Minimum Impact Hiking and Camping -by MNS_ SWG09

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Minimum Impact Hiking and Camping -by MNS_ SWG09

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Minimum Impact Hiking and Camping - Leave No Trace
Outdoor Skills and Ethics

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Maketab Mohamed
Chairman, Malaysian Nature Society, Johor Branch


Malaysia’s forest reserves and national parks are finite resources whose social and ecological values are linked to the integrity of their natural conditions and processes. With more and more visitors coming into these natural areas each year, it becomes increasingly more important to learn and practice minimum impact ethics. Though we may be lucky enough to enjoy some moments of solitude while hiking or camping, we must not forget that thousands of others will follow suit to experience the same. These steadily expanding visitation to our natural areas challenges land managers charged with balancing dual mandates of protection of natural and cultural resources and providing high quality recreation opportunities. The goal of the Leave No Trace (LNT) principles are to avoid or minimize impacts to natural resources and help provide a positive recreational experience for all visitors. Visitor education designed to instill low impact ethics and skills is a critical management component and is a light-handed approach that can reduce the need for more direct and regulatory form of management.


We visit wild places to discover ourselves, to let our spirits run with the graceful canoe or kayak and journey through the beckoning green canopy of our jungles. The wilderness is good for us. It enables us to discover whom we really are, and to explore whom we are really meant to be. It is the nature of these natural areas that gives us the space to slow the pace of our lives, to becalm the storms of everyday life, to gain perspective on the things we truly value.

Our favorite wild places - those whose jungles have welcomed us, whose clear, fast-flowing streams have refreshed us, whose sunsets have inspired awe - are not ours alone. They are a treasured resource, there for the good of all who seek their own true spirit through solitude and adventure.

But as we visit wildlands, we leave signs of our passing - signs that speak of the need for taking better care of these lands, of recognizing the impacts that we create as we travel and camp, and of the need to develop a collective commitment to practices that aim to minimize the signs of our presence. We must personally develop, and foster among others, wildlands ethics that give purpose to these practices.

The Leave No Trace (LNT) principles might seem unimportant until you consider the combined effects of millions of outdoor visitors. One poorly located campsite or campfire may have little significance, but thousands of such instances seriously degrade the outdoor experience for all. Leaving no trace is everyone’s responsibility.

Leave Not Trace (LNT) Awareness

Instilling values in young people and preparing them to make ethical choices throughout their lifetime is the mission of the present leaders. Leave No Trace helps reinforce that mission, and reminds us to respect the rights of other users of the outdoors as well as future generations. Appreciation for our natural environment and knowledge of the interrelationships of nature bolster our respect and reverence toward the environment and nature.

Leave No Trace is an awareness and an attitude rather than a set of rules and regulations. It applies in your backyard or local parks as much as in the backcountry. We should all practice Leave No Trace in our thinking and actions - wherever we go.

We learn Leave No Trace by sharing the principles and then discovering how they can be applied. Leave No Trace instills awareness that spurs questions like "What can we do to reduce our impact on the environment and on the experiences of other visitors?" Use your judgment and experience to tailor camping and hiking practices to the environment where the outing will occur. Jungle, mountain, beach, freshwater, and wetland environments all require different minimum impact practices.

Outdoor Ethics

Help protect the backcountry by remembering that while you are there, you are a visitor. When you visit a friend, you take care to leave your friends home just as you found it. You would never think of trampling garden flowers, chopping down trees in the yard, putting soap in the drinking water or marking your name on the living room wall. When you visit the backcountry, the same courtesies apply. Leave everything just as you found it.

Hiking and camping without a trace are signs of an expert outdoorsman, who cares for the environment. Travel lightly on the land.

The Principles of Leave No Trace

All hikers and campers should be committed to Leave No Trace, which would allow us to save our jungles and other natural areas for the next generation. These seven principles are guidelines to follow at all times:

Plan Ahead and Prepare

Minimum impact practices must be flexible and tempered by judgment and experience. Techniques are continually evolving and improving. To help ensure the healthy future of our country’s wild places, all visitors to the jungles, mountains, beaches, parks, trails and rivers must maintain a spirit of cooperative desire to explore and understand our wildlands, and a willingness to challenge themselves by developing new ways to minimize one's impacts upon them.

Assessing personal goals for the trip and clarifying expectations within your group are the first steps in being prepared. The time spent researching, planning a route and informing yourself of the challenges you may encounter, and the skills, supplies and equipment you shall need will help you achieve these goals safely and competently. Proper food, shelter, and clothing will allow for the time and comfort to deal with unexpected poor weather without hastily building a fire, or causing damage to fragile vegetation in inappropriate or inadequate campsites.

