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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Prof. Hike: 5 Unwritten Rules of Trail Etiquette

If Miss Manners backpacked, she'd agree with us.

by: Jason Stevenson, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Backpacking and Hiking

Chatting with other hikers makes you smarter and safer. (Jason Stevenson)
Chatting with other hikers makes you smarter and safer. (Jason Stevenson)

professor hike
Got a Question for the Prof?

Email us directly at
profhike@backpacker.com
After a brief holiday interlude, Prof. Hike is back with more tips and tricks aimed at novice hikers and experts who want to refresh their skills. I’m glad to be back, as there aren’t many jobs available for PhDs in outdoorology (turns out Smokey Bear has a very secure USFS contract despite not owning a shirt). So three times a month, the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Backpacking and Hiking (Alpha, 2010) will use this blog to dispense outdoor advice. Don’t worry–I won’t be snooty. After all, snootiness requires overconfidence, and the motto of this blog is "I’ve made the mistakes so you don’t have to." So let’s start with the first post of the year: 5 Unwritten Rules of Trail Etiquette.
 
Every game has rules you can’t learn from a book. In basketball, if you make a basket while shooting around, you get to take another shot. If the car behind you on the highway flashes its lights, he wants to pass you. After a blizzard, any cleared parking space marked by a plastic lawn chair is someone else’s claim. We learn these rules through observation and experience, not from exams. 
 
Outdoor recreation is also guided by unwritten but generally accepted rules. These conventions direct trail traffic, promote cleanliness, and protect domestic tranquility. They aren’t commandments, but if you don’t follow them, a more experienced hiker might notice the infraction and give you an educational scolding. To make sure you remain on the good path, here are five of the unwritten rules of hiking.
 
(1) Step aside on slopes
Vehicles making turns from traffic lanes enjoy the right of way. A similar rule applies to head-on encounters on the trail. If you’re descending a steep trail and you see hikers coming up, step off the path to let them pass. Since gaining elevation requires more energy than going down, it’s polite to give way to the person burning more calories. If the ascending hikers want to stop for a rest break, they can wave you ahead.
 
(2) Let cairns be
I have a certain friend who loves toppling cairns–the pyramids of small rocks that mark trail routes and decorate mountain summits. He justifies his destructive habit by claiming manmade objects have no place in the wilderness. He also scoffs at hikers who rely on cairns to find their way. His style seems too extreme to me. A better approach is to respect the status quo. Don’t destroy rock cairns, but also refrain from adding a rock to the pile to make them taller. Take only photos, leave only footprints, and let cairns be. 
 
(3) Take a long walk before taking a dump
The seven principles of Leave No Trace—commonsense outdoor rules to reduce human impact—are written down. The first point advises hikers to move 200 feet from a trail, campsite, or body of water before digging a cat hole to deposit human waste. Two hundred feet equals 40 adult paces, but hurried hikers often shorten that distance. But here’s why 25 feet isn’t as good as 200 feet.
 
The distance you walk is like the radius of a circle. The farther you travel, the bigger the circular area of your potential dumping zone. For example, if you walk 25 feet from the center of a campsite, taking one more step (approximately three feet) increases that circular zone by 500 square feet. A second step adds 550 sq. feet. You get the picture. The larger the radius, the bigger the zone, and the less the probability of someone stepping into your squishy cat hole (or you discovering someone else’s). Trekking the recommended 200 feet creates a circular pooping area equal to 2.9 acres–or more than two football fields.
 
(4) Say hello to other hikers 
When you encounter others on the trail, stop to chat. It’s not just about being friendly; it’s about safety. The family you chat with for two minutes could be the vital link that directs rescuers to your location after you break your leg and become overdue. You want them to remember talking to you. If you meet them head-on, ask about the trail conditions ahead–especially water sources, stream crossings, and how far until the next trail junction or campsite. The only exception to stopping is the rare event when you encounter another person who makes you feel unsafe. Keep moving in those situations, pull out a cell phone if you have one, or pretend you are with a group if you are hiking alone. 
 
(5) Drop in and tune out
Yes, Verizon’s 3G network is crazy awesome. But that doesn’t mean you need to test it at every viewpoint and summit. Use your smartphone for snapping photos, not for bragging to your cubicle buddies about the tremendous view. Prof. Hike and any nearby hikers will thank you. And they will be less likely to grab your phone and test its aerodynamic properties. Pack a cell phone, but keep it turned off (to conserve battery power) and buried deep in your pack.
 
