Whether you are headed to the tops of a mountain or the edge of the shore, make sure to research all of the rules, regulations, and weather conditions for your trip. Be prepared with adequate outerwear, first aid supplies, and trail maps. Bring gear that has multiple functions, like multi-tools, convertible clothing, and possibly a smartphone loaded with maps and guides. Schedule your visit for times that do not coincide with peak use.
Campers in Tent, Shutterstock
When possible, visit in small groups or break up large parties. Fewer feet on the trail at one time not only helps relieve congestion, but also diminishes damage to the ecosystem. Manageable numbers of campers also means less trash to deal with, quieter and more intimate experiences with nature, and fewer resources needed to be used and possibly left behind. Yield to those on the trail, and take breaks away from others.
Correct Tent Placement, Shutterstock
When pitching a tent, try and camp on durable surfaces, including established trails, campsites, rock, gravel, and snow. Keep sites small and pick spots where vegetation is absent. Set up at least 200 feet from streams and rivers to protect riparian areas. When walking on trails, move single file and resist straying from your route. In unmaintained wilderness, disperse in order to prevent creating impacted soil or creating new trails. If you spot an animal, do your best to remain quiet and hidden from view.
Digital Photographer, Shutterstock
Taking little souvenirs from your trip may seem tempting, but each rock, twig, and shell is a part of an ecosystem and should be left where it was found. Similarly, engaging with the local wildlife can at first strike you as a good idea, but could either desensitize animals to a human presence or be outright dangerous. Carry along a camera to snap photos of your experiences and use a smartphone to chronicle notable events.