Having skills to match the demands of your route will go a long way towards ensuring a safe and fulfilling trip, and will allow you to Leave No Trace of your passage.

a) Be Informed

You must gather as much information of your destination as possible. Most can be accessible by the Internet nowadays. Available information includes:

• Special regulations, closures, stay limits, restrictions on campfires;
• Permits - required for all commercial groups and overnight camping;
• Daily user fees or annual passes;
• Group size restrictions;
• Transportation especially public transport to the destination;
• Designated campsite locations;
• Fishing regulations, and license requirements;
• Entry and exit points for your chosen hiking trails;
• Emergency procedures;
• What to expect; and
• Recommended itineraries based on experience level.

b) Accept responsibility for your actions.

The decision to visit the backcountry is one that should carry a commitment to be a good steward of the land. Your behavior and interaction with the environment and other visitors, and your efforts to leave things as you find them will ensure the recreational area retains its special qualities.

Recognize the cumulative impact that thousands of backcountry visitors each year have. Because you are part of this, make decisions that work to reduce your impact. Get to know the members of your group as part of pre-trip planning. Find out about their backcountry experience and skill levels. Plan an itinerary that meets the needs of the group's least physically fit member. Instill a commitment to low impact practices. This fundamental preparation is basic to good leadership, and alerts you of any need to help others learn what it takes to Leave No Trace.

c) Proper Planning

Proper trip planning and preparation helps hikers and campers accomplish trip goals safely and enjoyably while minimizing damage to natural and cultural resources.

Campers who plan ahead can avoid unexpected situations, and minimize their impact by complying with area regulations such as observing limitations on group size. Schedule your trek to avoid times of high use.

Obtain permits or permission to use the area for your trek.

Proper planning ensures:

• Low-risk adventures because campers obtained information concerning geography and weather and prepared accordingly;
• Properly located campsites because campers allotted enough time to reach their destination;
• Appropriate campfires and minimal trash because of careful meal planning and food repackaging and proper equipment;
• Comfortable and fun camping and hiking experiences because the outing matches the skill level of the participants.

Poor planning makes safety and comforts your focus, rather than on Leave No Trace. Plan to arrive at your destination each day with time and energy to set up a secure and well thought-out camp, or if necessary, to continue on and find an adequate site. Sudden changes in the weather may make staying warm and dry challenging. Know what to do in a lightning storm, or if the water level of the river become too demanding for your skills. Keep safety a priority by informing others of your plans.

Know what your options are if someone in your group becomes ill or injured. Stick to your route, be informed of, prepared for, and properly manage the risks you may encounter.

d) Plan your logistics well.

Time spent preparing and planning for your logistical needs is more than repaid once your trip is underway. Proper food and equipment enhance both your confidence and your competence as a backcountry traveler.

e) Select and Use Proper Gear.

Proper gear leads to comfort, safety, and the ability to greatly reduce the impact of your backcountry visit.

Make sure your gear is in good repair and fits your needs. Maps and a compass are essential items. A global positioning system (GPS) is also of great help. Small camp-stoves and freestanding (dome) tents allow flexibility in selecting campsites and help in camping without causing new, or additional impact.

Collapsible water carriers reduce the number of water collection trips. Wear waterproof hiking boots to allow walking through puddles and mud on wet trails, and to avoid widening trail impacts. A parang is indispensable or managing a fire, and for digging cat-holes to bury human waste wherever outhouses are not provided. Insect repellants, long-sleeved shirts and pants provide relief during mosquito and sandfly season, allowing visitors to avoid any frantic haste in setting up camp.

Brightly colored tents, packs and clothing may look attractive but make you very visible to other visitors in the backcountry, thus contributing to a crowded feeling. To minimize your visual impact, bring earth-toned clothes and equipment. There are exceptions to this, however. In rivers, brightly colored canoes, inflatable rafts or kayaks may sometimes be important for safety. To increase visibility in an emergency, a few brightly colored items displayed as needed, may be life saving.

f) Plan your meals.

Food is a highlight of any trip, so spend some time planning nutritious and enjoyable meals. Focus on quantity so you will have plenty for your needs, but would not be carrying excess. At home, try out a few recipes with the foods you are taking, to assure success at the campsite. Cook only as much as you plan to eat at each meal. Leftover food often ends up as garbage that must be packed out. Never leave excess food in camp kitchens, around fires, or in outhouses.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

In the backcountry the key to reducing impact is in confining activity to surfaces that are durable, or highly resistant to damage. Rivers, trail systems, and designated campsites will most often provide these surfaces. In popular or already impacted areas, concentrate use to reduce further damage. However, in areas that appear unimpacted, or pristine, it is better to spread use, thus dispersing impacts. Finally, it is important to avoid all places where impact is just beginning to show.