Do you have your own unwritten rules of the trail? Post a comment to describe them, or send an email to profhike@backpacker.com
 
Next week I’ll describe five winter tips to prep your gear for spring hiking.
 
—Jason Stevenson

 

idiot's guide to backpacking and hikingJason Stevenson is the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Backpacking and Hiking







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oldtrekker
Sep 04, 2012

DESCENDING hikers always have right away. It's easier for ascending to stop and make way. Besides for all the calories and and energy being spent going up hill the ascending hiker might need a rest! Also ascending hikers making for descending hikers should step off trail to the up-side of the mountain.

Native Atlanta Girl
Nov 27, 2011

I was solo hiking camping over Thanksgiving & a couple with 2 dogs set up camp about 50 ft away, with a German Shepard & Pit Bull. I love animals & it was clear the dogs were enjoying their "freedom". They would come near me & bark, but owners assured me they were just playing.

The next morning, the Pit approached me a few times barking, like she had before, but she lunged & bit me on side/back of my knee. I kicked her & she ran off. Thank goodness I had been cold and put on 2 pr of thermals in the night. She didn't break skin but I have a huge bruise & had to cut my trip short. (Not to mention scared crap out of me!)

So my suggestion is to keep your dogs leashed.

R English
Aug 09, 2011

To Ed in Maine.
No. The fact is the slower hiker has the right of way, it is the responsibility of faster hiker to pass safely when they can. Same rules apply for Alpine or Nordic skiing, same rule for boating, same rule for automobiles.

I do not condone blocking the trail, keep right where possible so faster parties can pass on the left, but the slower party is under no obligation other than keep right where possible. If the trail is narrow, cool your jets and wait until it opens up so you can pass safely. Leave the city attitude in the city, it does not belong on the trail.

Terry
Jul 25, 2011

About cairns: they have their place and can be very useful in showing you the right way to go, like say on the large open granite flat we were on a couple days ago. The trail that exited on either side were diagonally across this little plateau. The cairns saved you looking across either side and maybe creating your own trail and tramping on nature that didn't need the extra wear and tear.

BUT!
1) We don't need cairns on both sides of the trail directly across from one another.

2) We don't need cairns every 50' or even closer.

3) We don't need cairns on perfectly obvious trails that are tramped through the bark or crushed rock where even a visually impaired hiker could find her/his way.

4) We don't need cairns where there is no branch, no side trail, no possibility of getting lost.

5) We generally don't need hikers adding to the clutter or cairns - let the park service, forest service, etc put up cairns as they see fit.

Many, many hikers put up cairns because they are CUTE! Maybe to you while you are passing through but not to me. They are visual clutter, ego trips, look-at-me-Ma! reminders that man rules this place. I go into the back country to be with nature, not reminded of how you can stack three rocks together.

mxshiel
Apr 29, 2011

RE cairns

We just finished hiking Arches Nat'l and Canyonlands in Utah. Cairns are everywhere, and for good reason. They're used to mark the trail to keep (or attempt to keep) people from stepping on and damaging the cryptobiotic crust. This crust (which is everywhere) takes decades to grow, and is one of the primary reasons for vegetation growth in the desert.

So if you feel you must remove a cairn because it doesn't look right, just remember your single handedly do much, much worse to the desert ecosystem.

Hoghiker
Apr 03, 2011

Who are you people? I like to have fun out there and sometimes I might try and bounce an echo off a cliff or in a ravine-kids are told to be quiet all day long and you'll turn them off with Shhhhh in the outdoors. Also, a horse person on the trail told me to keep talking to the rider as they pass and a horse is less likely to spook.

Ryan F.
Apr 01, 2011

my two cents:
DESCENDING hikers always have the right of way.
It's more difficult for them to stop.

nerrek
Apr 01, 2011

To the website administrator:
I just noticed that whenever I refresh the page in order to view new posts that it re-enters my old post. I always wondered why some posts were up here numerous times, and refreshing the page seems to be the culprit. It would be helpful for viewers if you could work on that. Thanks.

nerrek
Apr 01, 2011

My 2 cents worth.

I grew up in the outdoors, and was never let to be unruly or loud out there. It's naturally more respectful. Yet at 41 years old I love nature. I also support numerous environmental groups. Clearly being well mannered on the trail doesn't need to lead to disliking nature.

