Leave No Trace

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
– E. B. White

TOM BIHN and Leave No Trace

As outdoors people, we have a responsibility to prepare ourselves for the adventures on which we embark — to do our best to ensure our own safety and that of others. Navigational abilities, common sense and the ten essentials can avoid a situation that’s dangerous for us and the rescue personnel who might be called upon to save us. And carrying a few additional supplies can help us help others on the trail who didn’t plan ahead.

We also have a responsibility to outdoor places and spaces we are fortunate to visit, and that’s where Leave No Trace — an organization we are proud to support — comes in.

The Leave No Trace Seven Principles are the bedrock of the Leave No Trace program. They provide guidance to enjoy our natural world in a sustainable way that avoids human-created impacts. The principles have been adapted so they can be applied in your backyard, the backcountry wilderness, or city, state, or national parks.

Earlier this year, the importance of each of us understanding and taking responsibility for our impact on public lands was highlighted by the government shutdown. With either no or a significantly reduced number of government employees to patrol public lands and enforce policies, the full range of our behaviors was on display — from trees illegally felled for firewood to volunteers stepping up to haul out trash. Leave No Trace issued specific guidelines related to the government shutdown that were shared thousands of times and inspired many to volunteer their time to protect national public lands or avoid national lands to relieve their burden and instead visit state and municipal parks.

Leave No Trace Seven Principles

Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you’ll visit.
  • Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
  • Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
  • Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
  • Repackage food to minimize waste.
  • Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.


Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  • Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
  • Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
  • Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.

In popular areas:

  • Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
  • Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
  • Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.

In pristine areas:

  • Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
  • Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.


Dispose of Waste Properly

  • Pack it in, pack it out.
  • Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
  • Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
  • Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
  • To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.


Leave What You Find

  • Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
  • Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
  • Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
  • Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.


Minimize Campfire Impacts

  • Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the environment. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
  • Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
  • Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
  • Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.


Respect Wildlife

  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
  • Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
  • Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
  • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.


Be Considerate of Other Visitors

  • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
  • Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
  • Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
  • Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
  • Let nature’s sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.


A note on our own humanness: none of us are perfect and all of us have made mistakes and will make mistakes. Our personal goal is to keep in mind the principles of Leave No Trace and to strive to uphold them as well as we are able. The principles are a way to care for the natural world we love and there’s a joy in that caring that is beyond a simple sense of duty.

“Do anything, but let it produce joy.”
― Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

In an effort to help spread the word about the Leave No Trace Seven Principles, we include our own version of the Leave No Trace reference card with The Guide’s Pack. Our version of the card has a snaphook that allows it to connect to an O-ring — so it’s easy for us to pull out and consult or share with someone else. (Various editions of the Leave No Trace Seven Principles Cards are available directly from Leave No Trace for just 0.25 each.)


Update on the new Ghost Whale Organizer pouches

Photo of the Ghost Whale Pouch, Size Small, posted by Dom in the Forums.

Our new Ghost Whale Organizer Pouches have proved to be a very popular design. And it just so happens that we are experiencing a supply issue with the #3 YKK zipper needed to make the Ghost Whale.

That means that the Ghost Whale pouches won’t be meaningfully restocked until mid-late April. Some colors/sizes of Ghost Whale may be restocked here and there because we’re expecting a small shipment of #3 zippers around mid-late March, but we need those zippers for other items as well.

Some colors and sizes of Ghost Whales are still in-stock, but others are already (temporarily) sold out. If you’d like, you can sign up on the Ghost Whale page to be notified the moment they’re restocked and available for order. We’re hoping it’ll be sooner than mid-late April!

In the meantime, you may want to browse the photos shared by our Forum community of their new Ghost Whales. The photos (and the questions asked/answered) can be helpful in determining if the Ghost Whale Organizer Pouch is the right organizational tool for you and, if so, which sizes/colors might work best. Here’s some quick links to the photos and discussion:

Cristina’s Ghost Whale / Other Organizer Pouches Size Comparison

imagineez puts their soft top glasses case in the Ghost Whale (size Small)

Wanderlust77 shows that most eyeglass cases are probably too big to fit in a Ghost Whale

G42’s first impressions of the pouches

ButtUglyJeff found his best use for the Ghost Whale Size Small: holding brick style battery banks.

bartleby’s Ghost Whale photos


Guest Post: Hollie’s Thoughts On The Luminary 15

Hollie is a longtime user of TOM BIHN bags, she’s a former employee, and she was the main tester of the Luminary 15 (L15) design. Tom would like to thank Hollie for her valuable feedback — it helped finalize some key details of the fit and features of the pack. – TB Crew

When I first heard that Tom was designing a larger Luminary, I was excited to hear of a new bag (like any Bihnion, I’m always happy when I know something new is coming down the pike), but having been obsessed for so long with my versatile and basically perfect Synapse 19, I wasn’t sure I’d really need a 15 liter backpack. Ohhhhhh, I was wrong. This bag is gold, everyone. Let me tell you.

