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Trail Guardian – Leave it Better Than You Found it

Trail Guardian – Leave it Better Than You Found it

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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.