I love nature 1000 times as much as I like most people these days. People have proven to be rude, arrogant, lazy, self gratifying, and generally disrespectful of most things other than themselves. And everyday it becomes more popular to behave that way.

I know a number of very wonderful people into the outdoors, but that list grows shorter every day.

People have these discussions often, because they all too often run into these kinds of problems from others.

In short, EVERYONE NEEDS TO TREAT EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING, ALL THROUGHOUT LIFE NO MATTER WHERE, WITH ALL THE RESPECT THEY WISH TO BE TREATED WITH, LIKE WAS DONE IN THE DAYS OF OLD! Then there wouldn’t be any need to have these colorful discussions.

I’m not religious, but this hits the point home. “Do unto others as ye shall have others do unto you.”

Alan
Apr 01, 2011

I agree with cairns rule provided they are on an established trail that is marked on a map. If the trail is on a map one should expect some sort of guidance where there is no tread to follow. However, if they are off trail, where a person is doing their own route finding they should be knocked down. If you get everyone hiking from cairn to cairn there will soon be a trail/path that lacks the erosion control engineered into maintained trails. I've been in off trail locations where there are two or three trails, some of which are badly eroded, in a place where there should be no trail. Sometimes, if I'm day hiking in a tricky off trail situation, where there may be cliff bands or other obstacle, I make small cairns on the way up and knock them down on my way back.

Ed in Maine
Apr 01, 2011

Large groups hiking close together should give the right of way to solo hikers or couples.

Faster hikers coming up from behind should be allowed to pass. It seems logical and almost always takes place but I have had people intentionally block the way as if they were on the last lap of the Daytona 500.

Daniel
Apr 01, 2011

For all of you without kids. Understand that sometimes you have to let them be loud. Sometimes they have to run around and be unruley. Why, because if they don't have FUN they wont grow to be hikers and ecoligists. Part of learning about the outdoors as a kid is listening to the eccos off the canyon walls, splashing in the steam, and flipping over rocks. Yes silence is good but they are costantly having to be quiet in school public transit you name it.

Julie
Apr 01, 2011

Re: noise. When we hiked with our kids in Glacier, we were TOLD to make noise - lets the grizzlies know you're there so they can avoid you rather than having a surprise encounter.

Utah Hiker
Apr 01, 2011

Cairns may be unnatural but are considerably less unnatural than trail signs. On the east end of the Uintah Highline trail hiking west from Highway 191 to the Leidy Peak trailhead there is relatively no trail. Very few hikers ever attempt this section of trail so cairns are critical to wayfinding. The topo map trails, and therefor any route created for a GPS, are off by over a half mile in some places on the first twenty five miles of this trail. Without cairns it is very easy to get lost. Thanks to those who take the time to build cairns and thanks to those who leave them alone! Those of you who think you are doing nature a favor may be placing a fellow hiker in danger. Think about it.

bolen
Apr 01, 2011

Cairns are not natural and should be torn down unless they serve a true purpose. if someone has trouble finding a trail in summer or winter then they need to stay in more established areas. with the reasoning used above we should leave old fire rings that others have built and not torn down. i would hate to be on any trail and come across a fire ring every 100 yards.

Jon
Apr 01, 2011

I don't agree with keeping your phone buried deep in your pack. If you take a spill and become immobile, your smart phone could become your lifeline. I would recommend keeping it put away, but somewhere you can reach it without taking off your pack.

Huh
Feb 27, 2011

A courtesy rule I normally follow is taking the "outside" of the trail in a meeting engagement with approaching hiker(s) while on a side slope. Naturally, "common sense" and the nature of the trail must be taken into account. Oh yeah -- we can't have everyone taking the outside or we may all go "over the side".

Cmntr
Feb 27, 2011

If you're gonna poop or pee be alert to camouflaged wildlife cameras in order to avoid being caught in the act. Such cameras are installed along the Appalachian trail for wildlife research purposes.

helen
Feb 23, 2011

I always yield to the descending hiker. when a trail is steep, the downhill hiker has gravity working with her/him and might be harder to stop... I just stop going uphill and enjoy the opportunity to take a breath. I just think it is safer. And, of course, in a tight, precarious spot forget rules...safety always dictates who yields.

