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Part 3: Travel Preparation General Protocol

Instructions: Please read this important arrival protocol. If you agree, please click the agree option and click Proceed.

Camping Access:
Prior to departure, ensure that you have properly obtained the authorization to access the destination you are planning to occupy. Many lands, even public lands, require an access permit. Abide by the standard rules of the land management organization regarding seasonal access, fire restrictions, and NEVER enter or occupy private property without permission. Avoid attempting to access designated wilderness with motorized vehicles. This is illegal. Following these simple rules will ensure access to public lands, and even easements on private property.

Weather Conditions:
Before departure, ensure that the weather of the destination you plan to occupy is as optimal as possible. This will ensure not only an enjoyable experience but provide an additional safety measure to avoid unnecessary rescue. Depending on the destination, there may be dry riverbed crossings that in foul weather can become uncrossable torrents.

Prepare a safety kit to ensure you have the necessary gear to manage a self-rescue. This includes a proper communication device such as a radio, first aid kit, ankle and knee wraps, plenty of water for all participants, a shovel, proper traction boards, vehicle tow straps, a well-maintained jack, a spare tire, and a simple tool box. Having these items available to you in an emergency situation will reduce stress, decrease the risk of adverse exposure, and help to ensure you can return to civilization without significant loss.

Cargo Security:
Always ensure ALL cargo is property secured. Spending a few extra minutes making sure things are fastened will avoid losing gear along the way. This also keeps the roadways clean of debris which contributes to unnecessary litter and dangerous obstacles in the road that can cause accidents.

Trailer Chains: If pulling a trailer, not only ensure it is properly secure, but property attach security chains. Ensure that chains are at least 4 inches above the road surface. This will ensure no chains are dragging on the ground which can lead to sparks that can ignite a roadside fire.

Vehicle Maintenance:
Breakdowns along the road way can cause interference with your travel plans. Check all tires for proper pressure and issues with ware. If your vehicle overheats, not only be sure to pull off the roadway but avoid moving your vehicle into tall vegetation. Hot vehicles have been known to ignite roadside fires that have grown to major forest fires. Do what is necessary to protect you, your passengers AND the environment.

Fishing Access:
Obtain proper fishing permits prior to departure to avoid breaking the law. All fishing requires a fishing permit in the United States unless you are authorized to fish on private land.


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Part 4: Arrival Assessment

Please read this important arrival protocol. If you agree, please click the agree option and click Proceed.

When arriving at a campsite location, assess the drivability. If the soil is soft and damp or wet, avoid driving on the surface to cause the least amount of impact on the ground surface. Driving a heavy vehicle on soft, wet soil will make unnecessary ruts that will remain long after you leave.

Over Usage:
When arriving at a dispersed campsite location, assess the wear on the space. Does the campsite appear to be significantly overused? Does it appear to need rehabilitation? If so, move on to another camp. If no other campsites are available, avoid creating your own campsite. Only camp in sites that provide a campfire ring. If you must use the site you are assessing, make efforts to maintain a low impact on the site. In any case, choose a spot at least 200 feet away from water to avoid unnecessarily contaminating a water source. Select at least the same distance from any nearby trail. Avoid selecting a campsite that has obvious recent wild game activity. Abide by ALL signage displayed. If the forest service has issued a sign indicating camping is not permitted in a particular site, DO NOT camp in the site. If the forest service instructs camping within a certain distance from a sign follow their guidelines. These instructions are designed to protect the landscape AND its occupants.

When entering the campsite, avoid driving on vegetation unnecessarily. Stay on well-traveled tracks.

Avoid parking your vehicle in vegetation unnecessarily. Do your best to remain on already treaded areas. Parking in vegetation can cause unnecessary damage to plants. If your vehicle is hot, parking in vegetation can spark a fire which can quickly get out of control.

