This article on the Tread Lightly principles comes from 4WD Trainers Association certified professional trainer Tom Severin. It provides good food for thought when getting ready to prepare for your next adventure, as well as tips on how to behave in a way that preserves the environment we all love to play and explore in.
Travel responsibly and only on roads or trails that are marked for 4WD use. Drive Carefully through streams to avoid disrupting habitat, and make sure to cross on designated paths. Fish beds and spawning grounds are susceptible to being churned up and destroyed by passing vehicles. If you must travel through a stream, resist the temptation to splatter through. Drive very slowly to avoid chewing up the stream bed and disrupting the habitat.
Respect the rights of others, including private property owners, recreational trail users, campers, etc. so that they may enjoy their recreational activities undisturbed. There is enough room for all of us to enjoy our hobbies. On particularly busy holidays or week-ends be extra considerate of others who are out there to enjoy the outdoors just like you are.
Educate yourself by learning rules and regulations. Buy maps and obtain regulations from public agencies. Plan for your trip with a “hope for the best, prepare for the worst” attitude. Take some recreational skills classes: off-road safety and recovery, wilderness first-aid etc. Most importantly know what all of your gear does and how to use it correctly and safely. Whatever you do, don’t “wing it”. Mother nature is unforgiving. Too many people have found themselves in dire straights because they went out unprepared or travelled across terrain that they did not have the skill level or recovery techniques required for safe travels. Even experienced drivers can find themselves in perilous positions. Be prepared.
Avoid sensitive areas like meadows, lake shores, wetlands and streams, unless they are on designated routes. This protects wildlife habitat and sensitive soils from damage. This ties into the first point, which was traveling responsibly and only on marked trails. Even when on the designated routes be sure to travel slowly and stay on the path, disturbing the surrounding ecosystem as little as possible. Resist the temptation to make a “big splash” when crossing a waterway. This only disturbs the surrounding ecosystem.
Do your part and leave the area better than you found it. This means: dispose of your waste properly; be it waste from bodily functions or trash. Pack it up and take it out. Minimize the use of fire. When building a fire, be sure you use a designated pit or bring a fire container. You can buy propane camping fire pits for that “cozy campfire feel” without the wood burning component. Note: It will not put out significant amounts of heat. Leaving the area better than you found it could also mean being of service and picking up a trashed campsite. TAP has rolled into more than a few primitive, yet highly trafficked sites loaded with empty beer bottles, caps, water bottles….you name it. Really bad. We always carry extra, large trash bags and have a Trasharoo on each truck for secure trash “storage”. If we all picked up a little extra, we’d all be better off.
As you can see, these are simple and common sense principles. Unfortunately, it’s easy to not always follow them. We get lazy, we are in a hurry etc. Recommit yourself to following these principles and you will have a more enjoyable and rewarding time outdoors.
Author: Tom Severin is a 4×4 Coach who teaches 4WD owners how to confidently and safely use their vehicles to the fullest extent in difficult terrain and adverse driving conditions. Visit www.4x4training.com to develop or improve your driving skills.
TAP Editor: Lori Palmer