Recognize durable surfaces. Durability refers to a surface’s tendency to resist impacts from trampling and camping activity. Examples of durable surfaces are exposed (bare) rock, sand, gravel, leaf litter and of course, water. These include thin, fragile or unstable soils, wet or swampy areas, and moss or lichen-covered rocks. Though most vegetation is not considered durable, dry grasses are reasonably resistant to impact because of their hardy root structures and flexible stems and can withstand a limited amount of travel. Avoid damage to aquatic vegetation when fishing, paddling in shallow water, and loading or unloading your inflatable raft, canoe or kayak.

Stay in your boat when taking a break from paddling, or land at a designated campsite, portage landing, beach, or rock outcrop. At camp, land and store your boat, raft or kayak on durable areas of riverside - sand, gravel or rocky beaches work well - being careful to avoid vegetation or fragile soils. While hiking, or on portage trails, take rest breaks on durable surfaces such as rock, bare ground, or a fallen tree. Rest your pack or canoe on a durable surface as well, in a place where you are out of the way of other visitors. Use care to avoid damage to trees and other vegetation along the trail.

Stay on established hiking trails and paths leading from campsites toilets or outhouses, water sources, and boat landings. Hiking outside of these eventually creates excessively wide, or multiple paths. Wear waterproof boots or shoes that can get wet, gaiters for keeping mud out of your hiking boots, and stay on the trail, walking on exposed rocks or even in the mud. Walking around mud puddles widens trails and worsens mud problems. Do not cut switchbacks - it saves little time and causes gully formation and erosion.

Avoid places where impact is just beginning. If traveling off-trail, avoid places that are already showing impact, such as unofficial trails, or boat landings away from docks and portages. Most vegetation and soils can completely recover from a limited amount of impact.

However, there is a threshold where the ability of vegetation to regenerate cannot keep pace with the amount of trampling it receives, and where harmful compaction and erosion begin with trampled soils. Once this threshold is passed, the site will rapidly deteriorate, and natural recovery will be more difficult.

Hiking trails, lunch spots or day camps, and cross-country campsites that show evidence of slight use, such as crushed or flattened vegetation, are best left alone to regenerate.

Damage to land occurs when visitors trample vegetation or communities of organisms beyond recovery. The resulting barren areas develop into undesirable trails, campsites, and soil erosion.

In high-use areas, campers should concentrate their activities where vegetation is already absent. Minimize resource damage by using existing trails and selecting designated or existing campsites. Keep campsites small by arranging tents in close proximity.

In more remote, less-traveled areas, campers should generally spread out. When hiking, take different paths to avoid creating new trails that cause erosion. When camping, disperse tents and cooking activities - and move camp daily to avoid creating permanent-looking campsites. Avoid places where impacts are just beginning to show. Always choose the most durable surfaces available: rock, gravel, sand and compacted soil.

These guidelines apply to most tropical forests and may be different for other areas, such as beaches.

Dispose of Waste Properly

“Pack it in, Pack it out” – that is the waste management principle for the Leave No Trace. This simple yet effective saying motivates backcountry visitors to take their trash home with them. It makes sense to carry out of the backcountry the extra materials taken there by your group or others. Inspect your campsite for trash or spilled foods.

Accept the challenge of packing out all trash, leftover food, and litter.

Pack out all of your food waste, trash, and unused fuel. Burning or burying trash or garbage should not be practice in our natural areas. Trash and litter have no place in the backcountry. It takes only a simple commitment to pack out all that we pack in, and to encourage others to do the same. In addition, we can show good stewardship by carrying an extra trash bag to help carry out litter that others have left. This is a small burden, and you will be proud of your efforts.

When preparing for your trip, reduce litter at the source. Eliminate glass bottles, cans and jars except those for personal, non-food items such as medicines, insect repellent and fuel. Repackage food into reusable plastic bags or containers, and remove any excess packaging. Unwrap snack foods at home and bag them in bulk. Small pieces of trash such as batteries, twist-ties, candy wrappers, fishing line and cigarette butts are often left in haste or fall out of pockets and litter the backcountry. Put scraps of trash in a small plastic bag kept handy just for this occasion.

Garbage is leftover food waste. Food scraps, spilled or excess food, orange peels, nutshells, apple cores and the like should be picked up and packed out. If you have leftovers from a meal, either save and eat them later or put them in a plastic bag and pack them out.

Never dispose of trash or garbage in outhouses/toilets. When this is done they fill up quickly, and may be torn up by animals searching for food. Misuse of outhouses creates a costly and time-consuming burden for the Forestry Department or the national park. In addition it results in replacing outhouses at an accelerated cycle, which adds to impacts in the backcountry.

