©iStockphoto.com/Photawa Image by: ©iStockphoto.com/Photawa
1. Revise the old "leave nothing but your footprints" adage to simply "leave nothing"
Avoid breaking new ground and never take a path that park authorities have posted off limits due to wildlife rehabilitation. Whenever we stray from trails and paths, on foot or on bike, we're compromising the forest's regeneration cycle. (And increasing our odds of encounters with poison ivy!)
2. Garbage in, garbage out
Make sure you take out anything you have brought into the park. Store all litter at the campsite and either drop it off at designated trash stations, or take it home.
3. Don't feed the animals
If you encourage wildlife to "beg" for food, it increases dependency, and future human-wildlife encounters – which often leads to wild animals having to be destroyed.
Bears can be a huge worry when camping, so protect yourself, and your furry friends, by following standard food-storage protocol when camping in areas known to be home to bears. The Whistler, BC-based Get BearSmart Society has tips on their website.
4. Limit campfires to designated sites
Fire pits are designed to prevent the spreading of fire. If there are no designated areas, look for bare ground free of twigs, grass, wood or anything else that can catch fire. Also, make sure there aren't any trees overhead. Don't forget to ensure all embers are out at the end of the night. Designate someone to be in charge of a final check.
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5. Set up tents in designated areas
Don't go all Man vs. Wild and pick a sheltering spot at random. Vegetation is damaged when we set up camp overtop, and many native plant species take years to grow. Keep this in mind when choosing a place to set up camp.
6. Use biodegradable soap for cleaning yourself and your dishes
If you only have a body of water to clean in, lather up and rinse a good distance from it so the soap can be filtered by soil. You can find biodegradable soap at camping goods stores, health food stores and many larger department and drug stores. Cult fave Dr. Bronner's liquid soaps are a great choice because they can be used on hair, body, dishes and clothing.
7. Bring reusables
Washable camping dishes, cutlery and food-storage containers are always preferable to disposables, as they eliminate a ton of waste. Check your local camping store or Mountain Equipment Coop's for easy-to-tote lightweight, collapsible and nesting products. They take up little room in your pack.
8. Follow bathroom etiquette
If nature calls while you're far from a portable or restroom facility, use biodegradable bathroom tissue and bury wipes and, um, anything else, at least six-inches under soil.
Coghlan's Tissue On The Go is biodegradable and also comes in compact mini-rolls so every camper can tote their own tissue.
9. Fish smart
Catching dinner is fun and can save you money, too! But improperly handling fish you do not plan to keep can result in their death from either trauma or secondary infections.
When fishing, be sure to:
• Observe catch limits
• Observe any other posted rules (ie. not fishing next to a fish ladder, etc)
• Practice proper catch-and-release form for fish you're not keeping (see tips below)
• Invasive species can endanger an ecosystem, so be aware of your province's bait regulations. In New Brunswick, for instance, it's illegal to use live bait in most waters.
• Handle fish as little as possible
• Never lift fish out of the water by the embedded fishing line or by the fish's gills
• Wet your hands with water before handling fish
• Use pliers to quickly remove the hook
• Gently move the fish forward and back through the water by its tail if it needs time to recover before swimming off
• When taking a photo, either shoot with the fish in the water, or when the camera is ready, lift the fish just barely out of the water (with wet hands) supporting its weight evenly, before quickly releasing it
• Always use barbless hooks if there's a chance you will be releasing fish
10. Eat local
While there's something to be said for easy-peasy, reconstitute-and-heat camping cuisine, if you're only heading out for a few days make time to shop at some farmer's markets or roadside stands. Enjoy some fresh locally grown veggies and fruit, artisanal cured meats, yummy cheeses and fresh-baked bread. And don't forget the fresh-baked pie!
For more camping tips, expert advice and guides to some of the best campgrounds in Canada, visit our guide to the great Canadian outdoors.