Winter time and Leave No Trace

Winter time is no time to forget about leave no trace.
In fact, winter time is a great time to teach and reinforce those Leave no Trace principles with your Scouts.
Winter camping offers a pristine environment where every day there can be new trails, things tend to disappear in the snow, and camping takes on an increased level of skills, routines, and adventures.
Many Scouts and Scouters forget about leave no trace during the winter months, especially when camping in the snow. It seems that “Outta sight..Outta Mind” becomes the rule and that is a habit I would encourage you all to break.

Lets take a minute and apply the principles of Leave no trace to winter camping.

1. Plan and Prepare. As with every camp out we need to plan and prepare for the type of camping, the location and environment, the routes, meals, gear, and methods of hauling trash, reducing impact, and arriving and departing the camping area.
In the winter we need to be very aware of the impact that will be left once the snow melts, the frost leaves the trees, and the temperature warms up.
Cooking plays a major part in this. Cooking, cleaning up, and disposal of food waste is just as important in the winter as it is in the warm months.
When planning meals, remember to reduce trash. Repackage meals at home, precook, and reduce the mess. One pot meals make for the best meals when camping in the winter. They are hot and tasty. They fill you up and there is less mess.
What do you do with left overs or the stuff that is left in the pot? Eat it.. or pack it out. Food that is left in the wilderness can have a serious negative impact. Just like in the summer, we do not want animals eating “people food”. Its not good for them, and they come to expect it, especially in high impact areas or areas where lots of people camp.
This brings up planning for location. Go where others don’t! It’s winter, strap on some snow shoes and get into the woods, away from other people, it will enhance your winter camping experience.

2. Travel and Camp on Durable surfaces. While snow is always a great place to camp that will leave a minimal impact. Just because you are camping on snow does not mean that you can get lazy. You will need to think about the impact around the area you camp. How do you anchor your tent? Are you planning on using the stick anchor method? Where are you going to get the stick? Breaking it from a tree is not a good idea.. and violates LNT principles. Are you planning in tying your guy lines to a tree? That’s ok, but try not to scar it and never use a knife on it.
When traveling, how are you moving? On ski’s? Show shoes? Foot? Think about the trails or the snow covered clearings that you will travel in. You need to plan a good route in the winter. Watch out for covered water, they can be very hazardous.

3. Dispose of Waste Properly. Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter.
Deposit solid human waste in cat holes dug 6 to 8 inches deep at least 200 feet from water, camp, and trails. You will need to pack out your TP in the winter. There is just no where for it to go unless you take it with you. Try to use the same area for the group. That way you don’t have little land mines all over the place. Cover and disguise the cat hole when finished.
To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater. Dumping it in Tree wells is ok, but spread it out the best you can.

4. Leave What You Find. Fortunately there is not much to find in the snow covered wilderness, but when you do stumble upon something neat. Take a picture of it and leave it there for the next camper.

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts. Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the back country, even in the winter. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
Use established fire rings if you can find them or pack in a fire pan.
Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes. Fires are a great psychological tool in winter camping. They warm the spirit and body and allow for more time spent outside of the sleeping bag. The impact is the same though and should be treated that way. Burn your fires to ash. leaving burnt sticks to lay in the snow will eventually be a burnt stick on the ground.

6. Respect Wildlife. Observe wildlife from a distance especially in the winter. That animal might be hungry. Do not follow or approach them.
Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely. Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors. One of the joys of winter camping is the fact that it is quiet and that you will see less and less people in the wilderness in the winter. Therefore, Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience. Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail. especially if they are using a more difficult mode of transport. Snowshoes for example take more space on the trail than Cross Country skiers. give them space to move through. Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
Let nature’s sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises. You can have fun without being obnoxious. Teach that to your Scouts, its all apart of teaching them to have a greater appreciation for the outdoors.

Leave no Trace is for the whole year, teach your Scouts to use these principles all year round. Being a good steward of our wilderness areas, camping sites, and environment is a part of being a Scout.

Learn more about Leave No Trace by opening up your Scout Handbook to page 244.
Also visit

Have a Great Scouting Day!

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