Mono Mindy
Feb 20, 2011

If possible, clear the trail upslope.
ALWAYS clear the trail for pack trains. Keep still and quiet--a spooked horse or mule can injure you, the rider, or both.
Keep quiet! The backcountry is no place for loud talking, etc.
Be friendly. Offer info about trail conditions, safety hazards and so forth, without being a know it all.
If someone is hurt, lost or scared, STOP AND OFFER AID! Sometimes just a word of encourgement can make the difference. Other times your good deed may save a life!
Smile! Sure your feet hurt, your neck is a little red, there's a rash on your butt, and your upset because you left that Snickers bar melting in your car. So what! If you're not enjoying this stuff enough to show it, go take up golf or something....

Paul
Feb 19, 2011

It doesn't happen often..but should you encounter horses and riders approaching, remember to step off the trail until the horses or mules or burros pass you

Michael
Feb 18, 2011

Hikers traveling uphill have the right of way. Nothing gets my ire up more than when some hot-shot trail runner comes barreling down the trail and nearly runs into me and pushes me aside as I carry my load uphill. Unless the uphill hiker pulls over, he or she has the right of way.

Papa Fritz
Feb 18, 2011

Stay on the trail, even if muddy. Cutting corners on switchbacks add to trail erosion, creating your own trail adjacent to the path creates more mess. If there are consistent areas in need of trail maintenance, call the trail manager and volunteer to provide trail maintenance as a service project.

yeah
Feb 18, 2011

i have only made 1 cairn which was when i came to a junction in lewis fork wilderness where there were 2 obvious trails when there should have been 1. Hopefully it helped someone. BTW, some parts of the AT have a ridiculous amount of cairns and blazes

Ari
Feb 01, 2011

Here's one... Teach your children thy QUIET is polite on trails. I was hiking Saturday and the parents of three kids maybe 10-14 were letting them yell and make "animal" noises. It's obnoxious, it's rude, it ruins nature. I came to a mountain instead of a mall for a reason...

Ari
Feb 01, 2011

Here's one... Teach your children thy QUIET is polite on trails. I was hiking Saturday and the parents of three kids maybe 10-14 were letting them yell and make "animal" noises. It's obnoxious, it's rude, it ruins nature. I came to a mountain instead of a mall for a reason...

thementalcoach
Jan 30, 2011

Here's my unwritten rule: CONTROL YOUR DOG - that means on leash!

Not everyone likes dogs, some people are deathly afraid of them and not all dogs are friendly (to humans or other dogs), no matter what the dog owner may think.

I hike with Orion, my 90lb Doberman Pinscher (whom I train every day), and our etiquette is: 1) He mostly sits and stays (off trail if possible) when hikers go by; 2) he says "hello" if invited (and I say it's OK); 3) I pick up his poop (of course); 4) I pick up trail trash and put it in his pack; and 5) He shares human snacks from his pack with nice people. :)

I believe it is every dog owner's responsibility to be an ambassador for canines on the trail.

sierracanon
Jan 27, 2011

I always yield to other hikers, whether I'm going up OR down. If they yield to me, then I'll go on through. Karma is real, and I'm have to sow some of the good stuff.

Chas in New Mexico
Jan 21, 2011

Most of the cairns (and blazes on trees) I have run into in the west are primarily for navigating when trails are obscured by snow so leave the cairns alone.

Ben
Jan 11, 2011

My Grandfather always had the slowest person in the group lead, that way no one got distanced from their group.
As for the cairns issue, it's a bit of a gray area in the "Leave no trace" clause. I personally don't like them, they are not a part of the natural landscape.

Ben
Jan 11, 2011

My Grandfather always had the slowest person in the group lead, that way no one got distanced from their group.
As for the cairns issue, it's a bit of a gray area in the "Leave no trace" clause. I personally don't like them, they are not a part of the natural landscape.

Kim
Jan 10, 2011

Leave the cairns alone? Not on a well-traveled, easy to find trail! I returned last summer to a familiar trail, rock cairns had been built every few feet - it was a distraction and impacted my experience in a negative way. My eyes focused on the unnatural cairns instead of the natural beauty. :(

Christian
Jan 10, 2011

Another rule: I absolutely hate seeing garbage on the trail! It goes without saying that I'll pack out what I personally brought in, but I also make an attempt to pack out what some ignorant SOB carelessly dropped or intentionally tossed on the ground. It pisses me off to have to pick up behind someone else, but I'd rather do that than subject someone else to the eyesore.