Animals frequently dig up buried garbage. Food scraps left in outhouses or campfires, or food that is buried or scattered about, encourages animals to see humans as sources of food, which bothers campers and changes the animals’ natural feeding patterns.

Not long ago, backcountry visitors were advised to burn all of their trash to reduce bulk. This policy has changed because attempts at burning trash or garbage frequently result in campfires littered with unburned scraps of food, foil, tin cans, glass, plastic and paper, as well as illegal fires. Trash is often lined with noncombustible foils or plastic, and garbage is difficult to burn. The leftover residue is both unsightly and can be scattered by the wind or scavenging animals. Toxins produced from burning plastics and other materials affect the air we breathe. Paper items thoughtfully left for the next campers' fire will probably get scattered, or soaked by rain or dew.

Practice good sanitation

In the backcountry, we create certain waste that is difficult to pack out. This includes human waste and wastewater from cooking and washing, including gray water on boats.

Properly dispose of human waste. We should treasure our clean rivers and streams. We can go a long way towards protecting them by simply being responsible and putting forth the effort to properly dispose of our own human waste.

Proper disposal of human waste helps prevent pollution of water sources, minimizes aesthetic impacts to other visitors, and reduces the spread of illness.

There are four guiding principles behind Leave No Trace sanitation practices described below:

• Avoid polluting water sources;
• Eliminate contact with insects and animals;
• Maximize decomposition;
• Minimize the chances of social impacts.

a) Cat-holes

In backcountry areas away from campgrounds where outhouses or toilets are not provided, a cat-hole is the most widely accepted means of human waste disposal. Burying human feces in soil is the most effective method of reducing aesthetic impacts, and reducing the possible spread of pathogens. In cat-holes, waste decomposes slowly, so there is a strong need to place them in correct locations.

• Locate cat-holes well away from rivers, streams, gullies, trails and campsites. Use 50 meters as a good distance for this, but remember that you may need to increase this due to environmental factors such as thin or absent soils;
• Disperse cat-holes widely. Go for a short walk to find an appropriate site away from camp, or use a remote location during the day’s travels.
• Choose a site that other visitors will be unlikely to accidentally discover. It may take some doing to locate a proper one, so plan ahead;
• With a small trowel, dig your cat-hole six to eight inches deep— deep enough to keep insects and animals away - and four to six inches in diameter. This can be a challenge in soils that are often thin and rocky so, again, plan ahead;
• After use, cover the cat-hole with the excavated soil and disguise it with natural materials.

It is also inappropriate to deposit human waste under rocks. This may inhibit decomposition and the next curious visitor, causing a huge aesthetic impact, might overturn the rocks.

If members of your group are unable to utilize cat-holes effectively (for example, groups of young children), it is best to visit an area where outhouses or toilets are provided.

b) Urination

Urine has little direct effect on vegetation or soils. Research indicates that urine poses little threat to human health. However, the odor of urine can create an aesthetic impact, and animals occasionally dig up and damage ground to get the salts deposited from urine. Try to urinate on durable surfaces such as bare rock or a fallen log away from camps and water.

c) Toilet Paper and Feminine Hygiene Products

Use toilet paper sparingly. Where outhouses are provided, deposit toilet paper in them. If cat-holes must be used, ensure the toilet paper is buried deep. Improper disposal of used toilet paper could result in a health hazard to other campers. Toilet paper should not be burned at the cat-hole - it rarely burns completely and has been a source of wild fires.

If you are willing, consider using natural alternatives for toilet paper. Popular forms include clean stones, smooth sticks, and leaves. However, use discretion with live vegetation to avoid the possible contact with irritants found in some plants. Obviously some experimentation is necessary to make this practice work for you, but it is worth a try. At the cat-hole or outhouse, use low lather, biodegradable soap or anti-bacterial lotion, to wash your hands - reducing impact includes keeping yourself and each other healthy.

Alternatively, water can be used instead of toilet paper, which has to be packed in. Two half-liter bottles would be enough for each bathroom trip.

Feminine hygiene products will not break down sufficiently for backcountry disposal and should be double bagged, similarly to toilet paper, and packed out back to the mainland.

d) Properly dispose of wastewater

Hot water, a little elbow grease, and sand, snow or other natural scrubbers can tackle most backcountry cleaning chores. Soap is unnecessary for most dishwashing jobs and can be difficult to thoroughly rinse off. If soap is used at all, it should be used sparingly. Remove all food bits from the water (a small strainer or piece of screen are essential tools for this), and pack these particles out with garbage and other trash. The gray water can then be scattered, or broadcast over a wide area, away from camps and water sources. Even if you use biodegradable soap, please do not dispose of it in lakes or streams, as it takes a long time to degrade, and in the meantime contaminates the water you and the wildlife depend on. If bathing, only use soap if necessary and use it sparingly. Get wet, lather up and rinse on land far from water sources (50 meters), with water carried in a collapsible container or pots. It is important to allow all soap or wastewater, even that from biodegradable soaps, to filter through the soil, where the contaminants can be broken down before reaching any body of water.

