Bushwalking Ethics

My ethics are constantly evolving and hopefully improving. I encourage everyone to follow similar principles when bushwalking.

Go hard, go far, go light.

Think safe, be safe:

  • Research before you go and know the likely conditions (track, weather, shelter, water etc…) that you can expect.
  • Take gear that is appropriate for expected conditions.
  • Know how to navigate using a map and compass.
  • Know what to do in emergencies.
  • Learn First Aid and know how to handle illness and injuries.
  • Carry an emergency alert device like a SPOT, PLB or mobile phone.
  • Know how to cross rivers and streams safely.
  • Learn to monitor the weather and know when a change conditions are coming.
  • Be self reliant.

Tread softly on the track:

  • Go solo when you can! You will love it.
  • Keep group size small. Four to six people is ideal.
  • Use existing tracks.
  • If it is wet or muddy (ie. Tasmania) plough on through – it is part of the experience and reason why you are out there in the first place.
  • If it is zig-zaggy don’t cut corners.
  • When there isn’t a track, fan out to limit the impact on one area and prevent new tracks forming.
  • Likewise for sensitive areas like button grass plains, spread out.
  • Wear lightweight, soft-soled walking shoes rather than heavy boots. Not only will the bush thank you for it but your feet/legs will too.
  • Know how to navigate and avoid placing route markers like cairns or blazes.

Use proper toilet etiquette:

  • When nature calls, do the dead at least 100 metres from campsites and water sources.
  • Always go down stream from water collection points.
  • Carry a lightweight trowel or a large aluminium tent stake to dig a hole at least 15cm deep.
  • Thoroughly bury your crap and toilet paper.
  • In snow, dig through the snow first, then dig a hole in the ground.
  • Carry out anything that will not easily decompose.
  • Don’t spread you germs, use alcohol hand sanitizer.

Keep water pure:

  • Wash well away from the edge of any water body to prevent soap, detergent or toothpaste from getting into natural water systems.
  • Don’t let food scraps or oils from cooking utensils get into water sources.
  • Always swim downstream from where you draw drinking water.

If you pack it in, then pack it out:

  • Remove all your rubbish.
  • Carry a zip lock plastic bag. If you find litter left by irresponsible people along the track or around a campsite, show you care for the environment, even if others don’t, by removing it as well.

Be safe with fires:

  • Respect fuel stove only areas.
  • Know the weather conditions and fire regulations for the area you are going into.
  • If you expect that a Total Fire Ban may be declared while you’re out there, take a radio and monitor weather and TFB announcements.
  • Do not light fires on Total Fire Ban days.
  • If you do need to build a fire use established fireplaces or existing fire pits.
  • If you need to build a new fire know your regulations. This will often require a small pit to be dug and an area of cleared ground to be established.
  • Don’t build stone fire rings around your fire.
  • Keep fires small.
  • Fire doesn’t destroy foil or glass, and plastics release toxic gases when burnt. If you pack it in, pack it out.
  • Completely extinguish your fire before you leave. Use water to extinguish and use your hand to feel for heat.
  • Scatter you ashes away from your campsite and cover any scar you with local materials to remove all trace.

Minimise campsite impact:

  • Use designated tent areas where they are established.
  • If tent platforms are there, use them.
  • If bush camping, select a site that will negate the need to clear vegetation or remove rocks to enable your shelter to be set up
  • Don’t dig run off drains around your shelter. Use a waterproof groundsheet or shelter with a sewn in floor to avoid floods.
  • If you have to clear ground to create a site, rehabilitate the site before you leave.

Protect plants and animals:

  • Don’t disturb wildlife. Remember, you are in their home.
  • Watch where you put your feet. Walk around delicate plants and give snakes a wide berth.
  • Don’t feed birds and animals. Unnatural food can be harmful to many species and they may become pests.

Respect Aboriginal Heritage:

  • Many places have spiritual or cultural significance for indigenous people.  Treat such places with consideration and respect.
  • Obtain permission from traditional landowners or the relevant land manager to visit sensitive areas.
  • Leave Aboriginal relics as you find them.
  • Don’t touch paintings, rock engravings or burial sites.

Respect landholders and managers:

  • Obtain permission to enter private property.
  • Leave gates and slip rails as you find them. If you opened it, close it.
  • Abide by local rules and regulations.

Camp etiquette and respect for others:

  • Leave the electronics at home or use head phones. There noises are out of place in the natural environment, particular at night when sound travels further.
  • Ensure your behaviour and activities don’t disturb others.
  • Camp as far away from other groups as conditions allow.
  • Ask permission to use another groups going campfire.
  • Don’t disturb a fire that people are cooking on.
  • Respect people’s food – don’t step over it if it’s uncovered.
  • Don’t exclude others from using facilities like benches, clothes lines etc…
  • Do your share of firewood and water collection.
  • Help clean up before you leave.
  • Sweep out alpine huts before you leave.

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