Minimal Impact Bushwalking
The need for long tracts of duckboard in the popular walking areas (to control erosion and damage to plant species), and the sight of discarded drink cans and ugly campfire rings piled with tins and bottles, testify to the impact recreationists have had on the environment. In earlier generations care for the environment did not seem to matter much. We threw our cans on the fire or buried them. Now it is different. There are so many more people using wilderness areas. The information below, compiled from several resources, will help us to protect the wilderness that provides us with so much pleasure.
Use an existing hardened campsite where available. If unavailable, consider using the hardiest ground that would damage vegetation least. Setting up camp will be easier and additional vegetation will not be damaged. Coordinators should limit the size of their party, especially in sensitive and alpine areas.
Bring your own tent equipment. Never cut live plants.
Use of sensitive areas requires special care. Do not camp in the catchments of lakes.
Be mindful of the weather. Don’t light fires in hot summer conditions or on dry windy days. Don’t even think of lighting a fire or stove during a total fire ban! Only some stoves are acceptable – mainly gas stoves with an enclosed flame – and in places like huts on metal surfaces.
Stoves must be used in high-use areas (note: in some areas legislation prescribes “fuel stove only” areas).
Fires should not be lit in sensitive areas, such as sub-alpine regions.
Use established fire-sites wherever possible.
Don’t make fires near trunks of trees, on roots, on peaty soil, or where the fire could spread. Clear all leaves, grass and other flammable materials from within two metres of the fire-site.
Use only fallen, dead wood for fires.
Do not use soil or sand to try and extinguish the fire. Quench the fire completely with water. Keep water handy to control the fire should it spread.
Don’t burn or bury rubbish, including food scraps. Take it out with you!
Exercise care with stoves. Do not allow excess pressure which may cause safety valve ignition.
For a fire at a non-established fire site, after ensuring the fire is totally out, and the ground cool, it is better to obscure the fire site. Distribute ashes and unused firewood. Spread leaf litter or soil over the fire-site. Do NOT spread flammable material over the site if there is any risk of a fire not being totally out. In sandy soil, bury ashes.
If there’s a toilet, use it.
Bury human wastes in holes at least 15-20 cm deep. Take a trowel or large tent peg and dig a small hole well away, at least 50 metres, from any open water. Care should be taken in water catchment areas leading to tarns or lakes used for drinking water.
If in snow burn toilet paper after use (or use snow!).
Disposal of human waste at heavily-used campsites requires more effort. Go much farther away!
Wash well away from streams and do not use soap or detergents and ensure food refuse does not enter watercourses. When cleaning utensils use gritty sand, not soap.
Apply the “carry in, carry out” rule. This applies to orange peel, fruit cores, sanitary items, seeds and egg shells. Remember to take some plastic bags.
Before leaving a lunch spot or campsite check that no rubbish is left.
Please pick up other people’s rubbish.
Tracks and Routes
For off-track hiking, go in small parties and tread carefully to avoid damaging vegetation. Use stepping stones and/or hard ground where possible. Spread out in untracked country to disperse impact upon the vegetation.
Limit walking in areas that have been over-used.
Minimise walking on loose ground, scree slopes, dunes, marshes and bogs.
Keep to marked or formed tracks. Do not take short cuts on zig-zag tracks.
If safe to do so, walk through the wet part of tracks, taking care not to be caught by a hazard.
Huts are for the benefit of everybody. Welcome late comers and make room for them. Share the chores of keeping the hut clean and tidy. Firewood is scarce – conserve it where fires are permitted. Consider not lighting a fire if the temperature is above 10°C. Replenish the firewood and kindling supply before you leave as the next party may arrive in bad weather.
Remove all food to discourage scavenging animals. Ensure doors and windows are closed and secure. Close the chimney where this is expected.
Flora and Fauna
Native flora and fauna should be left undisturbed.
Give snakes a wide berth – do not kill them.
Do not take domestic animals on walks.
Report sightings of feral animals, illegal forest grazing or illegal use of protected areas (eg. wood-cutting or removal of rocks) to park or forest authorities as appropriate.
Gates and Fences
Use gates whenever possible and be sure to leave them as you find them. If a gate cannot be opened, climb over the hinged end where the gate is the strongest. When crossing fences, squeeze through rather than climb over. If a fence has to be climbed, do so at a post. Hand packs over first and cross the fence one at a time.
Historical and Cultural Sites
Treat Indigenous places with consideration and respect.
Don’t touch historical or cultural structures and artefacts.
Mobile phones can be used for taking photos and getting help in an emergency, but should be switched to silent. If making a call, walk well away from the group.
Similarly, avoid disturbing others if you are listening to music, podcasts, audiobooks etc – an ear-piece is best.
If you have suggestions about how to minimise our impacts as bushwalkers, please contact the Club’s Search & Rescue Subcommittee
A little bit muddy; SW National Park