Selecting a tent location:
If you plan to pitch a tent on the ground, assess the campsite and determine a location that may already have been used by a previous occupant. If none exists, maintain a low impact on the site by choosing a pre-existing flat location. Any scraping or shoveling to make a flat place to pitch your tent will contribute to unnecessary erosion. Additionally, when selecting a place to pitch your tent, look overhead. If there are dead branches above that could potentially fall, avoid camping below. This will ensure you are safe from branches that commonly fall to the forest floor.

If arriving in the late hours of the evening and there are other campers occupying campsites nearby, maintain a low level of noise pollution. Your neighbors will be appreciative.

Unnecessary Idle:
If possible, avoid leaving your vehicle running at idle. This contributes to unnecessary exhaust fumes and noise pollution.


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Part 5: Fire Management

Instructions:Please read this important fire management protocol. If you agree, please click the agree option and click Proceed.

Fire Restrictions:Prior to departure on your camping excursion, determine if there are any issued fire restrictions. If there is a fire ban, DO NOT IGNITE A FIRE at your camp. Fire restrictions are issued in cases where the environment is excessively dry and the potential for a wildfire sparking from a camp fire is extreme. Igniting a fire in a restricted fire zone is illegal and dangerous. A campfire can easily spark a wildfire that can greatly adversely affect the forests, the animals that inhabit the forest, and the communities in the surrounding area. DO NOT ignite a fire in high winds, especially if the environment is dry.

Firewood:When ever possible, bring precut, packaged wood with you on your camping trip. Avoid leaving precut foreign wood at camp or on the ground as it may contain non-native insects. Avoid over-collecting surrounding dead wood for burning. Downed trees provide necessary habitat for many animal species, insects, mushrooms, and other valuable assets the forest needs to maintain a balance. Avoid downing trees for firewood. Avoid cutting limbs of live trees and shrubs. If a previous occupant left dead firewood, use that before collecting wood from the surrounding area.

Fire Rings:When building a camp fire, utilize provided fire rings. If camping in dispersed campsites, utilize stone fire pits that have been constructed by those who occupied the site before you. Rebuild the fire pit if necessary, by building up the side rim on ALL sides. Then, increase the stone height with taller stones to block the in the direction of the incoming wind. Prior to building a fire, remove ALL non-natural debris including trash, bottles, cans, and other materials that a previous camper may have left. Place these items in a trash tote to bring with you when you depart.

Overhead Canopy:Prior to building a fire, look skyward. Just because a campfire ring exists, doesn't mean that the canopy hasn't grown over and caused potential risks for escaping embers floating skyward. NEVER ignite a fire with a thick canopy overhead no matter how moist the air may be. Always ensure that campfire hazards are avoided.

Surrounding Vegetation:Prior to building a fire, observe the surrounding area. Often vegetation grows around a fire pit, especially if there have been no occupants to the site in a while. Ensure that fire embers have a place to drop to the ground around your fire pit without the risk of vegetation ignition. Always ensure that campfire hazards are avoided.

Flame Control:DO NOT ignite a fire near tall dead vegetation. When building a fire, start small. Build a small flame and grow as needed by adding small branches as fuel. NEVER build a large wood pile to ignite as fires can easily become too large to control, especially if winds pick up unexpectedly. Keep dousing water nearby at all times.

Observance:When a fire is burning, never leave it unattended. In no event should a fire be left burning without an observer present. This includes when retiring to bed. There are options for creating a safe environment shared below.

Safety:One of the best solutions for a burning fire we have come across is a fire blanket. This is a device you can place over a fire or hot embers to keep them warm while you sleep or if you choose to leave camp for any period of time where you will not be able to observe. Fire blankets can be staked down over the fire ring or pit and be vented to allow embers to receive oxygen to continue burning out or closed off to keep embers warm until morning. You can also use a fire blanket to place over a fire if an unexpected rain arises. If you do not have a fire blanket and you intend to leave camp or go to bed, you MUST douse the fire and embers COMPLETELY any time you are not able to observe and manage the fire. As a public service, a good (tested and approved) fire blanket option can be found here > (Tested Fire Blanket) Consider getting one to protect yourself and the forest from unnecessary harm.

