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Trail Guardian – Leave it Better Than You Found it

Trail Guardian – Leave it Better Than You Found it

Get Yours FREE. Details Below.

No Barriers to Information

Overland Bound shares information and locations freely. There are two schools of thought on this.

First, “keep it secret, keep it safe”. The reasoning here is simple. The fewer know about a place, the less likely it is to be overrun and trampled by a large number of people.

Second, “no one owns the great outdoors” and it should be accesible to those who wish to enjoy, discover, or rediscover it.

Overland Bound agrees to the latter, and I’m going to distill it down to three primary reasons.

A Connection with Nature is Paramount

First, we want as many people as possible to have a connection with the great outdoors. We firmly believe it makes us better humans. Surviving in the great outdoors connects us at a core level to what it means to be alive. It raises our confidence. It makes us less afraid. It gives us perspective. It connects us to people when we need help. Lessons in the wild, and the exploration mindset, pays huge dividends back in civilization, where that connection tends to get lost.

Second, We are optimists. We believe humans will be here forever. We need to find and maintain a healthy, sustainable relationship with the great outdoors as our population increases. Appreciation for these wild places starts with first-hand experience. If we appriciate it, we’ll protect it.

Third, keeping places secret is not sustainable. The population of the planet is more than twice what it was in 1950. Today we are north of 7 billion. In 1950, we were around 2.5 billion. If you have the feeling traffic is getting worse, it is! Does your favorite campsite have someone there and that never used to happen? You are right!

In your lifetime, you feel the impact of population growth. In addition, we have Google Earth and other technology making it easier to discover the unknown. We also have LADAR and other technologies making it possible to see structures and features under a canopy of trees without setting foot on the ground. “Keep it secret, keep it safe” is simply not a sustainable concept.

What’s the alternative to keeping it secret?  Education. Setting a new standard of care for the great outdoors. Every person has an impact of on the trail and the locations we visit. Overlanders seek out and can enjoy even the most remote locations. It is vital to preserve the locations we visit. An Overland Bound Founding Principle is, “leave it better than you found it”. As our community grows, we have the opportunity to be an increasingly positive impact on our planet, not the opposite.

Become familiar with Leave No Trace  and Tread Lightly to learn conservation best practices. Leave No Trace has seven guiding principles:

Ethics Cards, available at Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace Seven Principles

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  • Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Leave What You Find
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts
  • Respect Wildlife
  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Tread Lightly has five:


Travel Responsibly on land by staying on designated roads, trails and area. Go over, not around, obstacles to avoid widening the trails. Cross streams only at designated fords. when possible, avoid wet, muddy trails. On water, stay on designated waterways and launch your watercraft in designated areas.

Respect the Rights of Others including private property owners, all recreational trail users, campers and others so they can enjoy their recreational activities undisturbed. Leave gates as you found them. Yield right of way to those passing you or going uphill. On water, respect anglers, swimmers, skiers, boaters, divers and those on or near shore.

Educate Yourself prior to your trip by obtaining travel maps and regulations from public agencies. Plan for your trip, take recreation skills classes and know how to operate your equipment safely.

Avoid Sensitive Areas on land such as meadows, lake shores, wetlands and streams. Stay on designated routes. This protects wildlife habitats and sensitive soils from damage. Don’t disturb historical, archeological or paleontological sites. On water, avoid operating your watercraft in shallow waters or near shorelines at high speeds.

Do Your Part by modeling appropriate behavior, leaving the area better than you found it, properly disposing of waste, minimizing the use of fire, avoiding the spread of invasive species and repairing degraded areas.

Overland Bound Trail Guardian Program

To help spread the word and encourage these principles, Overland Bound is introducing the Trail Guardian program. To get a free Guardian challenge coin*:

  1. Organize a cleanup day. If you are an Overland Bound member, we encourage you to use Rally Point to share the event with others.
  2. Take a “before” and “after photo”, including the trash that was removed, and post it to Instagram to show what you did!
  3. Tag @overlandbound in the photo and hashtag #trailguardian with a simple message about conservation.

We will send you a Guardian challenge coin absolutely free.

Leave it better than you found it.

Outfit & Explore

*After 100 coins have been granted, the coins will still be free, however, we will begin tracking Guardian progress to earn a coin similar to our Ambassador coin program. Complete details provided in our forums. 


Backwoods country bumpkin. Overland enthusiast and lover of the great outdoors.


  1. This is a really great way to recognize those folks that try to leave it better than they found it. I hope it spreads the idea throughout this great land and anywhere Overlanders may wander!

  2. You are tugging at my heart strings!
    Great incentive program!
    The world just became a little better, and will continue to do so as this way of thinking grows.
    Thank You for this article!