A thorough rinsing with plain water can clean clothes. Wash garments away from water sources. In most larger lakes, and streams of ample volume, swimming or just taking a dip without any soap is all right, and has not been seen to harm the water. However, keep in mind that the water you swim in may be someone’s source for drinking. So be respectful, and avoid swimming where you may impact other visitors, disturb wildlife, or impact shorelines or streambeds.

Leave What You Find

Every wildland region has unique features of geography, geology, plants and animals, climate and weather, and a cultural and archaeological story to tell. Getting to know this story of the land - the natural and human history - is one of the major goals that should motivate you. Allow others the sense of discovery by leaving plants, rocks, and historical, cultural and archaeological artifacts just as you found them.

a) Leave natural features undisturbed.

Some backcountry camping practices, once favored and suitable, are no longer necessary or appropriate. Invest in a good tent rather than trying to improvise shelters with materials from the woods. Use sleeping pads, collapsible camp chairs, and plastic groundcloths rather than cutting boughs for a bed. Do not hammer nails into trees, disfigure them with axes and saws, or leave wire or ropes tied around them. Tent or hammock lines tied to young trees or branches should be padded to avoid damaging the bark or girdling their trunks.

Picking flowers may seem a harmless act, but the cumulative effect of many people doing so becomes quite damaging. Besides reducing the plant's vigor and seed production, picking flowers changes the way wilderness appears to others who could also enjoy the flowers in their natural settings. In Malaysian forest reserves and national parks, laws and regulations prohibit the damaging of vegetation; it is best to simply admire flowers and plants where and how you find them, and to take them home in photographs, drawings and memories. Natural objects of beauty or interest such as feathers, bones, rocks or mineral crystals, should be left alone for others to discover and enjoy. In national parks, it is illegal to remove any natural or cultural objects.

b) Eliminate introduction of non-native species.

The introduction and spread of invasive non-native species of plants and animals is a significant ecological problem in wildlands. Many exotics, when introduced to an area with conditions favorable to their growth, will out-compete native species, displacing them and leading to large-scale changes in the ecosystem. By being aware of our role as a carrier in the spread of non-native species, and by changing our behavior we can help maintain the ecology of the wildlands we cherish.

c) Help preserve the past

Archaeological, cultural and historic artifacts preserve an important part of our past. These artifacts and remnants are all part of our history and we benefit in the knowledge we gain and the sense of discovery that they provide.

Allow others a sense of discovery, and preserve the past. Leave rocks, plants, animals, archaeological artifacts, and other objects as you find them. Examine but do not touch cultural or historical structures and artifacts. It may be illegal to remove artifacts.

New findings of artifacts should also be reported to the Museum and Antiquities Department.

Minimize Campfire Impacts

Do not dig tent trenches or build lean-tos, tables, or chairs. Never hammer nails into trees, hack at trees with axes, parangs or saws. Replace surface rocks or twigs that you cleared from the campsite. On high-impact sites, clean the area and dismantle inappropriate user-built facilities such as multiple fire rings and log seats or tables.

Good campsites are found, not made. Avoid altering a site, digging trenches, or building structures.

Campfires are frequently an anticipated part of the camping experience. Their use in cooking, for warming, and in creating a social focal point has been passed down through the generations. However, campfire impacts are among the most common and obvious recreational impacts in wildlands.

In heavily used backcountry areas, the impacts due to campfires are both ecological and aesthetic in nature, stemming from overuse and misuse of fires and local wood supplies. Around designated campsites, the impacts of inappropriate campfires include fire rings littered with trash and garbage, and overflowing with char, or incompletely burned wood. Other damage results from axes and saws: broken-off branches, birch bark peeled from trees, charred soil, vegetation trampled in the search for firewood, mazes of trails leading into the woods, and the forest floor barren of downed wood. Smoke from our fires may lay heavy on a still day and impact those camping nearby.

Even where campfires are allowed, their cumulative impact points out the need for us to rethink their place as essential to the backcountry experience. All backcountry visitors should remember that a campfire is a privilege - it should be viewed as a tool to be used only when appropriate. The decision to have a fire should never be made arbitrarily, but should balance its purpose against its impacts and the ecological and aesthetic condition of the site. Having a fire requires a commitment of time and effort to see the entire process through - from wood gathering to clean-up - in a way that demonstrates concern and responsible judgment, directed towards the well-being of our wildlands.

