When I was in the military, I wanted to leave no trace for tactical reasons. This was especially true as a sniper. We wanted to go where no one would see us and leave without a trace. As a civilian, I still don’t want to leave a trace when I visit the woods. Now it’s not necessarily for tactical reasons, but just to preserve our wildlife. I live in Montana, and am fortunate to have plentiful wilderness areas at my disposal. It is always a bit sad when I’m on a hike with my family and we run across someone’s garbage. I’m teaching my little girl that we want to leave the woods the same, or better when we pack other’s garbage out, as when we went in.
That’s why I’m glad Will Harmon wrote “Wild Country Companion: The Ultimate Guide to No-trace Outdoor Recreation and Wilderness Safety.” This book is full of advice from top experts on how you can make choices that best suit your surroundings, skills, and modes of travel to reduce your impact to our wild lands. There are many no-trace outdoor recreation and wilderness safety options in this guide, including ideas for building campfires, selecting campsites, travel routes, protecting your food from bears and other wildlife, staying found, staying healthy, avoiding conflicts with other outdoor users, and more.
The book is divided into six main chapters, The first chapter is on the history of the leave-no-trace concept. It’s a short chapter to get you thinking about being conscious and ethical regarding our wildlife. The second chapter continues regarding leave no trace ethics or ethos. Very short chapter, but makes you think a little. The third chapter gets to the meat of the book and discusses leave no trace techniques. This chapter covers a lot of areas all divided into short parts with subheadings, so you can go right to the part you are interested in. Things such as planning, selecting footwear, keeping noise to a minimum, the backcountry kitchen, campsites and fires, waste disposal, and more are covered in short little segments that get the point across.
Chapter four covers different modes of travel to leave no trace. This is the chapter that also covers conflicts with others, as well as mountain bicycles, skiing and snowshoeing and more. Chapter five discusses safety. This section is about 75 pages long. (The entire book is only 195 pages) There is some good advice here, but it really doesn’t focus on leaving no trace. It is basic safety and first aid information. So while it is not bad information, I’d rather Harmon had stayed focused on the no-trace topic and people could get their safety and first aid information from a book such as “Wilderness 911.”
The final chapters provides some additional information regarding special environments such as deserts, alpine and arctic tundra, and snow and ice and other places that might need special attention. This chapter adds to the rest of the book and was a good addition.
Overall, I liked this book, especially because I think it is important for us to enjoy the outdoors and leave it the same for others to enjoy. Like I said about chapter five, I think that chapter is covered more completely elsewhere, and what I wanted most from this book was no-trace ideas. It did provide those, and having the safety information didn’t hurt. I think it’s a good book to have in your outdoor library and I hope more people will use Harmon’s tips and suggestions to reduce the impact on our wild lands when enjoying them for recreation. Anyone interested in getting out into nature while preserving and protecting our wild country will most likely enjoy this book.