Maccabe
Jan 10, 2011

My #1 rule: Don't leave your dog's full poop bag on the side of the trail. Others, even other dog walkers, don't want to see or smell them. I know you are going to pick them up on the way out (right?) but really, it doesn't weigh much. Keep it with you. Leaving it for later is still littering even if temporary.

Silky
Jan 10, 2011

One rule I try to teach new hikers, never pass a piece of trash along the trail. With power bars and such today, I see many pieces of small foil wrappers along the trail, dropped by carelessness or carelessly. If we all picked up these small scraps, we would be more careful when we eat our snacks, plus the trails would remain a little cleaner.

sherpa524
Jan 09, 2011

i believe the desending hiker should have the right of way. especially late afternoon. i recently had an encounter with a group of 10 or 12 that insisted the assending hikers had the right of way. desending with poor footing i felt it unsafe to give way to the assending group. common sense is uncommon these days.

fritzelpaso
Jan 08, 2011

I have the Rule of Gates.
In cow country trails often pass through gated sections. If a gate ia open, leave it open; if closed, leave closed after passing through. If a sign exists leave the gate as requested on the sign.

John
Jan 08, 2011

I agree that common sense should rule the day...if only there were such a thing.

Regarding hiking in groups, the best way to enjoy your hike is to go at your own pace. Agree on meeting points that make sense for your schedule and the conditions. If there are people in the group with questionable navigation skills, meeting at the trail junction is the best way to avoid problems.

jerry
Jan 07, 2011

Giving way to an up hill or down hill hiker should be left up to who has a safe place to step off the trail without damaging vegetation or yourself. What's the rule when you come across a mountain biker??
Leave the cairns alone, you don't know if someone is relying on it, unless you built it and then upon your return trip you should remove it.

Rod
Jan 07, 2011

Sorry John. The rules are even postd by the Park Service at the Grand Canyon. Mules have first right of way followed by uphill hikers. I have often fantasized about shouldering the "tourists" off the side of the Canyon when going up Bright Angel and they come down walking in a group. Thank goodness for trekking poles.

Argosinu
Jan 07, 2011

The correct uphill/downhill rule is: It depends.
Generally, hikers and vehicles on roads should allow the entity with the more difficult path to take right-of-way. A downhiller may be that hiker (but ussually not a vehicle moving downhill). Uphill hikers may want the rest in many cases. If you do stop, step out of the way. Commonsense does work in most situations.

Al from Missoula
Jan 07, 2011

This may be more practicality than etiquette, but when hiking with a group, I feel it's polite as a general rule never to lose sight of those behind or ahead of you.

Late one afternoon in the Wind River Range this fall, we came across a lone woman hiker whom we had seen earlier with a male companion. He had been carrying most of the gear, and she was not dressed for the impending cold night. Only when we asked if she were OK did she notice she was alone.

Her companion had stopped to add a layer and fallen behind. Shortly after he stopped, the trail reached a fork where it bore hard left, with a spur trail continuing straight ahead. The woman observed the intersection and stayed left on the through trail. The man, coming along moments later, missed the left turn and headed off on the spur. Only after a lost half hour of retracing -- and a lot of angst -- were they reunited.

She would have been in big trouble had the man not realized his error relatively quickly.

dancinmikeb
Jan 07, 2011

@special ops, et al. Perhaps Shannon is referring to delicate alpine meadow plant life, which some of us travel great distances to enjoy, not your front lawn. Give 'em a break.

Nancy
Jan 07, 2011

I agree with John - I always thought the hiker on the descent had the right of way, because as he notes it's much harder to "arrest" on your way down than to stop on your way up...

Steve C.
Jan 07, 2011

Cains have been used for ages all over the world and are especially useful for navigation in areas like the windswept highlands of Scotland where the visibility becomes nill during a winter whiteout or summer storm. Leave 'em be.

Packing Dude
Jan 07, 2011

I'm blown away at the critiques of this article. As a simple rule, the suggestion is to leave cairns. I don't think the author was talking about the ridiculous field of cairns but the lone cairn on the trail. If you are that worried about the pristine feel of a trail that a cairn offends your eyes then what are you doing on a trail in the first place? You obviously belong deep in the back country living with Bigfoot where you will see nothing but pure virgin wilderness and no sign of any humans.

