Minimum impact wilderness expeditions

Traveling through wilderness and remote coastal areas, sea kayakers have a responsibility to tread lightly when wild camping.

Octane travels according to Leave No Trace international guidelines to ensure its impact on the natural environment is minimal. Indeed we go above and beyond guidelines in order to be a net contributor to the ecology to wilderness areas: beach cleaning, tree planting and shellfish seeding.

All wilderness expedition routes are planned so as to skirt sensitive natural areas, especially wildlife breeding sites, which change with the seasons. Importantly Octane has a good knowledge of local wildlife – botanists and marine biologists we are not but we know the contentious and sensitive ecological issues and we know how to travel and contribute accordingly.

Pack smart

When preparing for wild camping it’s important to pack smart and remove as much packaging as possible before setting out and to carry out rubbish when leaving a wilderness area. It is also important to reduce an expedition’s reliance upon fossil fuels.

Many kayakers carry an armoury of carbon emitting butane, propane, petrol, methylated spirit, firelighters and paraffin equivalents avoiding the use of driftwood fuel. Octane calls this nuts.

Managing waste

Nothing can spoil a wilderness more that seeing waste left by previous campers. If Octane sees litter then it is collected, stored in camp, packed out and disposed of correctly. As annoying as it may sound it is better being part of the solution rather than being part of the problem.

Pit campfires are built on the high tide mark and filled in after use. There are three types of waste a wilderness expedition creates: rubbish, food waste and human waste.

  1. Rubbish

If packed well before setting out it is possible to minimise rubbish created in the wild. However, it’s virtually impossible to avoid the requirement to pack out any rubbish at all. Wash all empty food wrappers and empty cans so they do not start to smell and crush flat to carry out and dispose of when home. Take spare and sturdy plastic bags on the trip to carry out all rubbish.

  1. Food waste

Liquid food waste such as soups and stews should be sieved, with the food particles burnt on the fire and the liquid poured into a grey water hole. However, the disposal of food on an expedition is a pain and members should taste before they try or otherwise finish their meal. Larger types of unfinished food such as pasta, porridge must be packed out and, although this remains Octane’s ultimate responsibility, those who leave food are expected to carry it out themselves. Food scraps are burnt and dishwater is poured into the grey water hole. A grey water hole is located at least 20 metres from the high tide mark and is dug no deeper than the active layer of soil, food particles biodegrade here more easily. Used dishwater is never poured directly into the sea or water courses even if the detergent used is biodegradable – just because Unilever tells you it is bio-degradable it doesn’t mean it is in any way good for sea life.

  1. Human waste

According to international Leave No Trace guidelines, human waste in western Scotland should be deposited in the intertidal zone (between the low water and high water lines). The huge volumes of water moving between the zones creates the intertidal flush.

Despite increasing traffic through wilderness areas, education and environmental awareness has resulted in a reduced impact by campers. However, any contribution to local environmental groups pays for a trip in many ways.

Coming ashore

When coming ashore it’s important to avoid beaches with breeding seals. It is much better simply to choose another beach unless in an emergency situation. Avoid treading on or walking near puffin burrows and bird nests in machair environments – here it is important to carry kayaks and not drag them.

If a wild camping site is vacated with nothing more than a flattened area of grass it’s a good job done.

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