Dispersed Camping Ethics

Choosing a Campsite

Avoid pitching tents on grass.The bare dirt area behind the trees would be more appropriate.Look for a campsite that is invisible from the main trail or road. Tents and packs with subdued earth toned colors can help hide your campsite from nearby campers and travelers on the trail. This will give other visitors a greater feeling of solitude.
Pick a site that is at least 200 feet from a lake shore. Plants along the shore are easily trampled and killed by tents and campfires. Have a good place for a tent where you will not have to destroy vegetation by trenching.
When dispersed camping in a trailer or motorhome, do not drive off road.  Park in turnouts that have been used for vehicles before.  Make sure no part of your vehicle or trailer extends out into the roadway.  Always stay back 200 feet or more from lakes and streams. 



The use of a camp stove, backpacking stove, barbecue or a campfire outside of a designated campground requires a California Campfire Permit.  Permits are available free of charge at all Modoc Forest Offices, BLM and CalFire offices and at Readyforwildfire.org.  They expire every year on December 31.

  • Campfires can leave unnecessary signs of man’s presence in the forest. The best way to prevent a campfire scar is to use a portable stove and not build a fire at all. If you build a fire, here are some ways to lessen its impact.
  • Use only fallen dead wood.  DO NOT cut down snags. Keep your fire small. To prevent your fire from spreading, clear away the duff and litter until you reach dirt. Make sure there are no overhanging branches or severe winds.
  • A ring of rocks is not necessary. Rocks will do little to contain a campfire and the flames will color them an unsightly black.
  • Never leave your fire unattended, and erase all trace of your fire before you leave. Fires should be drowned with water before you go to bed at night and before you leave your campsite any time.  Never allow campfires to smolder and go out on their own.  They can flare up hours or even days later and start wildfires. More on building a safe campfire.



Not all garbage, paper, and plastics will burn in a campfire. Aluminum cans and foil will not. They break up into small pieces that become litter.  Do not leave these small, unburned scraps behind.  Please pack them out. Note:  burning trash in the South Warner Wilderness is not permitted.

Cigarette butts, pull tabs and candy bar wrappers are litter. Never bury trash of any kind. The bears and small animals dig up these garbage pits and scatter the trash.  Please pack out all trash and litter. The next camper to the area will certainly appreciate you also picking up any litter left by previous campers.


Soap and Human Waste

  • Fish and soapy water do not mix. Please wash your dishes well back from the shore in a pot of water and then dump the water on the ground 200 feet or more from any lake or stream. Wash yourself at least 200 feet away from streams and lakes also.
  • Bury human waste with the heel of your boot, a shovel, or a trowel. Dig a hole six inches deep or more into the soil at least 200 feet from lakes and streams. Afterwards, cover with dirt to allow microorganisms to decompose the waste. If you are in a large group, dig a long but shallow latrine. Remember to fill it in before you leave and return the area to the condition you found it in or cleaner. Consider purchasing one of the many commercial products available for the accumulation and disposal of human waste.


Breaking Camp

  • When breaking down your camp, always drown your campfire. Make sure it is out by feeling the ashes with the back of your hand. If any ashes feel warm, use more water. Scatter the cold ashes and any rocks away from the campsite where they can’t be seen. Spread needles and twigs over the fire scar.
  • Scatter your firewood.
  • Pack out all garbage and unburned materials.
  • If using stock, scatter animal manure for quicker decomposition.
  • Fill the latrine (if you had one).
  • Check your campsite and know that you are leaving it cleaner and more natural than it was when you arrived.