‘What does no trace mean?’, my oldest son asks as we do one final sweep of the camp site before hopping in the 4WD and taking off to a new place. I explain it means that you leave an area in pristine condition, so when the next person or group of people come in they have no idea anyone ever camped here. I see the cogs turning in his head, and he seems to understand, and this is something I wish more people did, and took on board.
In Australia, we have access to some of the most amazing camping locations, and I’ve arrived to some camp sites to see them in such a shocking state that it makes my blood boil. In general, the camp sites that are most easily accessible are the worst, but I have to, sadly, admit that some 4WD only camp sites are also not left in a good state either, and it really gets me wound up.
What does it mean to leave no trace?
Take all of your rubbish out
When you depart a camp site, you shouldn’t be able to see a single piece of plastic, paper, old toys, tyres or any other rubbish. If you have the ability to pick up other rubbish that you find then do this too, so its left absolutely pristine.
There should be no evidence of your toilet activities
I’m beginning to think that portable toilets should be mandatory for camping in Australia where other toilet facilities don’t exist, because too many people don’t do it right, and leave their little bombs around everywhere.
If you do need to go to the toilet to do a poo, you should be digging a hole at least 30 centimetres deep, well away from any water and common walking tracks, doing your business and filling it all in. Some people recommend burning your toilet paper, which is fine if its safe to do so, you think about the risks of doing it and you don’t do it when inappropriate, but at the very least bury it all.
We just take a portable toilet with us today, and all of our waste goes into a dedicated dump point at the next town or location.
Toilet paper is one of the worst things you can come across in the bush, and its often not from people pooping; its from wiping after a wee and not disposing of it correctly. You can even put it in a snaplock bag and throw it in the bin at your next spot; it really isn’t that hard to have a bit of respect for others.
Camp fires should be put out and clean
Leaving camp fires burning is one of the dumbest things you can do, especially when there is water around. Don’t cover them up; simply grab some water and tip it over the top, and make sure any glass, metal or other rubbish is removed from the fire put.
I don’t understand why people put drink cans, bottles, metal cans and any other random objects in a fire; it doesn’t burn and just leaves the place looking filthy.
Fire pits should be used, and not new ones made everywhere
A lot of fire pits in Australia are built by people with rocks. Where possible, use ones that are already made, instead of lighting a fire in a new location. If you arrive at a place and see 50 camp fire remnants around the place, its not overly pleasant.
Any old coals and ash should be carefully disposed of in the bush once cold, and not thrown around the camp site as they take a long time to go away.
Leave it pristine
Ultimately, you should be leaving a place pristine. If you’ve ripped up the tracks getting in, take a minute to fill them in and leave it looking like no one has been there. We’ve had times where we struggled to get in our out and made a few holes, and 10 seconds on a shovel and its back to looking new, and ready for the next person.
Abuse it and lose it
We’ve already seen a huge amount of closures in Australia, and that’s because it’s the easiest form of management. Why bother struggling with managing grubs when you can just gate the area up and no longer have to deal with it?
Look after our bush, and leave it open for everyone else to enjoy in the future.