respect wildlife; be considerate of your hosts and other campers.
Purchase gear fit for the purpose
When purchasing gear for your adventure, be sure to choose items that will last the longest. There’s no use gained from buying the cheapest implement for cooking for instance only for it to fail quickly when used in the bush. Purchase quality for durability. Also, think carefully about what you will need in camp, depending on the type of trip you’re undertaking. A multiday walking trip will be all about minimalism and lightweight equipment, whereas a 4WD or campervan holiday allows for a little more luxury, given the stove and food won’t be on your back. Whatever kit you buy, ensure that it, and its outputs, will not spoil the environment, and if it has the potential to harm (such as cooking oil) ensure that you have containers suitable to capture any harmful items and take them away with you.
Use biodegradable products where possible
This is especially important when cooking and washing in nature. It’s hard to capture and take out your dishwashing liquids or personal hygiene waste water, so ensure that you select a detergent and/or soap that is all-natural and biodegradable. Also, ensure you use a non-aromatic product – detergents with strong odours interfere with the natural order of things when it comes to creatures visiting the same waterholes you use.
Limit fire use
Of course, everyone loves a fire whilst camping for cooking and to stay warm, but don’t overuse your fire. Be sparing with the amount of wood you use (even dead wood is important in an ecological sense for decomposition, bugs and even larger animals such as bush rats, who use it for their homes).
In popular campsites; light your fire on a patch of dirt or pit left by previous fires. Don’t light fires on fresh ground unless it’s unavoidable. Light fires on bare soil or sand, well away from stumps, logs, living plants and river stones (which may explode when heated). Sweep away all leaves, grass and other flammable material for at least two metres around your fireplace.
Burn only dead wood that’s fallen to the ground. Don’t break limbs from trees or shrubs. Don’t use your campfire as a rubbish incinerator. Take foil and plastics with you when you leave along with all your other rubbish, including cans, bottles and food scraps. Before you leave, douse your fire thoroughly with water, even if it appears to be already out. Don’t try to smother a fire by covering it with soil or sand as the coals can continue to smoulder for days. Only water puts a fire out properly.
Take out what you take in
Every scrap of rubbish you create should be carefully stored in sealable containers and bags, and carried back out with you. Not only does this keep rubbish out of the environment, it also makes you think more carefully about your consumption, making you pack and consume much more economically. There are a number of camping products now available specifically designed to contain scraps and waste in a no-mess fashion.
Keep water clean
Do not wash up (yourself or dishes) in waterways. Collect any water needed for cooking and washing, and carry it away from the water source before using. Never wash yourself with soaps in or near a water supply. Of course, it’s only natural to swim in waterholes, but try not to contaminate them with soaps and on-body sprays (deodorants and the like), and try to swim only in places that are not being used as drinking water sources. When you’ve finished with contaminated water, tip it out over as wide an area as possible, away from any water source, to minimise impact.
Think about human waste
No you don’t always have to take this one out (it’s biodegradable), although it is an option. You do, however, need to think carefully about how and where you go, because leaving human waste in natural areas can result in contaminated water supplies and soils, and lead to diseases such as Giardia. The generally accepted standard is to ensure you are more than a few hundred meters away from any water source, trail or campsite. You need to dig a hole and ensure that it is well covered. There are great products on the market, including lightweight trowels specifically for this purpose.
If you’re in a larger group, it may be worth setting up a portable toilet. There is a large range of toilet/shower tents and portable toilets available at Rays and the Thetford range of toilet additives and toilet paper also available in Rays stores are all environmentally friendly. You can then dispose of your waste whenever you get to the nearest toilet, long drop or otherwise.
Some great bush care resources:
Leave no Trace: www.lnt.org.au
Minimal Impact Camping: http://org.wildwalks.com/bushcraft/minimal-impact-techniques/
Minimal Impact Bushwalking: www.wises.com.au/minimpbus.htm
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