Wilderness Code of Behaviour 

The enjoyment of outdoor pursuits is one of the fastest growing leisure activities today. This impact should make us realize the value of gaining new knowledge of the environment and how to minimize damage to these areas. Enlightened outdoor users are attempting to travel and camp with a minimum impact on the natural environment. Here is a code of behaviour to help you ensure the “wise use without abuse” of wilderness areas.


​ 1. Keep the group size small. Remember, however, that the ecological impact of a group is not necessarily a function of numbers. Two careless people can do far more damage than eight careful ones. Carrying capacity (the ability of an area to support life) varies, so the number of people should depend on the region of Canada involved.

2. Prepare carefully. Carry everything you need with you. If you pack it in, pack it out.

a) Research the trip area; become familiar with federal, provincial, and local laws and regulations,
b) Conduct pre-trip discussion and instruction with the group,
c) Carry adequate food supplies. Do not rely on the environment,
d) Carry proper equipment.


​ 1. Use existing trails and portages and stay within their confines. Conduct a careful study of the environment implications before considering new trails.

2. Use switch backs in trails. Do not cut a new trail to save 50 metres.

3. Limit the wearing of lug soled footgear (footgear with pronounced ridges on the soles) to the time when absolutely necessary because this type of boot tends to disturb vegetation to a considerable degree and generally leads to unnecessary erosion, especially when worn by a large group.

4. Respect private property. Obtain travel permits, or ask permission to traverse private property where applicable.

Campsites and Shelters

​ 1. Use existing campsites. Keep heavy use to a confined area (because of soil compaction).

2. Do not overstay. Do not expand the campsite.

3. Refrain from using natural materials for shelter, except in emergency situations. Use a tent or plastic tarp.

4. Refrain from landscaping the campsite.

5. Use natural drainage. Do not dig trenches, especially in delicate environments.

6. Change footwear to a lower impact shoe while staying in and around campsite.


​1. Use stoves where law and local regulations dictate; where there is a fire hazard; where serious danger to the ecosystem exists; where there is little or no firewood; and where the user wishes to have a minimal impact.

2. Obtain fire permits when applicable.

3. Keep fires small.

4. Use existing fire pits. If the area is untraveled, remove evidence of fire after use.

5. Where a fire pit is absent, dig to the mineral level of the soil, avoiding the burnable soil, roots and overhanging trees. Save sand to cover cold ashes. Replace top sod.

6. Use only deadwood for the fire, using wood no larger than 5 to 8 cm in diameter.

7. Burn all wood completely to a white ash. Retrieve non-burnables such as foil, tin cans, glass, and pack it out.

8. Douse the fire thoroughly. Stir ashes and the area surrounding the ashes. Douse again. Eliminate fire scars where possible.

Human Waste

​1. Use existing outhouses.

2. If there are no outhouses in the area, bury human waste in a small, shallow latrine (cat hole) 15 - 20 cm deep (6 in. - 8 in.) at least 50 metres (150 ft.) from open water.

3. Use single ply white toilet paper and burn (or bury) completely.  

Other Waste

​1. What is carried in must also be carried out. Burn it, bash it, bag it, bring it back.

2. Personal hygiene activities like brushing teeth and washing hair should be carried out using pans designated for such use. Different pans should be used for the washing of dishes and clothes. Cleaning of any type must not take place in a lake or stream. Water used for personal hygiene and water used to wash dishes and clothes must be disposed of in a pit located 50 metres from the bank or shoreline.

3. If using soap, use mild biodegradable soap, but never in a lake or stream.

Wildlife and Natural Foods

​1. You are a guest in someone’s home, so act accordingly.

2. Avoid over-fishing, over-hunting and over-trapping. Obtain necessary licenses, such as fishing licenses.

3. Obey all fish, game and forestry laws and regulations.

4. Do not pick edible wild foods except where they are clearly abundant. Never pick wild flowers, especially when there are not very many of that particular species in the area. Some species are killed when picked. Most species of wild orchids, for example, are killed when picked during the flowering phase.

5. Avoid camping or travelling through environmentally sensitive or ecologically unique areas.

Clean Up Others’ Mistakes

1. Pack out all non-biodegradable garbage that you find.
2. Fill in over sized latrines that are situated too close to the water.
3. Inform authorities of the mistakes of others if they are too extensive for you to correct.