Thursday, March 15, 2012


(left: beaming with garbage gratification, my husband holds the contents of 4 days of backpacking trash)

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” I said. I was struggling to strap six days of funky backcountry trash to my backpack. The smell coming out of the bag was a cross between, old cabbage, bad hippo and decomposing road kill. We’d been eating freeze-dried meals for a good portion of the trip and had experimented with a variety of brands, some of which, did not go down so well. The constituted decaying remains accompanied us along the trail. The garbage bag itself, was a classic white kitchen trash bag, complete with the ever useful, but not sealable, drawstring top. By day 6, it had started to drip and we’d done our best to make a backcountry repair with duct tape around the liquid. By morning, the duck tape had started to ooze and we were left with no choice but to strap a drippy, gooey mess of wet garbage stench to the outside of the pack and hope for a good cross-breeze. The official trailhead trash can could not come quick enough.

When organizing and packing for a multi-day backpacking trip, the last thing to cross one’s mind is trash management. This important and overlooked detail is something that I’ve mastered and can happily share with you so that you don’t end up with a plight similar to my past experiences.

To get started:

  • Get a bunch of ziplock style freezer baggies in varying sizes. If you are eating store-bought freeze-dried meals, many of them already come in a zippered pouch. If the manufacturer overlooked this packaging convenience, dump the contents into a zippered plastic freezer baggie. Write instructions on the outside of the baggie, so you don’t forget how much water to add when trail-brain sets in.*
  • If you are a gourmet backcountry chef, use freezer baggies for your own custom dehydrated meals.
  • Use freezer bags for things like oatmeal, cold cereal, cold cuts and cheese.

The goal is to dirty as few dishes as possible and use the baggies instead of bowls.

After you’ve enjoyed your dinner, designate one used ziplock freezer baggie for your garbage bag. Place all trash inside that bag, including any trail bar wrappers, any other dirty baggies (keep them unzipped), dirty tissue, etc. Gently (that’s key, Bigfoot) step down on the designated dirty trash baggie to express any air, and seal to a nice, flattened package. Repeat this each day and your garbage will come out small, compressed and liquid free. Best of all, it will keep odors to a minimum, diminish dishes and lessen your odds of being stalked by a skunk.

happy trails, hinterland hikers!

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