Fires should be banned in sensitive environments, in areas where the impacts associated with collecting firewood would be damaging, in areas where impacts have been excessive, or during dry spells when the danger of forest fire is high. Wind presents a danger when a campfire is burning. Rain makes starting a fire a challenge, and wet fires need to consume lots of wood to stay lit. Wherever signs of their overuse are present, fires should not be built.

Fires are not allowed on off-trail or cross-country trips. Proper planning for the backcountry includes carrying the appropriate equipment for warmth, shelter and light and fuel and a lightweight campstove for all cooking needs.

Campfire alternatives can also be considered. Campstoves provide many advantages in the backcountry. Modern camping stoves are lightweight and easy to use - rain or shine. With them, cooking is fast and clean. Stoves give flexibility in camp and kitchen selection - availability of wood and a good fire site is not an issue. In designated sites, place your stove on a fire grate to provide a stable platform and to concentrate the activities of cooking to within an already impacted area.

Lightweight lanterns, candles, and flashlights all provide excellent light sources for after-dark cooking or reading. A cold meal can provide a refreshing and easy break from the cooking routine. A candle lantern can provide an excellent alternative to a campfire for the evening’s get-together. An evening without a fire or other bright light may provide an opportunity to see wildlife and to notice sounds and smells beyond the influence of the firelight and smoke.

If you choose to build a fire where they are permitted, do so in a way that will leave no lasting impact on the environment. Do not bring firewood into the park - insects and pathogens can become established.

Always use established campfires at the designated sites. Use the established campfires help to concentrate impacts and to keep surrounding areas unharmed. Do not build additional campfires or attempt to build fires against boulders or ledges. These practices also greatly increase the impacts of campfires by disturbing and damaging soils, roots, vegetation and rock. Before starting a fire, clean out any unburned trash that others might have left, and pack it out.

Use small pieces of dead and downed wood. Campfires should only be built if there is abundant dead and downed wood gathered from the ground away from camp. You should not need an axe or saw; small, easily broken wood is best for a suitable fire. Collect wood during the day, walk a few minutes into the forest. Gather firewood a few pieces at a time from a large area, to avoid depleting any one place in the forest or on the shore. Small pieces of driftwood are okay. Use small-diameter wood no larger than an adult’s wrist, as this will burn completely - a goal for any low impact fire.

Never break branches or strip bark from standing trees, live or dead. Pealing bark from a live tree will harm and could kill the tree. Stubs, scars, trees without branches, shorelines devoid of driftwood, and the forest floor picked clean of dead wood are impacts we can easily avoid.

Keep your fire small and purposeful. Massive fires are of little use other than as a spectacle. They are too hot to manage, much less cook on, and too wasteful of the excess wood that they consume. Break firewood into useable lengths as needed, as the fire is burning. Wood should be burned down to ash or very small coals so as to eliminate char. Once finished, make sure the flames are out and the coals are cold to the touch, and clean the fire up before leaving camp. If there is any unused wood, scatter it in the forest to decompose naturally, and to avoid a pile of firewood being left over.

Keep safety as well as impact in mind with any campfire. Consider the factors of wind, overhead branches, dry leaves and surrounding vegetation. Always attend your fire and keep proper tools, such as a metal shovel and water, at hand. Double check that it is out cold before going to bed or leaving camp

Some people would not think of camping without a campfire. Yet the naturalness of many areas has been degraded by overuse of fires and increasing demand for firewood.

Lightweight camp stoves make low-impact camping possible by encouraging a shift away from fires. Stoves are fast, eliminate the need for firewood, and make cleanup after meals easier. After dinner, enjoy a candle lantern instead of a fire.

If you build a fire, the most important consideration is the potential for resource damage. Whenever possible, use an existing campfire ring in a well-placed campsite. Choose not to have a fire in areas where wood is scarce - at higher elevations, in heavily used areas with a limited wood supply.

Respect Wildlife

The presence of wildlife is one of the certain pleasures we enjoy in the backcountry. Indeed, the call of a bird and the howls of gibbons in the morning are defining characteristics of our forests. Any visitor surely feels richer for having memories of an eagle fishing in a lake, or an otter playfully searching along a stream. Whether traveling by boat/kayak or foot it is imperative that we keep the animal residents of these wildlands in mind. While we may certainly enjoy them, it is our collective responsibility to respect the lives, habitat, and needs of these creatures, and to travel and camp in a fashion that will not impact them in any way.

a) Enjoy wildlife at a distance.

The survival of any animal, and ultimately any species, depends upon its success navigating the constant challenges and threats of the world in which it lives. Our presence and actions present yet another challenge to wildlife. Make it your goal to enjoy wildlife, but to do so in a fashion that does not stress or pose a threat to it. The best way to do this is to keep your distance. Never approach or follow wild animals, or block their lines of travel or escape. Never pick up any wild animal.