Retardant:ALWAYS COMPLETELY douse a fire ring with water. In order to do so you must ensure you have enough water available when you plan to depart. Always bring 3 to 4 gallons of water specifically for dousing a fire before you depart. Douse the embers, stir the ember mush. Douse again. Keep doing this until the pit is entirely soaked in water and no hot embers remain. Often, campers fail to completely exterminate embers. An ember that is not completely extinguished has the potential to reignite after you depart. Your assurance can only be absolute with thorough dousing.

Alternate Options:Depending on the forest management organization and the state of the environment, even in fire bans, fuel stoves and gas fire pit can be used. Carefully determine this prior to leaving your home. If a fire ban is in place, ensure these alternative options are allowed. If so, consider bringing a gas fire pit along. These kinds of pits can be easily extinguished with a turn of a dial, they alleviate the need for fire wood or fire wood collection, and remove the concern around flying embers. Alternatively, you can also consider not lighting a fire at all. Sometimes the best experiences are had in the darkness that shares the glory of the night sky.


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Part 6: Sanitation Protocol

Please read this important fire management protocol. If you agree, please click the agree option and click Proceed.

Kitchen Set-up:
When arriving at a campsite location, assess where you might set-up a kitchen space. If your campsite includes a picnic table, likely it has been placed in a location selected by the agency that manages that land. Use it. If the site does not provide a table, careful consideration should be made as to where your kitchen is located. Things like open flame, splatter of grease, and drainage of gray water are important factors to consider.

Food Storage:
Take great care around the storage of food that wild animals may be attracted to. Utilize bear proof boxes if provided. If none are provided, bring approved bear proof storage containers and place them at a distance from your camp. If that isn't possible store food items in your vehicle at a distance from your sleeping space. DO NOT leave trash totes outside of your vehicle. Place all trash inside bear proof containers and boxes if possible. If bear proof storage is not available, place trash in your locked vehicle–ideally a locked trunk if this is an option.

Gray Water:
Washing dishes requires warm water and soap. utilizing a bucket or basin to wash dishes is essential in an effort to capture contaminated water. Soap is not a friend to the environment. Soap chemicals can soak into the soil and contaminate water sources. In fact, long after you depart from camp, soap can remain. A rain storm can carry those chemicals down slopes to water sources. Always capture gray water into a container you can take with you. Additionally, washing dishes and allowing material to drop to the ground can attract unwelcomed wild animal guests to your camp. This protocol can be a great safety measure as well as an environmental protection initiative. You may also consider using biodegradable soaps. This may help reduce contamination in the forest.

If camping in a campground, likely there are provided pit toilets. Absolutely use them for all needs to relieve oneself. If camping in a camp trailer or RV, absolutely use your personal facilities and capture any and all waste to later dispose at a proper waste disposal facility. If, however, there are no bathroom facilities and you aren't camping in a trailer or RV that provides lavatory facilities, there are two levels of lavatory sanitation that should be adopted when camping in nature. But, before using one of these options, you MUST ensure that there are no specific regulations for the land you occupy. Some land management agencies prohibit human waste disposal.

Level 1: Utilize a portable cassette or folding toilet seat with an approved waste capture bag that can be sealed. Then, bring that sealed waste bag with you to dispose of in a proper waste disposal facility. This is by far the best option for both liquid and solid waste matter.

Level 2: If planning to use a folding toilet in the forest and you plan to leave your waste in the forest you MUST find a location that is at least 200 feet from a water source (approximately 70 steps). Bring with you a plastic zipper bag, toilet paper, sanitation wipes, and a shovel. Next, dig a hole about 4" wide and 6" to 8" deep. Place the seat over the hole and do your business. Wipe with the toilet paper and place it in the plastic zipper bag. Next, use the sanitation wipes to wipe your hands. Place the soiled wipes in the plastic zipper bag. Seal the bag. Use the shovel to refill the hole with the soil you removed to cover over the waste. Return to your camp with the plastic zipper bag and dispose of it in your trash tote to take with you. To take it a step further, you may consider reusing the plastic zipper bag the next time you need to relieve yourself and keep filling the bag until full. NEVER leave toilet paper, sanitation wipes, sanitary napkins or tampons in the forest. ALWAYS take these items with you.

