I returned to the trail recently to do a 40 mile section in Georgia. It was beautiful weather, and Georgia was in full bloom. Now that I’m not a thru-hiker, I just relaxed and hiked easy 7 mile days.
I camped on top of a mountain several miles north of Neels Gap, where I met a friendly couple who were about my age. We built a fire and had some laughs, but before long they started throwing all their plastic trash into the fire (gasp). I don’t like telling people what to do, so I didn’t say anything. The next morning I went into the woods to take care of some business, when I saw a pile of used toilet paper about 20 feet from the campsite (gross).
These were perfectly lovely people, but they were new to backpacking and not informed as to what to do with trash.
Why is it important to pack it out?
- Any trash that you leave at campsites and along the trail, ridge runners (they are employees of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and assigned a section of the trail) and volunteers have to pack out. So you’re basically inconveniencing someone else, by not packing out your trash.
- The mountains, the animals, and the plant life were there before us. We’re just guests. It’s important to preserve the Appalachian region so others can enjoy it for years to come.
- If you leave behind food or wrappers with crumbs in them, the animals might begin to hang out in that area. Then mice, squirrels, and even bears will be trying to steal food from hikers.
There are 7 basic Leave No Trace principles, which you can view here.
How can you minimize your trash and resist the urge to litter?
- Carry Ziploc bags with you, and store your food in them. Throw the food packages away before you leave town, and reuse the Ziploc bags over and over again.
- For the love of God, don’t carry cans of food. Water weight plus aluminum cans means that you’ll have a heavy pack, even after you eat the food.
- You only need enough water storage space to hold 2 liters of water, or 3 liters if you’re hiking in 90+ degree weather. I would suggest getting a Platypus Resevoir because it collapses as you drink. You won’t have several plastic bottles that take up space.
- Be selective with the clothes you bring. You don’t need clean underwear for everyday or 3 t-shirts. Don’t ditch extra clothes at shelters. If you really don’t want an item, leave it in a designated hiker box in town.
Respect the trail, and you’ll appreciate the experience more. Always remember that if you pack it in, you should pack it out.