I feel obligated to say that I’m a former Bag Guru (customer support person) at TOM BIHN. I asked Darcy if it was okay that I disclose this, and she said that it was just fine, since people reading the blog probably suspect that anyone writing a bag review has to be at least a little biased! Am I biased? Most definitely! Am I biased more after my time as a Guru? Yes! I loved my job, and I loved seeing how the bags I use every day were made with such quality (and employee happiness – speaking from experience!).

But the truth is, I was biased before I ever worked there. I’ve been obsessed with travel bags and backpacks ever since I was a kid, and it’s only gotten worse with age (I’m 44 — it’s pretty nuts at this point). I love to travel and have adventures, even just around town, and I love carrying my stuff with me, despite my sincere attempts at minimalism. I discovered Tom Bihn bags in 2009, and have been a groupie ever since. I’ve carried them all, but the Luminary 15 has really blown me away.

The exterior of the bag sets new records in sleekness and minimalism, and I just love that. It doesn’t look or act like a bulky backpack, which means you never feel like you’re hauling around the kitchen sink (even if you are). I can take this thing anywhere. It’s in no one’s way slung over my chair at a restaurant, it’s unobtrusive over my shoulder at the Seattle Art Museum, and it sits happily under my seat at the movie theater. The profile is so elegant and simple, you’d never guess by looking how roomy and functional the interior is. The straps are made of a super comfy foam, that I can wear comfortably all day.

At first glance the main interior compartment, with its three sections, might seem a bit strange. You might be tempted to unzip the center section to open the bag up, but before you do….try it. The center section is perfect for a water bottle, and those of us who love our Synapses know the joy of a water bottle nestled securely in the center of our bag, and I love that we have this feature in a second backpack. If you don’t carry a water bottle, the center pocket is perfect for a stuff sack, or a jacket rolled up.

The side sections are perfect for sliding in a wallet or phone (although my favorite place for my phone is the right side pocket). But where they really shine is for all the other things we might want to carry as we wander about on our adventures, or head to work or school. I do a lot of urban sketching, and I knit, which means that when I leave the house I usually have my travel sketchpad, my travel palette of watercolors, and my stuff sack with the latest pair of wool socks I’m knitting up. I’ve also started carrying a Traveler’s Notebook, and will sometimes even have my handheld ham radio with me (here in Seattle we have a repeater where hams carry on conversations all day).

The Luminary can carry all of this in stride, and the ability to split up the main compartment means that stuff will stay corralled on whatever side of the bag you pack it, and it’s always easy to find. When I took the train down to Portland for an overnight trip, I took only the Luminary, using one side section for a change of clothes, the center for my bottle of tea, and the third section for my toiletries, knitting, and snacks.

Have a larger notebook, or an iPad, and need a place for that? The ingenious rear panel has your back (haha!). A side zipper along the length of the bag reveals a roomy pocket that can handle an iPad, sketchbook, or paperback. I keep a folded sari in mine, in case I get chilled. I love how sneaky this back pocket is – no one watching you grab things out of the main compartment would realize you could have an iPad hidden away in the back.

For the smaller things, the Luminary has me covered. The side zipper pockets are where I keep my phone, my paintbrushes, an ever-growing number of Micron pens (it’s like they disappear and then reappear once I buy replacements), and things like lip balm, my pocket knife, and the one granola bar I need to have on me at all times.

In short, the Luminary 15 has become the everyday carry of my dreams. A light pack, with an elegant and sleek profile, that goes everywhere but still carries everything I need – it’s amazing.


News Briefs

Early reviews of the Luminary 12 / 15 from the Forum community are in. See L15 reviews by logan_g, G42, Lia, anna2222, Quiltmama, and L12 reviews by marbenais, awurrlu and L12/L15 comparison reviews by Cristina, aedifica, bartleby.

The new Luminary 12 and Luminary 15 backpacks + bags in 210d ballistic nylon will be up for pre-order on 02/26. Details here.

We posted a very early heads-up on our March 5th, 2019 (roughly 6%) price increase in the Forums along with news of Shop Bags in 210d ballistic nylon.

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