Best Tips For Responsible LNT Camping: What To Avoid

Leave No Trace (LNT) isn’t just a set of rules; it’s an ethos for enjoying the outdoors in a way that protects them for generations to come. Let’s delve into common mistakes and expert tips, with a special emphasis on campfire safety, food storage, campsite choices, and minimizing your overall footprint.

A clean campsite in a forest clearing, with a tent, extinguished fire pit, and no trash in sight. A camper kneeling beside a bear canister, securing food items inside. Emphasize the importance of food storage.

1. Mastering Campfire Responsibility

A crackling campfire is the heart of many outdoor adventures. But with that cozy warmth comes great responsibility. Let’s ensure those campfire memories are happy ones by focusing on safe practices that protect both you and the environment.

  • Mistake: Building Fires in Unsuitable Areas. Regulations exist for a reason! Be aware of current fire bans or restrictions. If permitted, always use designated fire rings to minimize impact. If you must build your own, choose a clear area away from trees, brush, and anything flammable.
  • Pro Tip: Contain Your Fire. Portable fire pits, like the Solo Stove Bonfire, are fantastic for enjoying a fire and leaving minimal ground scarring. They’re often allowed in areas where ground fires may not be.
  • Mistake: Leaving Fires Unattended. A fire should never be left unsupervised – not even for a minute. Wind can pick up or a curious animal could investigate. Have a plan for proper extinguishment before you ever light a match.
  • Pro Tip: Drown, Stir, Repeat. It’s not enough to just dump water on a fire. Use a shovel to stir the ashes, soaking thoroughly. Make sure it’s cold to the touch before you leave. A collapsible bucket is handy for carrying water from a source.

2. The Key to Responsible Food Storage

The smell of campfire cooking might be delicious to you, but to wildlife, it’s an open invitation. Proper food storage isn’t just about having snacks for yourself; it’s about preventing animal encounters that can put both you and them at risk. Let’s delve into the methods that keep your food safe and the wilderness the way it should be.

  • Mistake: Leaving Food and Trash Accessible. Animals (especially bears!) have incredible senses of smell. Leaving even crumbs or wrappers out is like ringing the dinner bell. This leads to animals becoming habituated, risking both their lives and the safety of campers.
  • Pro Tip: Bear-Resistant Canisters. In areas with bear activity, these are non-negotiable. Canisters like the BearVault BV500 lock in smells, and their tough construction keeps even the most determined critter out.
  • Mistake: Underestimating Smaller Wildlife. Squirrels, raccoons, and even mice are resourceful! For areas without bears, a combination of an Ursack (a strong kevlar sack), proper hanging techniques, and odor-proof bags protect your food.
  • Mistake: Careless Trash Disposal. “Pack it in, pack it out” extends to even the smallest food scraps or wrappers. Animals quickly learn to associate campgrounds with easy meals, disrupting the natural ecosystem.

3. Campsite Selection: It Starts With Where You Set Up

Picking a camping spot might seem simple – find a flat area with a view, right? But thoughtful campsite selection is a key part of Leave No Trace principles. A little planning ensures you minimize your impact and leave the area pristine for the next visitors.

  • Mistake: Camping Too Close to Water. Lakeshores and riverbanks may be tempting, but they’re fragile ecosystems. Camp at least 200 feet away to protect water sources and minimize your impact on aquatic wildlife.
  • Pro Tip: Biodegradable Soap. Even if far away, choose biodegradable camp soap like Campsuds for washing. It’s safer for the environment if traces end up in the water.
  • Mistake: Setting up on Undesignated Sites. Always stick to established campsites. These areas have already been disturbed, concentrating your impact and allowing other areas to remain wild. If dispersed camping is allowed (and you’re experienced), choose a durable surface like rock, sand, or gravel.
  • Pro Tip: ‘Disappearing’ Your Campsite. Before leaving, make a quick sweep to scatter leaves or pine needles over your tent area, minimizing the visual sign of your stay.

4. Minimizing Your Overall Footprint

Leave No Trace isn’t just about the big things. It’s the constant awareness of how our actions ripple through the natural world. With a little mindfulness, each of us can be a force for good while enjoying the outdoors to the fullest.

  • Mistake: Forgetting the Power of Small Choices. Every disposable plate, piece of litter, or off-trail shortcut adds up. Shift your mindset to make the more eco-conscious choice, even when it’s a little less convenient.
  • Pro Tip: Repurpose & Reuse. Durable containers are your friends! Sturdy yogurt tubs are perfect for food storage, and that old coffee can makes a great mini trash bin to pack out every scrap.
  • Mistake: Relying on Disposables. Reusable camp dishes, water bottles, and quick-drying camp towels instead of paper towels and napkins drastically reduce waste.
  • Pro Tip: Gear That Promotes LNT. Look for products specifically designed with sustainability in mind, from solar lanterns to collapsible dishware. Every item chosen with care makes a difference.
  • Remember: LNT isn’t about sacrifice; it’s about enjoying the outdoors in a way that safeguards them. Imagine generations to come experiencing the same wild beauty thanks to our efforts today!


Leave No Trace camping is about more than just enjoying the outdoors—it’s about preserving it for future generations to enjoy. By following these tips for campfire safety, responsible food storage, campsite selection, and minimizing overall impact, you can ensure that your outdoor adventures leave behind nothing but footprints. Remember: the wilderness is a precious resource, and it’s up to each of us to do our part to protect it. Happy camping!


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