Outside magazine, April 1995
How Low Do You Go? The Answers
By Paul Kvinta
Give yourself five points for each correct answer. If you score 40-45, John Muir would be proud of you; 35-39, don’t throw away your hiking boots, there’s hope; 25-34, take a wilderness skills course; below 25, you are the Beavis or Butthead of camping–stick
to the RV parks.
1. (b) The natural litter of the forest floor can withstand much more than the fragile vegetation of meadows and tundra. And besides, the considerate thing is to stay out of the postcard: Others don’t want to see or hear you. 2. (c) Again, try to stick out as little as possible. 3. (c)
What are you, a wimp? If you don’t want to get dirty, wear gaiters, but you should stay on the trail to avoid damaging vegetation and root systems. If you answered (b), give yourself two points–at least you were looking out for the flora. 4. (b) Use a camp stove whenever possible, and dismantle any fire rings that you come across. Build a fire only
when absolutely necessary–i. e., when you run out of fuel or if your stove malfunctions–and only if the area you’re in allows it (be sure to stop by the ranger station to check regulations and permit requirements before heading out). Give yourself three points for (a), but only if you clean up the ring when you finish. Properly, a fire should be built in a small hole that
extends through the layers of leaves and duff to the mineral soil. When you’re done, plug the hole and carefully replace any vegetation. 5. (c) Collect wood across a broad area so you don’t deplete the resource in any one spot. Gather pieces smaller than two inches in diameter, and never collect more than you need. 6. (a)
As a rule, pack out everything. Despite their biodegradability, peels are still an eyesore for others. Give yourself three points for (d), although burning leftovers completely requires high heat and generally wastes fuel. 7. (b) Digging a deep latrine can retard the bacterial breakdown process. If you picked (d), give yourself three points: This
approach is appropriate for large groups camping in one spot for a long period. 8. (a) This and a little hot water should do the trick. Even plain pads can become breeding grounds for bacteria. Despite the “no soap” policy of some experts, give yourself two points for (b), but use only a tiny bit. The same rules hold for bathing, and remember that all
cleansing (and camping, for that matter) should take place at least 200 feet from your water source. 9. Although some hard-core types advocate consuming such swill, if you answered (d) deduct five points for choosing extremist dogma over common sense. The correct answer is (b).