I recently began hiking regularly, and something I can't help but notice every time I hike is litter left behind on the trail - corners of a granola bar wrapper, water bottles, hair ties... Growing up I was taught to always leave a place better than I found it, so I'm curious how you all go about picking up after others?

So far I've just been barehand grabbing litter and tossing it in a spare plastic grocery bag I keep on-hand, but I'm looking to improve my methods/equipment if there's a better way. Anyone go as far as bringing a trash picker on the trail, maybe using a stuff sack as a receptacle? Teach us your ways!

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@cassie0528 I'm where you're at - I try to pick up the small stuff I see along any trail and pack out more than I came in with...

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I take a garbage bag with me in the kayak.

Took a scout troop to a Army Corps of Eng. campground before doing a creek trip. They charged us 3 black garbage bags to fill on the way down the creek to stay the night.

Good on both of you. I don't understand why it's so hard for some people to pack out the stuff they carried in, especially now that's it's empty and a lot lighter than it originally was.

It must be cultural because I see a lot less of it in Europe, especially on well-used trails, than in North America.

I recall once when in Switzerland. We were sitting on a train that had pulled into a station. A bunch of schoolgirls ran to get on. One girl dropped a wrapper. Another girl stopped her and pointed to the wrapper. The first girl ran back to pick it up, even though she risked missing the train. Sadly you'll never see something like that over here. 


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I almost always pick up littler I find on the trail.  Usually lightweight, so it goes in my trash bag which contains my wrappers, etc.  Occasionally you will find something worthwhile. I still posses a Buck 110 I found at a trail campsite in Arizona.

Of course, as an archaeologist, I am always looking for traces of past human activity.  You might consider that in picking up trash, you are removing evidence that will be useful for future students of the past....

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

@cassie0528 I recently got a fanny pack from REI so that when walking my dog I would have a place to store her filled poop bags and not have to carry them in my hand. I have a plastic bag in the fanny pack that acts as a liner so that the pack doesn't get really gross. So far it has been immensely useful for picking up other garbage along the trail, especially in the wetlands where the tides bring in a new batch of floating trash daily. If I am hiking and have a backpack, I normally stash a small dry bag in the outside for trash. The dry bag helps if you pick up aluminum cans that aren't quite empty or other waterlogged grossness. 


I just stuff the trash in my pocket. I need a better system to handle broken glass and other material that might be harmful.

My trash bag is always oversized for the amount I generate, so I can gather OPT (Other People's Trash 😁)  I keep trying to use my hiking poles to pick up stuff, but it really doesn't work very well.  Takes out my aggression, though.

Retired medical technologist and engineer
REI member since 1978
Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

I use an old plastic grocery bag attached to my sternum strap. I stab the trash with my trekking poles or bend over to pick up. When you get to the trailhead tie up the bag and toss it in the garbage can.

I still pick up a lot, but not everything. As a Wilderness Ranger I would carry a couple of large bags out after a 4-day tour. Nowadays I just have a pocketful or two. I won't pick up anything that looks like bodily fluids have touched it.

I also have been rewarded over the years for this behavior pattern. I have gotten a couple of hiking poles, pieces of clothing, and multiple cameras.

Keep your eyes open. Give back to the trails we love so much. No obligation. Just do what you can. Every litter bit helps.