What should we do about questions on outdoor ethics?

Though interesting I'm worried that they will always be entirely opinion based and will spark religious wars of people with wholly differing opinions?

  • 2
    I always find ethics will vary from person to person, however as stated below, Leave no Trace as a focus would be better, the question could be worded differently to avoid ethics
    – Aravona
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 11:21
  • @Aravona - Leave no Trace is 100% about outdoor ethics.
    – ShemSeger
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 14:45
  • @ShemSeger True, but it can also be enforced by a body, then it's more of a rule?
    – Aravona
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 14:47
  • 3
    Possible duplicate of philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/6117/… :)
    – requiem
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 15:05
  • LOL @requiem...
    – user2766
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 16:14

3 Answers 3


I think it is an interesting question but badly asked. Liam explained why. In my opinion, it should simply be rephrased to get rid of the "ethics". Somewhere along the line of "Where/When is it impossible to do a campfire due to environmental issues" or compatible with "leave no trace" principle.

This should be applicable to all kind of questions about outdoor ethics. By objectification they can be made less opinion based. They certainly loose some "appeal", but are less controversial.

  • 4
    When people say 'ethical' they usually want a simple black/white answer, but the real world has never really accepted any rules a that are absolute. This question should be rewritten to ask in which situations it would be acceptable to have fires.
    – Pepi
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 11:37

Hmmm - interesting. I am watching that one to see what happens. I think we have good guidance on the "leave no trace" view, and that is the generally accepted view, so we could probably support a view that 'ethical' answers should follow that view.

Which makes the linked question answerable in those terms, possibly.

  • Yeah I was keeping an eye on it. I couldn't decide if it was a great question or a bad question, hence this post to try and get some opinions
    – user2766
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 10:20

I think the question about campfires is a good one, and I upvoted it. In general, I don't think it's a good idea to have any kind of policy against ethical questions, for the following reasons:

  • Outdoors.SE is very small and unhealthy. We don't have so many questions that we need to filter out those that don't meet our lofty standards. Although the question that prompted this was by a long-time user, it's especially important IMO that we not drive out prospective new users by pounding on them for asking a question that seems marginally out of bounds.

  • Ethics is not entirely a matter of opinion. For example, there are psychologists and neuroscientists who do experiments to study the scientific basis of ethics. A famous and very cool example is the trolley problem: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem

  • A question can be about ethics but can also involve other issues and information besides personal ethical opinions. For example, in the discussion of campfires, Kate Gregory's answer includes a lot of good suggestions about techniques.

  • Stackexchange historically started by serving communities of users in fields like math and computer science, and when these people talk about their own fields, they tend to be very precise and have little tolerance for fuzziness. In other fields, those standards just aren't appropriate. There is no grand unified theory of hiking, no formal algorithms for paddling a canoe.

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