The Three F's of Camping

The Three F's of Camping

Post by Lara Kaylor

The best tips for camping near Mammoth Lakes or any wild, outdoor area can generally be broken down into the easy-to-remember "three F’s."

The three F’s are universal whether you're new to camping or an old pro, and they incorporate the majority of the Leave No Trace 7 Principles.

They represent knowing how to responsibly handle your Fire, your Food, and your Feces (including your pet’s poo, too) and should be taken into consideration when planning your camping adventure. 


First up, fire. With a near record-low snowpack, this year fire danger is extremely high. The best place to build a fire is within an existing fire ring, the type found in designated campsites at developed campgrounds. The best way to make sure the fire is out completely is to douse it with water, stir it with dirt and douse it again.


When camping outside of established campgrounds, a lot more planning is involved if you want to have a campfire. Oftentimes, such as now, restrictions are put in place and campfires are not allowed outside of designated campgrounds.

If you need a source of heat to cook your meals while in the backcountry, pack a camp stove. Not only are they lightweight and efficient, but they produce a minimal impact on the environment. Camp stoves eliminate the need to gather firewood and they operate in any type of weather.

A typical developed campsite will include a fire ring that you can cook on.

Food (and Trash)

When camping or even just recreating, make sure you have ways to secure your food from wildlife. You are visiting their homes and need to do your best to keep your food and trash out of their reach. 

When camping and recreating in developed campsites or in the backcountry, remember: pack it in, pack it out.

This means take your trash home with you. There are no trash fairies in the wilderness. If you drop your trash on the ground when out hiking, it will either be a blight on the environment for years before it biodegrades, or it could be harmful to an animal that tries to eat it. (An empty beef jerky bag sure smells delicious, right?)

Cleaning up your trash includes your fishing line, if that is your activity of choice. Monofilament fishing line does not biodegrade and depending on the environmental conditions can last for decades. Since it is thin and often clear, it is difficult for wildlife to see and they can easily walk into it and become entangled, severely impacting their ability to survive.

Bear boxes at developed campsites are a great way to secure food or anything scented that bears might be interested in.

The goal here is to leave the wilderness that you enjoyed just as pristine (if not more so) as you found it.

Feces (including your pet's)

OK, let’s talk about poop. Did you know that human poop takes one year to biodegrade and can be a serious environmental hazard? Not to mention that doing your business too close to natural water sources can contaminate groundwater with diseases that can affect humans and wildlife such as Giardia.

Burying your waste in a cat hole is the most widely accepted method of waste disposal if it is done correctly. First, make sure you are at least 200 feet from water, trails and your camp. (Two hundred feet is approximately 70 adult paces.) 

Once you’ve found a good location, dig a hole 6-8 inches deep. A small garden trowel is a great tool for digging your cat hole, packs well and is a must-have piece of camping gear. After you’ve done your business, the cat hole should be covered with soil and disguised with natural material. If you can, dig your cat hole in a spot that receives ample sunlight as the heat from the sun helps promote decomposition.

If you choose to pack out the poo instead, there are several commercially produced pack-out systems available that are easy to use and sanitary.

As for toilet paper, the best solution is to put soiled toilet paper in a plastic bag and pack it out with you. Burning toilet paper is not recommended, and while burying toilet paper in your cat hole is an option, if not done correctly it can be an issue (think little critters digging it up and mistaking it for a snack). Make it easy on yourself: take it home with you. This goes for tampons as well. They do not decompose so take them with you.

You may also want to consider using “natural” toilet paper (stones, vegetation, snow), however this method is not for everyone and may take some trial and error before you find what works for you. Many hikers prefer to use a "backcountry bidet."

And as for your pet’s poo, be aware that it is just as much of a blight on a campsite or trail as human waste if not disposed of properly. Remove it from the trail and bury it in a remote spot, or put it in a poop bag and pack it out. Never leave a dog bag on the side of the trail even if you intend to pick it up later.


Remembering these simple camping tips while out this summer will ensure these beautiful places stay that way for generations to come.


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