Brushing Teeth:
When brushing your teeth, avoid spitting toothpaste on the ground. No differently than gray water, toothpaste contains chemicals that are foreign to the natural environment. When spitting toothpaste, spit into the same gray water capture container.


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Part 7: Respectful Inhabitance

Please read this important fire management protocol. If you agree, please click the agree option and click Proceed.

DO NOT deface the natural environment. This includes, but not limited to, carving in trees, carving in rocks, spray painting, cutting trees unnecessarily, damaging private property, signage, or any other kinds of deliberate damaging of something that does not belong to you.

Respect other people's property. At camp, people trust that their neighbors are respectful of their space as they are with yours. Maintain a respectful behavior around others to ensure everyone's safety.

If an escalation occurs between your party and another party, defuse it as quickly as possible.

It is absolutely essential to utilize extreme caution when using firearms in the forest. Use firearm safety protocol when using firearms near yours, or other inhabitant's campsites.

When in a remote camping location in a dispersed campsite far from others, animals off leash is acceptable if there are no regulations inhibiting this. When in campsites that are in relative proximity to other campers, it is important to keep pets on a leash to avoid pets leaving your campsite and entering other sites where inhabitants may not take kindly to your pet entering their space. Respect your neighbors' space and their safety by keeping your pet leashed and close by. Pets off leash also risk encounters with wild animals.


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Part 8: Preparing for Departure

Please read this important fire management protocol. If you agree, please click the agree option and click Proceed.

When preparing to depart, it is good Camp Steward practic to walk the site and site perimeter to collect not only any trash you may have left but that of previous inhabitants of the site. Yes, it isn't your trash. But it is trash nonetheless. The forest needs your help and that help may appear in the form of cleaning up after others who have yet to learn the protocol outlined in this Pledge. Please do your part by going above and beyond. Any trash left behind, even if it is not yours, is still yours as you are the last to occupy the space. There is no excuse for leaving trash behind no matter the source.

Fire Ring Clean-up:
When planning to depart, extinguish the fire as early in the day before leaving as possible. This way it will have some time to cool down. Take a shovel and stir the embers often while packing your gear to leave. This will help oxygen to reach the embers and help them to burn out. Any remaining trash should be removed from the pit and placed in your trash tote. When you are about ready to leave, utilize the dedicated 3 to 4 gallons of water you brought for fire extinguishing to pour over the embers. Pour and stir several times until the fire pit is soaked (even a puddle) of water laying in the entire floor of the pit. Stir and then stir again. Ensure 100% that the fire pit bottom is saturated with water.

In some publicly managed lands, the use of firearms are authorized. However, often amunition rounds, disks and other targets are left behind. This material is trash and should be treated no differently than other kinds of trash you may produce. These materials should be collected and disposed of in your trash tote.

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Part 9: Final Assessment

Please read this important fire management protocol. If you agree, please click the agree option and click Proceed.

One Last Look:
Prior to final departure, make one last walk-around for a final determination. One last look can help keep the forest clean and sometimes save thousands of acres of burned forest.

Other Campsites:
When departing your campsite and are making your way down the road and out of the forest, remain observant of other camps that may have been occupied by others the previous night. It is critical to be the steward and ensure other's camp fire pits are extinguished. This doesn't mean you have to check every camp, but an observant steward will do what is necessary to protect the forest. If that means checking a pit to ensure embers are no longer glowing, it is your job to ensure safe departure. If you observe an occupant departing from their camp site without following this essential 'dead out' protocol, kindly ask them to ensure their fire is out and offer to assist them.

Final Words:
The time you've taken to learn new protocol or to reacquaint yourself with processes you were already aware of says something about your character. Following this protocol is essential to maintaining access to public lands, preserving fresh water sources, maintaining forest lands and keeping communities safe. Thank you from all of us here at Camp Steward, our partners and affiliates. Your commitment matters.

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