Jeremy
Jan 07, 2011

On some trails, ie one mentioned in this very site the Skyline Trail above the Quinalt in WA, Cairns are the only indicator of being on the correct path. The cairns are maintained by the ranger and are also part of the trail description. Please don't destroy cairns, especially when they're relied upon as waypoint markers.

WW Special Ops Mission
Jan 07, 2011

How about this one ... dayhikers carrying light packs or no packs should yield in all circumstances to Backpackers? It takes more work to carry a backpack than a daypack and most day hikers are the ones that need to learn trail ethics the most. And how about ... don't stand in the middle of trail at some chokepoint and force everyone else to go around your group.

@Shannon Fox -- Grass was made for man not man for the grass. So I'm only too happy to walk on it if I need to or feel like it.

Aaron
Jan 07, 2011

Kicking over cairns is a dick move. Yes, sometimes they can be a bit too much where they aren't needed, but they also provide a helpful trail marker and a bit of reassurance to those who need it. If one is placed incorrectly, sure, take it down and move the rocks where they aren't damaging anything. Otherwise, leave them be - they are only rocks and have been used for centuries for trail markers and other purposes.

John
Jan 07, 2011

Rule #1 is actually the opposite of what I was taught many moons ago and still practice. It's much more difficult for a descending hiker to stop his momentum and find an out of the way perch than it is for an ascending hiker. Maybe the state of the art has changed since I first learned my skills some 40 years ago?

Patrick
Jan 07, 2011

Don't intentionality out-pace your hiking partners. Yeah it's fun to be the first guy/gal to camp but every time you stop to wait for the last man you get a rest and they don't.
Also, for safety reasons always hike within ear shot of the group.

Scott
Jan 07, 2011

@Shannon Fox, I think the "Leave only footprints" thing is metaphorical. Duh.

Laurie
Jan 07, 2011

Another rule: don't spook livestock. If a person on horseback approaches, step aside but stay visible and speak to the rider (or the horse) before they reach you. That way the horse recognizes you as a safe hiker, rather than a talking bush.

really
Jan 06, 2011

shannon fox, why dont you just not go outdoors so you dont have to leave any footprints... even on the trails.

Brian Geyser
Jan 06, 2011

It doesn't sound like you come down on your cairn-kicking friend hard enough. His behavior isn't just a nuisance, it's dangerous. Marking trails is a safety necessity, plain and simple. Maps won't show you the trail every time. If you kick over cairns, you may as well be scrubbing the blazes off the trees and tearing down trailhead signs because they didn't grow there naturally. Sure, cairns can be overdone, but that's the rare exception; to translate that to a rule of regular cairn-leveling is asinine and hazardous to all those who come down the trail after you.

Jaimy
Jan 06, 2011

I have knocked over some cairnes before. They are on trails that are in my SAR's (search and rescue) area and I think some people honestly build them for the heck of it. On a search we found one that was about 8 miles from any trail, and thats how some people get lost.

Saying that, I love the fact that you mentioned hikers to talk to others on the trail. Rescuers always stop and talk to parties coming out of trails, and we appreciate a positive I.D because it saves so much time. Thank you and I am looking forward to your posts!

isawtman
Jan 05, 2011

Hey, Cairnage.

I haven't seen the mass useless piles of rock as you describe. Most trails I've hiked, cairns are very infrequent and are pretty valuable to mark trail intersections and the trail itself if there is a barren patch of ground. I even built a cairn this year at a trail intersection that I missed because I was distracted by seeing a lake.

Kyle Milton
Jan 05, 2011

You should always error on the side of caution when hiking in the wilderness. Hiking in the canyonlands I would be dead if it weren't for the cairnes. I'm a very experienced hikers and navigator and I think its a great tool if used properly.

avoid cairnage
Jan 04, 2011

You wouldn't say "don't kick over cairns" if you had seen the fields of useless piles of rocks I've seen... walk five feet in any direction, another cairn. People think they are marking a path but only add to the confused mess of piles of rock that mark nothing but where the lost aimless wanderers wasted energy making another pile of rocks. Bring a map, kick over cairns.

Shannon Fox
Jan 04, 2011

Just wanted to mention that the old maxim take only pictures leave only footprints can be at odds with the Leave No Trace philosophy. Especially in subalpine and alpine areas, footprints can take years to recover. Keep to trails, take only pictures. Don't go off track if you can help it!

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