    1. Yes, especially the young who seem to treat the outdoors like their own private dump. I was taught to clean up after my self unlike a lot of the present generation.

  3. I here you what an awesome idea, just this past week my dad , oldest son and I were out hunting and stopped by one of the remote camp sites. We spent an hour cleaning up all the crash . I should of took pictures, it was awful. But when it was done the camp sites were clean 4 bags of trash were removed, the fire pits were restocked with rocks awaiting the next group of campers, hopefully they'll take better care of it.

    Sent from my iPhone using OB Talk

  4. Good job Michael.  Hopefully this will motivate some more folks to get out there and make a difference.

    The San Bernardino National Forest has a healthy Adopt-A-Trail program.  I have been participating in that for the the past several years.  I have done about 150 hours and The Varmints have racked up about 400 hours between them.  It is depressing to see how some people treat our open spaces.  If we can get more folks to switch from being part of the problem to becoming part of the solution that will make a huge difference.

    Kudos Michael.

  5. Didn't have the opportunity to set up a rally point, but this weekend,  my wife and I were camping up at Berryessa, and then drove north and spent time driving through part of the Knoxville OHV park – and cleaned this stuff up…. Oye…

  6. Great Idea, but not all of us have the ability to try and get the fancy coin. Some just do it because we should. Right now travelling through montana and pulled some junk from the river I was fishing. I'll do it in any river or place I'm at.

  7. The whole scheme is a fantastic one as Michael had mentioned in the original article that it is our responsibility to help maintain the trails so that others can enjoy them,

    If you spare 15 minutes before or after a trail to help clear up any rubbish you find you will be aiding in the conservation!

    Sadly there are many trails which get trashed quite literally due to inconsiderate people dumping rubbish but also fly-tipping larger objects

    There are schemes like Tread Lightly and GLASS-UK which promote the trails and how to assist in looking after them – Highly recommend joining them #DoYourBit #TrailGuardian

  8. I have been involved in Conservation Projects for a long time, which commonly includes rubbish collection and removal.

    Also have my own personal policy of cleaning up campsites, so that they are better / cleaner then when we arrived.

    I simply hate seeing all the trash "floating around" campsites, due to idel folks.

    It's a philosophy and policy that I am trying hard to impress upon my 2 teenage girls, so that they take over this mind-set when they leave home.

    It seems to be working…

    Perhaps I should look into the idea of organizing a local "Clean-Up Day" with OB Members (and potential future OB Members) located in this part of SW Norway.

    Norway coastline suffers from plastic debris "wash-up" – mostly from Europe via North Sea currents.

    This has been recently publicised by Sky News, with their "Ocean Rescue" campaign.


    If anyone would be interested in joining me for a "Clean-Up Day" in locations around Sandnes, Rogaland, SW Norway, I would like to hear from you.

    Working together, to build a better / cleaner future……

  9. Lol, my family cracks up at me when we stop to 'relax' and I'm walking around filling up the Trasharoo….great program BUT I feel like we should be doing this as Overlanders and lovers of nature, regardless if a coin is involved! I do it once a week EASILY…but you won't find me taking pictures of it all because I'm not looking for praise…just looking to enjoy the areas I trail in a little more. NOTHING against those taking pics of it of course but its our DUTY (in my personal opinion) to do our part in trail clean-up.

  10. I think the coins are a great idea to be given out to those who take the time and dedication to organize and get a group together for a clean up day. As far as cleaning up your camp site and along the trails you run, I agree with the notion that it is essentially our duty and I’d be disappointed if anyone here didn’t. I’ve filled garbage bags with other peoples cigarette butts, bottle tops, toilet paper and much worse just about every time we go camping and often post about it to help spread the message. I think those willing to take it a step further deserve a cool reward, thanks OB!

  11. A consistent problem in most areas in most the areas we’ve been to. Hiking here and there we always manage to collect a small bag. Might be a good idea to connect to groups already involved in cleanup projects. Like when in college my Rotaract club did a few pick ups of local reservation areas/ trails.

  12. We started camping with our children when they were infants almost 25 years ago. As soon as they were old enough, we made a game out of trash collection. As soon as we stopped to set camp, we would send them on a “treasure hunt” to collect as much trash as possible. This was a great way for them to occupy time while set camp and a release of their energy after sitting in the truck for hours of travel. The reward was selected what to eat for dinner. We did the same when we broke camp, and the winner could choose where to stop along the way to our next destination. Now even though they are both young adults and help set up camp we all clean up the camp when we arrive and leave, and the reward is knowing that the next camper might notice. It has always amazed me how much litter there is to collect.