There are those among us who feel the need to fashion a reasonable facsimile of a suburban living room and kitchen as we travel in the wilderness. It seems a bit ironic that some of us purposely leave civilization behind then do our best to recreate it when we arrive at a site.

We all know about this type of site - they are the ones that have log couches, food preparation tables, lean-to frames, clotheslines, poles tied to trees ... all manner of "furniture" crafted from logs, sticks, poles, nails, rope and haywire. These sites look like they were previously home to Davey Crockett or a troop of 1955 boy scouts. Most of us do not go into the wilderness seeking this type of environment. We look for the ideal of finding a site which looks like wilderness - the appearance that nobody has stayed there before. We can accept a neat fire pit, and even a log by the fire pit to sit on, but beyond that, everything which is built detracts from the wilderness experience.

For those among us who may not agree with this viewpoint and see nothing wrong with pounding a few nails into the trees to hang our gear, please remember that you do not own the site to do with as you please. You are eventually going to leave that site, and those that follow may not share your taste in campsite redecoration. That being the case, the only fair option is to leave site in as close to a natural, pristine condition as possible.

A few helpful guidelines:

  • The ideal is to leave no trace of our visit. The next person should hardly be able to tell that a group has camped there before them.
  • We should never grade the ground or ditch around tents. Tents generally have a sewn-in, waterproofed floor and do not need this type of water-diversion tactic. We just have to be smart about our tent location and let nature take care of drainage in a natural fashion. Ditching and otherwise disturbing the ground cover causes erosion.
  • Campsites should never be enlarged by cutting down trees or underbrush. If our tents won't fit on a particular site, we should find a bigger area, or split the party.
  • It is important to tread lightly on our site. We should try to wear soft-soled shoes and avoid trampling underbrush and ground cover, and try to stick to established paths and cooking areas. Our tents should be set up in areas which have obviously been used for tents before.