Purposely herding animals into a better setting for a photo, throwing objects, teasing, making noise or mimicking calls to change their behavior are things that cause them undue stress. If any animal that you are observing shows that it is aware of your presence, act disturbed, begins to flee, acts aggressively or defensively, or approaches you, then you are too close. Be prepared to enjoy wildlife at an unobtrusive distance by carrying binoculars, spotting scopes and telephoto camera lenses to observe or take photographs.

b) Never feed wildlife

Many species of wildlife are adept opportunists. When offered the temptations of an untidy backcountry kitchen, or a handout from an admiring camper, they may eventually overcome their natural wariness of humans. They become attracted to people as an unnatural source of food. Once this occurs, aggressive or destructive behavior may follow as the animal becomes conditioned in conflicts with humans. Animals ultimately lose in these situations.

When fed, animals may become less wary of hazardous locales such as campsites, trailheads, paths, and docks. They may also congregate in unnatural numbers, increasing stress and spread of disease within their populations. Feeding wildlife prevents them from eating the natural foods needed for adequate nutrition. It also leads to disease and the ingestion of wrappers, cans, and bottle caps - all of which may prove fatal.

The solution is simple. The creation of nuisance animals that may be harmed or harm people is our doing: Keep wildlife wild by not feeding them.

c) Minimize noise

Traveling quietly, and in small groups, helps give wildlife the space they need to feel secure. Keep yourself and members of your party aware of the impacts that noise creates. By reducing noise you shall disturb the wildlife less, and likely see more of it.

Quick movements and loud noises are stressful to animals. Considerate campers practice these safety methods:

• Observe wildlife from afar to avoid disturbing them.
• Give animals a wide berth, especially during breeding, nesting, and birthing seasons.

d) Avoid sensitive habitat

Localized areas where animals feed, access water, raise young, or seek shelter can all be considered sensitive. Practice your skills at recognizing signs of wildlife such as animal trails, tracks, rubbings, scat, bird nests, bedding or dens areas. In general, wildlife does not like surprises. Resist the temptation to investigate a bird nest, or to approach a den site to get a better look. As visitors to wildlands we must respect their sensitive habitat by staying on established travel ways and camping at designated sites.

As a general rule, when you see an animal with its young, do not approach it. Animals are extremely protective of their young and encounters with humans are very stressful to the parents and may be a safety risk to you.

Be aware of seasonal stresses on wildlife. Mating seasons are stressful times for animals, when large amounts of energy are spent pursuing and defending mates and territories. During nesting and rearing seasons animals focus primarily on feeding and protecting young and guarding nests. Animals can become unusually aggressive toward people during the mating season. Be especially vigilant to avoid animals during these times - for their sake as well as your own.

e) Store food securely.

A secure camp is a sign of a seasoned traveler. Storing food properly, keeping a clean camp, and preventing animals from obtaining any human food is the goal of Leave No Trace. Although there are no tales of foraging bears in Malaysia, there are other animals have become adept at stealing food and gear - especially monkeys.

Store food so it is unavailable and uninviting: Good options for food storage are well-packaged food to eliminate odors and prevent spills, and all food packed tightly into a pack or in a shelter. Check with the visitor center for specific requirements for food storage in the campgrounds on your itinerary:

• Items to be stored include dry, packaged or fresh food, garbage, tobacco, toothpaste, and scented or flavored toiletries or miscellaneous items. Used toilet paper and feminine hygiene products should be stored as well;
• Leftovers, or any foods with a strong scent, should be sealed in doubled plastic bags or hard plastic containers to reduce odors.

The goal is to keep wildlife from detecting and accessing food. Even then you should be aware that animals are clever, agile and persistent, sometimes finding ways to get food despite our best efforts.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Our backcountry experiences are shaped by both environmental and social factors. We work to avoid impacting the environment so that it stays healthy and makes our experience richer. Our experience will also be enhanced if we strive to lessen the social impacts of wildland recreation. Meeting and accommodating other visitors, sometimes frequently, is a reality in many of our wildlands these days.

a) Understand the condition of wildlands.

When we choose to recreate in wildlands, or natural areas, we acknowledge the value of land free of human influence. We seek natural ecosystems, where we can experience and observe wildlife and intact natural processes. We embrace a primitive existence, where we’ll have opportunity to apply our backcountry skills, and experience adventure and solitude in a setting very much unlike our environments at home. We have commonly come to call lands that posses these attributes wilderness.

As visitors to any of Malaysia’s backcountry, we all seek a form of wilderness. We enjoy the area because it offers us so much that is unlike our automated, complex lives at home. By purposely leaving conveniences and development behind, we open ourselves to the beauty and authenticity of this wild place. So, too, we must develop a respect for the land, wildlife, and other visitors.

b) Respect the goals of other visitors.

