Outdoor Ethics: 7 Leave No Trace Steps

How To Minimize Your Impact While In Nature

Anytime you head into the outdoors – no matter the trip length or destination – we'll go over why following the Leave No Trace ethics is important and vital to the health and well-being of our wildlife. In this article we have collected the main 7 Leave No Trace steps and principals so you can ethically venture into the wild and be confident you are respecting nature while you're visiting. Our parks, trails and rivers are shared resources and should always be left as good (or better!) than you found them.

1. Plan Ahead & Prepare

Find out as much as possible about the area you’ll be visiting beforehand. Each provincial park and campground has different rules and regulations that you need to be aware of.

Is there anywhere to dispose of garbage?

If the place you are visiting does not have provided garbage disposal facilities, bring along garbage bags. Plan how you’re going to bring OUT every bit of rubbish you have brought IN – including trash, leftover food, toilet paper, hygiene products, and general litter.

Are there any toilet facilities?

Some parks and trails have maintained toilet facilities. Others may have simple drop-toilets or no facilities at all. If there are no designated toilets, make sure to bring along a small trowel.

What are the rules about firewood?

Collecting firewood is forbidden in Manitoba provincial parks – whether it’s fallen or cut. If camping in a provincial park, bring or buy wood accordingly. If you are crossing a provincial border you may not be able to bring firewood with you.

2. Travel & Camp On Durable Surfaces

When Walking

Stick to established and existing trails, and walk single file in the middle of the trail, even if it’s muddy. Try to walk on rock, gravel, dried grasses and snow rather than living grass or mud.

When Camping

Remember the saying "good campsites are found, not made." Set up camp in an established site whenever possible, and do not alter the surrounding area. Keep your campsite clean, focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent to minimize impact.

3. Dispose of Waste Properly

Food Waste

Remember to pack out everything you bring in! You will need to carry out all:

  • Trash
  • Leftover food
  • Toilet paper and hygiene products (unless using minimal amounts of biodegradable toilet paper)
  • Litter

It is fine to burn cans or other items in the fire to remove traces of food, but they must be removed from the fire when cooled and packed out with the rest of your garbage. When packing for a trip repackage food when possible to minimize the packaging you’ll have to bring back. For 'Leave no Trace' bonus points, lend a hand by collecting any extra trash you may find lying around the campsite or trails from previous visitors.

Human Waste

If there are no toilets, use your trowel to dig a cathole at least 15cm deep and 70m from water, campsites and trails to do your business. Cover and disguise the hole when finished, packing out any toilet paper or hygiene products with the rest of your garbage.


To clean yourself and/or your dishes, use a collapsible bucket to carry water at least 70m away from streams or lakes and wash with a small amount of biodegradable camp soap. Afterwards strain dishwater and pack any food pieces out with your garbage. Scatter the remaining water.

4. Leave What You Find

With the exception of picking up garbage, leave the areas you pass through as you find them. Don’t build structures or furniture, and leave rocks, plants and other natural objects undisturbed.


The main goal in not disturbing plants and vegetation is to avoid introducing or transporting non-native species that could damage the area. Remember, we are just visitors and we want to be able to return to the same undisturbed location for many generations to come.

5. Minimize Campfire Impact

When fireboxes or established fire rings are present and fires are permitted

Keep all flame contained within the box or ring, and keep fires manageable. Use only sticks from the ground or that can be broken by hand, or bring your own fire wood if possible.

If no established fire area is present

Consider remaining without a fire on your trip – use a small camping stove for cooking and a lantern for light. Fires can cause lasting damage to the backcountry, and should not be built up in pristine areas.

If fires are not permitted

You heard the officer – don’t do it.

After A Fire

When you are done with your fire, burn down all wood and coals to ash and put the fire out completely. The ash should be cool to the touch and no longer smoking. Scatter the remaining ashes.

6. Respect Wildlife

If You See Wildlife

Do not approach or feed them. Never feed animals for a number of important reasons: your safety, feeding wildlife damages their health and desensitizes them to people and other predators. If you have pets with you make sure they are under control at all times.

Even If You Don’t See Wildlife

Properly secure food and garbage at all times in a bear-proof box (if provided), bear-resistant canisters, or by hanging your food bag at least 12 feet off the ground and 6 feet from the trunk of the tree. Wild animals are opportunistic eaters – exposing them to your food can create dangerous associations between humans and food in their minds and result in "problem animals" that may have to be put down.

7. Be Considerate of Others

We all head into the wild to get away from it all. Respect your fellow visitors and try not to infringe on anyone else’s experience.

If You Meet Someone on the Trail

Follow the rules of “Trail Right-of-Way”: Hikers going uphill are usually considered to have the right of way. Mountain bikers should generally yield to hikers – but sometime’s it’s easier for a nimble hiker to move out of the way and let the biker through. When passing anyone on a trail, it’s polite to call out a simple “hello” so you don’t surprise them!

Even If You Don’t

Keep noise to a minimum. Don’t play amplified music in the outdoors – if you can’t hike without your tunes, use a pair of earphones. When hiking with a group, avoid loud voices and always let nature’s sounds prevail.

Official Leave No Trace Canada

You can find lots of info about Leave No Trace camping and principals, but here is the official Leave No Trace Canada non-profit website, so you can further reference how to respect and preserve our great northern wilderness!