Quiz: How Well Do You Know the Leave No Trace Principles?

Test your knowledge about minimizing your impact when recreating outside.

If you spend time outside, chances are you’ve heard of the phrase Leave No Trace, or LNT for short. Simply put, these seven principles are tips for minimizing our impact outside when participating in activities like camping, hiking, picnicking, climbing and more. 

LNT helps us recreate responsibly by offering guidance on, for example, how far to camp from lakes and streams, what to do with dirty water after washing your camp dishes and whether it’s better to pitch a tent on gravel or vegetation.   

The seven principles of Leave No Trace are:  

  • Plan ahead and prepare. 
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces. 
  • Dispose of waste properly. 
  • Leave what you find. 
  • Minimize campfire impacts (be careful with fire).  
  • Respect wildlife. 
  • Be considerate of other visitors.  

We partnered on this quiz with Abigail Nash, a Leave No Trace master educator who also works as a bike shop mechanic at the REI Co-op store in San Diego.  

Minimizing our impact is an important way to make sure that we enjoy the benefits of life outdoors while protecting life outside for all who depend on it, from the plants and animals who live there to the campers and hikers who come after us.  

Are you an LNT pro or just want to learn more about the LNT principles? Take this quiz to test how well you know how to respect wildlife, practice campfire safety, properly dispose of waste and more. 

Take the Quiz

What is the reason to station your cooking area a generous distance from your campsite? 

  1. To avoid waking up your tentmates and having to share your coffee. 
  1. Cooking can create smells that attract wildlife like bears. 
  1. To burn off extra calories walking to and from the camp kitchen.

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2. “Your camp kitchen you should be around 75 paces or a generous distance from your campsite so you’re not … increasing your chance of a wildlife interaction,” Nash says. Bears and other wild critters might follow the scent of your cooking, and it’s safer to keep a distance from their curious attention. 

(And only a monster doesn’t share morning camp coffee.)

When hiking with a buddy, how should you walk along the trail? 

  1. Walk off-trail through vegetation—you know, for that feeling of “adventure.” 
  1. Stick to the center of an existing trail, even when muddy or wet.  
  1. If your buddy is four-legged, let them roam free to sniff, bark at, chase and snack on things at will.  

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2. Prevent trail erosion and minimize your impact on the local flora by sticking to the middle of the established trail. Walk in a single file when necessary, such as to let other trail users pass. (Read Finding Common Ground on the Trails for more information.) Not only will this help you be more courteous to your fellow outdoor enthusiasts, but it also helps curb habitat destruction and erosion on trails with steep grades.  

And always keep your pets under control on the trail. Even dogs with fantastic recall can scare wildlife or other hikers (and not everyone is comfortable around dogs). Keeping them close helps you track where they do their business, dig holes or disrupt plants.  

Which is true about having a fire at your campsite?  

  1. It’s always safe to assume that you can have a campfire.  
  1. Use the biggest logs you can find when starting a fire at camp. 
  1. Check for fire bans before you arrive and use established fire rings where possible. 

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3. Fire season is no joke, and devastating wildfires can spread quickly from unmanaged campfires.  

Check for fire bans as you prepare for your trek, and make sure that you have up-to-date information about what types of fires, if any, are allowed. Keep fires as small as possible and only burn local wood to avoid introducing pests and diseases to the environment. Remember to make sure that embers are completely extinguished. Read How to Build a Campfire for more information and tips.  

When nature calls, how do you deal with number 2? 

  1. Back away quietly and act like nothing happened. 
  1. Bury it in a cathole (where acceptable) or pack it out with a waste bag.  
  1. This question doesn’t apply to me: I don’t poop.  

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2. When in the backcountry without restroom facilities, it’s generally best to pack out your waste if you can. Some land managers may require that for high-traffic areas, so check before you go and bring waste bags with you. In some areas, it’s acceptable to bury your waste in a cathole 6 to 8 inches deep, 4 inches wide and at least 75 steps from water sources and campsites. (Learn more about How to Go to the Bathroom in the Woods). 

“A lot of people are like, ‘When you gotta go, you gotta go,’ but there are things you can prepare for when you’re backpacking, like waste management, that help preserve our natural spaces” Nash says.  

Take only _____ , leave only _____ . 

  1. photos / footprints 
  1. wildflowers / compostable flatware 
  1. selfies / your initials carved into a tree 

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1. We can all do our part to protect the natural places we enjoy by minimizing our impact on them. That begins with leaving the places we visit just as we found them—no carving into that tree!

You should take garbage, waste, food scraps and other items with you though—even things that are biodegradable like banana peels that can habituate wildlife to human presence. Avoid taking home plants, animals or other objects, too.   

Should you ever feed a begging squirrel? 

  1. Yes, but only if they ask nicely.  
  1. No.  
  1. I’d never feed a begging squirrel, but I would feed an imploring chipmunk.  

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2. We know they’re very cute, but feeding squirrels, chipmunks and other wildlife can alter their behavior, make them sick and cause other serious problems. Just say no to sneaking snacks to animals in the backcountry. Read Food Storage and Handling for Campers and Backpackers for more about safely storing food at camp.