How do you mind your p's and q's out on the trail? It's important now more than ever to show respect for the landscape as well as your fellow travelers, no matter how they roll.

Our public lands in North America are seeing more use than ever before, by more different kinds of users than ever before. Increased pressure on our off-highway trail systems not only comes with some inevitable environmental impacts, but potential human ones as well.

Even on the most remote tracks, you're bound to meet up with your fellow travelers. Are you following best practices for keeping the peace and respecting one another as well as the landscape? Even if you're a well-seasoned backcountry explorer, it's worth reviewing a few of these top tips for keeping the good vibes flowing.

Land Rover in Utah

Practice Tread Lightly! Principles

We've talked about low-impact back-country travel elsewhere on the Notebook, but it's worth reminding ourselves of the Tread Lightly! principles:

T - Travel Responsibly

R - Respect the Rights of Others

E - Educate Yourself

A - Avoid Sensitive Areas

D - Do Your Part

In solidarity with the Tread Lightly! mission to keep our Earth green and our trails open, Overlander donates a portion of its sales to the Tread Lightly! foundation.

Yield to Others Users

Full-sized 4x4s take up the most room out on the trail, and they have the most impact. Many tracks and trails on public lands are multiple use, which means it's possible to encounter hikers, bikers, horses, motorcyclists, and, increasingly, ATVs and UTVs. As the most impactful trail user, those of us in four-wheel drives should be the first to yield to other users. When you are stopped, move completely off the trail, taking care not to damage the trailside environment.

Another core principle of yielding is to yield to the vehicle that is traveling uphill. It's more difficult for a vehicle that's under power to get started again once they come to a stop than it is for the vehicle that's assisted by gravity. Of course, different situations may call for different strategies to complete a successful pass - so communication is key. Be clear about your intentions, give a smile, and offer help when it's needed.

Stay on Trail

This seems like it would go without saying, but it's the number one reason managing agencies temporarily or permanently close roads and trails on public lands. Driving off track contributes to erosion, trail damage, and, of course, environmental impacts. This is particularly true in desert environments, where soils and plants can take centuries to recover from damage by reckless drivers.

Keep It Clean

"Pack it in, pack it out" is the mantra we live by when it comes to our waste. This goes for all kinds of waste - including the human kinds. Don't litter trash or left over food along the trail or in campsites, and don't burn trash in fire pits. Leave the trail cleaner than when you found it by packing out litter you encounter on your journey. 

Use existing fire pits where you find them, and resist the urge to make new ones. Always, always make sure your fires are out cold to the touch by dousing them with water and stirring the ashes. Wildfire season is year round in many parts of the country now, so follow fire bans faithfully. 

On backcountry adventures, consider carrying a small portable chemical toilet set-up to avoid impacting campsites, or bury human waste at least 6 inches deep, and pack out toilet paper. Rolling into campsites littered with used toilet tissue or exposed human waste is becoming more and more common. Nobody wants to deal with that. 

Be Prepared

You have a responsibility to ensure that your vehicle, your gear, and everyone in your party is fully prepared for the terrain and environment you're planning to explore. Carry the communication devices, tools, supplies, and first aid kit that are appropriate to the type and length of your journey. A rescue, of either a vehicle or a person, not only puts other trail users at risk, but also potentially first responders. Don't wing it - know before you go.

Practicing good trail etiquette is not only a matter of simply being a good human - following these principles and reducing conflicts also keeps access to our public lands open. Managing agencies have been closing trails due to both abuse and budget cuts at a more rapid rate in the last few years, so doing all we can to head that possibility off at the pass is important. 

How do you practice respect when you're traveling in remote country?



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