One of the great things about renting a campervan is the ability it has to transport us into the wild, natural places that we love. And, as visitors to these places, it’s our responsibility to leave them as we found them, ensuring that future visitors are able to have an experience similar to our own. Minimize the impact you have on the environment while out adventuring this season and leave no trace this winter with these best practices.
Know Before You Go
You don’t have to be a boy or girl scout to know the value of being prepared. Before traveling to an area in the winter, know what to expect for weather and conditions. If you’re looking to escape to the mountains for the weekend, know what the avalanche conditions are and which mountain passes are open. Also, be prepared for other potential winter hazards like unplowed roads, ice, and downed trees. No matter what you have in store, leave an itinerary with family or friends.
Stay Solid and Safe
Whether parking your van or walking around camp, it’s important to avoid damaging any plants or undisturbed areas. If there is already an established parking spot at your campsite, use it. The same can be said for trails—stick to pre-existing ones if possible. In addition to the ground below, pay attention to what’s above you. Before setting up camp, make sure you’re not located under any snow-laden or damaged trees that could unexpectedly topple over.
What Goes In Must Come Out
Simply put, whatever you take with you on your trip should come back out with you. Yes, that includes human waste. If you’re simply “passing water,” make sure you are at least 200 feet (roughly 70 adult steps) from any trails or water sources. For solid waste, bury it deep into the snowpack or in a cathole. In particularly sensitive areas, consider packing all of your solid waste out in a wag bag (we can provide these with your rental!).
Take Home Memories
It’s understandable to want to take a souvenir home to help remember your awesome winter campervan adventure. However, fight the urge, and leave no trace this winter. Instead, take a picture or make a sketch. Our bet is your trip will be so memorable that a small trinket won’t do it justice anyway—so leave the forest how you found it for the next person to enjoy.
Fire Up Your Trip, Not the Forest
Nothing says camping more than sitting around the campfire. Unfortunately, campfires can wreak havoc on the forest. If you’re planning on having a campfire while in the woods, use only dead, downed wood (or the firewood bundle that can be included in your campervan rental) and avoid doing damage to any living trees or plants. When it comes time to cook, the kitchen in your van rental is much more efficient and easier to use than a campfire.
Don’t Badger Wildlife
While in the woods this winter, consider yourself a visitor—after all, your stay is only temporary but to the forest’s animals, this is home. Winter is a particularly difficult time for many of the forest’s inhabitants, as food is scarce, weather is harsh, and travel can be challenging. Interacting with humans can place additional stress on these already susceptible creatures. A good rule of thumb is to keep your distance and to keep quiet. Also, make sure your food is stored securely, as animals might be extra desperate for scraps.
Do Unto Others
An easy way to leave no trace this winter is to simply behave as you would like to see others behave. Learning about where you are going and follow any rules particular to that area, leaving your campsite in the condition you found it (or better), keeping noise to a minimum, packing out your trash, and being respectful of other campers are a few easy ways to ensure we can all enjoy our time in nature, now and in the future.
Leaving no trace this winter is easy if you follow these best practices, and by doing so you help preserve the outdoor experience for others and protect the land that we all love. One of the best resources while you’re out in the field (potentially, or maybe ideally, without cell service) is the local ranger station. National Park and National Forest rangers are trained in Leave No Trace practices and are excited to help visitors enjoy the land in the most responsible way possible. Stop at the ranger station on your way, and ask them for help finding an appropriate campsite or some awesome trails to explore.
Finally, before you head out on an adventure this winter, take a few minutes to brush up on the 7 Leave No Trace Principles, so that you can enjoy the public lands and help preserve them for the next visitors.