Leave No Trace Principle 2 – Know Before You Go

Backpacking / Conservation

Every year, you read about lost and injured hikers. Google “lost hiker” and the year 2011 and you get a whopping 78,400 hits. Even discounting for multiple entries, that’s a lot of people who needed help. Experienced hikers get lost or injured too. Bad weather, unfamiliar terrain, poor judgment, and fatigue are major contributors to having a problem. The problem may be a minor one, or it could end up being life threatening.

One of the most controllable steps that can make the difference in a successful and fun time on your hike is preparation and planning before your trip. It might take an extra 30 minutes but a few simple steps in advance can prevent many problems from happening. Also if you have an issue, having the necessary resources (and knowing how to use them) gives you the ability to handle the situation.

Leave No Trace believes that the easiest and safest way to protect places you enjoy visiting is to plan ahead and be prepared. Take these simple steps to enhance your enjoyment of the outdoors.

Know Before You Go

• Know the regulations and any special concerns or requirements for the area you’ll visit. Fences and barriers are there for a reason. Slippery rocks and fast moving water are impossible to predict. Listen to the local weather ahead of time.
• What about the skill level of the group? Factor in experience and fitness to make sure the goal is appropriate. Make sure you have enough time. Know your level too. Are you really prepared for what you have selected. Have you progressed to this level of hike?
• How does the destination and time of the year affect what you will bring? Prepare for weather, hazards, and emergencies. It may be hot and sunny on the ground, but flurries up top. Mark Twain once said when asked about New England weather “wait a minute”.
• Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
• Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns, or flagging. Check you progress along the way so you will stay on course
• Be prepared! Remember food, water, and clothes to protect you from cold, heat and rain. Taking regular breaks to hydrate and eat or snack. Check in with yourself and the group – how is the energy level.

Additionally, outdoor experts have identified the basic items to bring on any hiking trip – even day trips. These are known as the ten essentials. They easily fit in a daypack. Corny as it sounds, make a checklist (or print this blog!)
1. Map and/or guidebook
2. Compass
3. Extra Clothing, especially if you are hiking above tree line – Sweater or Jacket, Long Pants, Hat, & gloves/mittens – use wool or synthetic, NOT cotton. Read up on hypothermia
4. Extra Food and plenty of water. Nothing wrong with leftovers.
5. Flashlight or Headlamp with extra batteries
6. Matches/Firestarter
7. First Aid Kit with personal medications
8. Whistle
9. Rain/Wind Jacket & Pants
10. Pocket Knife

I add these extra items to complete my preparation:

Wear sturdy footwear and the proper socks
Watch and/or cell phone (no guarantee of service)
Trash Bag – for trash whether it’s yours or others – Remember to “trash your trash”
Insect Repellant and sunscreen
Sunglasses
Small roll of duct tape – you just never know when you might need it

Learn about the areas you plan to visit. Read books, check online, and talk to people before you go. The more you know, the more fun you’ll have, you will minimize your impact on the area, and maximize safety for the group. There is an old saying you are only half way done when you get to the top of the mountain – you still have to get down safely! Choosing to get outdoors in New England will change your life. Get back to nature, climb mountains, or snow shoe by the river, you will breath better and live better. Its in your backyard. But, be please be prepared and Leave No Trace.

For more information or help with planning, stop by your local EMS store for advice. Also, the NH Fish and Game Department and the White Mountain National Forest have a great web site at www.hikesafe.com for additional information.

This information was developed from the seven Leave No Trace principles. For more information on Leave No Trace, please visit www.LNT.org or call 1.800.332.4100.

Bob Holdsworth


Bob Holdsworth is a New Hampshire native who started hiking the White Mountains in high school. A life long love affair with the outdoors has let him explore the Sierra Nevada, Shenandoah, the Pacific Northwest, and two recent ascents of Mt Kilimanjaro. He recently relocated back to New Hampshire and is rediscovering the mountains in New Hampshire. He is a Leave No Trace Master educator and enjoys speaking to groups about minimizing their impact in the outdoors. He lives in North Conway which serves as great gateway to mountains of New Hampshire..

1 Comment

  1. September 26, 2011, 3:41 pm

    Most help articles on the web are inaccurate or icnhoreent. Not this!

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