Minimal Impact Bushwalking as a concept has been around since the 1930s, but is constantly being updated and reviewed. Caro Ryan of @lotsafreshair takes us through the current best practices for leaving the bush just as you found it.

The Evolution of Minimal Impact Bushwalking

It’s hard to imagine a world where one of our most passionate and dedicated environmental campaigners would head off for a weekend bushwalk with a rifle resting on their shoulder; the butt of the stock worn smooth from decades of firing. 

Like many of his friends, this bloke carries his own well-loved homemade pack and inside there’s some tinned food that’ll make a nice side dish for the wallaby he hopes to shoot for mains.

After dinner, he’ll use a rock to beat the empty tin flat by the campfire’s light before tossing it into the licking flames. When things have cooled down in the morning, he’ll bury the tin along with a few other things he doesn’t need anymore, before rolling up his swag and heading off back into the scrub.

Welcome to the world of leave no trace circa 1930.



For generations of bushwalkers (before what many consider the American term, ‘hikers’ found its way to Australia), this was pretty typical of what was known as the Bash, Burn and Bury method and for Myles Dunphy, who many consider to be the father of conservation in NSW, this was just how things were done.

We owe a great debt to Myles Dunphy’s vision and his tireless lobbying. I only have to step out my door into the Blue Mountains National Park (which his organisation proposed in 1934) or marvel at his beautiful hand-drawn sketch maps, to see the shadow that I walk in. But my lord Myles! I can only imagine what our precious natural places would look like if we still bashed, burned, and buried.

So although we shake our heads or get stuck in cleaning up (or campaigning for) areas where folk still do this, it goes to show not just how times have changed, but a super-relevant example of Maya Angelou’s quote, 

‘Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better’.

When it comes to the practice of Minimal Impact Bushwalking, we certainly know better. 

Whilst the trademarked American brand, ‘Leave No Trace’ (LNT) has become shorthand for ‘don’t be a dick’, the very Aussie version (but more of a mouthful), ‘Minimal Impact Bushwalking’ (MIB), pre-dates it by a decade and is generally what’s promoted by bushwalking clubs and their state peak bodies here in Aus.

And just like bash, burn, and bury needed to be updated, I recently did some work on compiling a fresh MIB list that reflects changes in culture and society and made a video to promote it. 



Here’s what to keep in mind next time you’re out bush!

1. Leave No Trace

What it says on the box. Ghosting campsites and wild places as though we were never there. It’s such a great gift to offer to others coming after you and when it comes to rehabilitating campfires – can be a fun challenge!


The author, rehabilitating a campfire

2. Protect Biosecurity

We all chuck our stinky clothes into the washing machine after an epic adventure, but cleaning our tent pegs, groundsheets and shoes is a great way to stop invasive species like weeds or other nasties from being transferred to our next adventure destination. Apart from not moving weeds around, let’s also not disturb any wildlife (quokka selfies anyone?) or plants.


Clean your shoes to avoid nasties!

3. Be Self Reliant

There’s a great acronym to help us with this one: T.R.E.K.

T – Take what you need
R – Register your intentions
E – Emergency Beacon
K – Know your route and stick to it.

Being able to look after ourselves in the bush with shelter, food, water, first aid, wise decisions around weather and choosing an adventure to match our skills and fitness, can really help to minimise our environmental and sustainability footprints.


Be self-sufficient and know how to navigate

4. Respect Others

Whilst you might chill to your playlist around camp or need the beats to get you up that insane hill, your Bluetooth speaker isn’t everyone’s idea of #bliss. Grab your earbuds to turn up the respect levels and offer help to anyone who might need it.

5. Acknowledge the Traditional Custodians

Everywhere we go is someone’s Country and finding out who the Traditional Custodians are and acknowledging them adds an extra layer of understanding and can deepen our experience of place. It’s best not to sleep in caves or overhangs with Aboriginal art and to never disturb any artefacts we might come across like axe-heads or other tools.


Avoid sleeping in art caves and overhangs

6. Respect the Land Manager

It’s easy to think that all natural bushland is managed by National Parks, but there can be a whole range of different people responsible for taking care of it, including State Forests, Crown Lands and private landholders. There are reasons behind the rules for each location, like not taking pets or having a maximum number of people in a group, not to mention every farmer’s favourite… leave gates as you find them.

7. Social Media Responsibility

Poor old Myles would turn in his grave (or maybe use it to campaign for a new national park) if he saw how social media has changed the ways people interact with and learn about wild places. 


CaroRyan @lotsafreshair | Photo by Ben Cirulis


I’m pretty sure he’d be horrified that people he believed lacked bush skills (he famously derided the boy scouts), are navigating by and sharing GPX files, or promoting places that lacked the support needed to look after them. 

We can all name a lookout or waterfall that’s become super popular due to Instagram and subsequently suffered from a lack of minimal impact/leave no trace principles. Let’s think about the consequences before publicly sharing waypoints or GPX files and consider removing geotags from our shared images.

Read more: Leave No Trace