Motivations for a backcountry trip are unique to each person. For some, the desired experience is to enjoy peace and solitude. For others, completing an ambitious route is the goal. Still others enjoy the camaraderie and adventure, which can be found along the waterways and forest trails.

If you travel through our jungles and mountains with a conscious etiquette - quiet, respectful, eager to learn and discover, willing to work hard to maintain its values - not only will your own experience be enhanced, but so will that of others you may meet along the way.

c) Avoid conflicts

Being friendly and outgoing toward other backcountry visitors is a good policy. Be prepared to share campgrounds with other hikers. However, remember that each person seeks their own balance between solitude and levels of social interaction. On the trails and around campsites, share news of the day’s events with others, but remember to be respectful of people’s desire for privacy and solitude. Avoid conflict by being aware of others as you travel, and by making a conscious effort to allow them their own experience.

Contact the staff each relevant visitor’s center to get a clear idea of exactly what type of travel or use is allowed where and how busy the park is during different times of the season, so you have realistic expectations, and can plan for the type of experience you desire. Be informed, tolerant, and understanding of the various modes of travel - hiking, kayaking etc. - or activities - camping, fishing, whitewater rafting - allowed in the park. Visit the backcountry with a cooperative spirit.

d) Minimize crowding

Consider the area you intend to visit, when you’ll go, and your route in an effort to find out how many other visitors you’re likely to encounter. If solitude is a goal, you can often find it by exploring less well known, or less easily accessed areas, or by going during less popular periods.

Some of the most direct impacts seen in wildlands are those created by large, undispersed and loosely organized groups. Noise, visibility, and the imposing feeling imparted by a large group can be reduced through supervision and planning. If you are a group leader, carefully consider the area you will visit, your route, the timing of your trip, and your group’s conduct. Accept responsibility for facilitating and practicing good camping etiquette. Be aware that size limits have been set for groups and campsite reservations are required for parties with more than 6 people. Contact all the relevant agencies more information.

Let nature’s sounds prevail. Sound travels easily on the trail. Become aware of the noises we make that we become desensitized to: noisy conversations over a loud stove, shouting to a partner on the trail. Keep a check on excessive noise and understand the effect that it has on wildlife, or other visitors seeking quiet and solitude. Although not enforced, quiet hours should be observed between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., when visitors should take extra care not to make noise.

Portable radios and CD players disturb other visitors and wildlife. Technological conveniences such as cellular phones, bright lights or lanterns impact the integrity of the wilderness experience for many people. Try not using these devices in the wilderness in order to get the full effect of this unique experience. If you must use such items, do so unobtrusively and consider whether they contribute to the backcountry experience you are seeking, or instead cause you to miss elements of it.

Thoughtful campers respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience. Some issues to be remembered:

• Travel and camp in small groups (no more than 12 people);
• Let Nature’s sounds prevail. Keep the noise down and leave radios,
CD players, and pets at home;
• Select campsites away from other groups to help preserve their solitude;
• Always travel and camp quietly to avoid disturbing other visitors;
• Make sure the colors of clothing and gear blend with the environment;
• Be considerate of other campers and respect their privacy.

Conclusion – The Challenge To Practice Leave No Trace

We need wild places. We need to know about them, to experience them and understand the rhythms they follow. We need to contemplate our place within these wild lands, to discern what it is that draws us there. We need to carry with us an ethic that recognizes the value of wild places and acknowledges our responsibility to treat them with respect, and apply good judgment as we visit and travel in those places.

We need to care for wild places as if they were our homes; in many ways, they are. We need to act, for ourselves and as examples for others, in a way that Leaves No Trace of our passing, not only in designated wilderness, but whenever we visit natural places. To do this is good for us, it is good for those who will surely follow, and it is good for the wild places, wherever they may be found.

Contact the Forestry Department or the national park offices in your area and see how you can help. Be active in the planning and management of areas that are important to you. Volunteer for trail maintenance, habitat restoration efforts, and public education programs, or organize them for your local area. Get involved and let your opinions on land use be known. Support wildlands and sustainable recreation for our future generations.


Leave No Trace Outdoor Skills & Ethics. Isle Royal National Park, Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, November, 2004. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.

Leave No Trace website. http//: Accessed on 29 Dec. 2008.

The Principles of Leave No Trace for Outdoor Adventures. The Boy Scouts of America website. Accessed on 28 Dec. 2008.
Dan Kami jadikan di bumi gunung-ganang yang menetapnya, supaya bumi itu tidak menggegar mereka; dan Kami jadikan di celah-celahnya jalan-jalan laluan, supaya mereka mendapat petunjuk.(Surah Al-Anbiyaa':31)

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