Let's lessen the impact of our overland campers.
The world is vast and filled with opportunities for elevated off-road exploration experiences. But with so many routes to take, it can be easy to overlook how your off-road path may impact the landscape. At Sasquatch, we believe in recreating responsibly and in this pursuit, created a guide on how to do so in the backcountry, while keeping you safe and minimizing human and vehicle impact on our beautiful world.
Especially when you take a trail less traveled, it's important to have a destination in mind. Having the ability to skip crowded RV parks opens a lot more options for a basecamp but finding a secluded, permitted backcountry campsite can sometimes be difficult. Always research trails before you head out. There are several organizations that will help you plan off-road adventures, such as Backcountry Discovery Routes. When looking at what trails are open for use, the Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) shows routes that allow motorized travel. The Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service have on-the-ground signs signaling if trails are open and to what type of vehicles. Be sure to visit the MVUM website for more information and to familiarize yourself with the on-the-ground signs and symbols. These resources can help pick which route is right for you, and always remember to follow designations appropriately.
There are also a whole host of apps to help you arrive safely at your destination. Explorers can download Avenza Maps on their mobile devices to receive hiking, biking, climbing, camping, and outdoor maps without a network connection. Other options are COTREX, All Trails (which allows you to download maps beforehand), and OnX Offroad (which has thousands of off-road trails, public and private land information, tips, and weather forecasts making it an all-in-one app). Having a GPS along the journey can additionally help you feel safe and on track.
Before leaving, there are a few necessary steps that will ensure you're safe and can recreate responsibly. A basic vehicle checklist is provided below:
Consult your vehicle's owner's manuals for other pre-trip checklist. For the Sasquatch Camper Trailer owners out there, we recommend using the Offroad Camper Trailer Pre & Post Trip Inspection Checklists.
Once on the trail, it's important to follow guidelines to protect the environment. Be responsible by staying on the trail and keeping your wheels only on designated roads or paths. It is imperative that you do not drive on closed or unapproved trails. Staying on designated paths help the soils and vegetations surrounding the trails grow and thrive. If you are uncomfortable with the route, head back to regroup and find another trail. Ensure your vehicle fits within the trail width. If you are traveling with a pack, put the trailer in front of the other vehicles. Finally, be smart about the weather, as once soils are wet they are more vulnerable. For more information on how to ensure you are minimizing your impact go to Stay The Trail.
Responsible recreation continues when you reach your destination. Use a spotter to help you park and avoid backing into anything. To minimize your footprint, think about where your vehicle would truly fit as you should not need to cut branches or remove objects. Refer to maps and trail apps to see how far your vehicle can go off the road as it varies from region to region. When getting out of your vehicle put down a ground mat to further minimize the impact on the soil.
Parts of our world have fragile ecosystems, and it's important to be respectful to these regions so that others may enjoy them. For example, an Alpine Tundra exists in certain areas in Colorado. There, the landscape is so fragile that disturbance is extremely catastrophic. Foot travel should be minimized, and driving, parking, or turning around on the alpine tundra outside of designated routes is not allowed. The Moab Western desert areas are also sensitive and should not be driven on since they contain cryptobiotic soil crusts that prevent erosion and hold water that are extremely important to the arid ecosystem.
Additionally, wetland areas are full of marshy, saturated soils that are very sensitive. If a vehicle drove over the marsh, it may sink and the wetland could become damaged. Not only does driving in these sensitive areas impact the ecosystem they also impact further use. Driving over these sensitive areas can leave tire marks to which someone else may think it's an approved path and continue down. This erodes the area even more. The erosion and damage to sensitive areas can cause road closures and the closing of camping areas.
No matter if you're a 4x4 beginner or expert, these tips will keep you safe and your surroundings intact. At Sasquatch, we believe the fun begins when the pavement ends, so whether you're overlanding, basecamping, or just out for a day, let's make sure we all do so responsibility and sustainability so that we have many more centuries to explore and love our natural world.
Sasquatch wants to thank Stay the Trail and Ryan Dull for information and photos showing the importance of sustainable recreation. Visit Stay The Trail to learn even more about how to recreate responsibly and sustainably.