Pack It In, Pack It Out:. This common saying is a simple yet
effective way to get backcountry visitors to take their trash home with
them. There is no reason why people cannot carry out of the backcountry
the extra food and packing materials which they carried in with them
in the first place. The litter situation in many backcountry areas is
better than it was 10-20 years ago; however, litter continues to be
a problem. Though most trash and litter in the backcountry is not significant
in terms of the long term ecological health of an area, it does rank
high as a problem in the minds of many backcountry visitors. Trash and
litter are primarily social impacts which can greatly detract from the
naturalness of an area.
Reduce litter at the source: Much backcountry trash and litter
originates from food items. Perhaps the easiest way to practice the
principle of Pack it In, Pack it Out is to plan ahead and prepare. It
is possible to leave most potential trash at home if you take the time
to properly prepare food supplies. Reduce the volume of trash you have
to pack out and save weight by repackaging solid food into plastic bags
and liquids into reusable containers.
Another good idea is to keep your menu simple. For short trips, consider
not taking a stove and taking only food that requires no cooking. This significantly
reduces backpack weight and excess food packaging taken into the backcountry.
Your first preference for dealing with trash should be to pack it out. Much
trash is non able and not all outdoor settings are acceptable for building
fires. Areas are often closed to fires due to high fire hazards or excessive
campsite damage. Some areas, such as desert settings, are impractical for
fires due to the scarcity of firewood.
Under no circumstance should food scraps be buried! Discarded or buried food
scraps becomes attractive to small animal life which live in the area. It
is common to see chipmunks, ground squirrels, and various species of birds
gathering around camp kitchens. These camp robbers have become habituated
to campers as a food source. Human food is not natural to wild animals and
their natural feeding cycles and habits have become disturbed. A contentious
no-trace camper always keeps a clean camp.
Special Considerations for Bear Country: When traveling in bear country,
whether there are black bears or grizzly bears present, the disposal of garbage
takes on a new significance. The primary concern here is safety, both for
the visitor and for the bear. Personal safety is the first priority; a bear
can be a very dangerous animal if provoked or habituated to humans. Safety
of the bear is also a concern. Once a bear is habituated to people, usually
because it associates people with food, it can rapidly become a problem bear
and will have to be dealt with actively, sometimes at the expense of its life.
Though black bears present less of a threat to the personal safety of backcountry
visitors than grizzly bears, the potential for personal injury does exist
and preparations should be taken.
Messy kitchens and food odors can attract bears. Kitchens should be placed
at least 100 feet from tent sites and, if possible, near streams or rivers.
A conscientious low-impact camper always keeps a clean camp whether there
are bears in the area or not. If you suspect bears are in the area, food must
be kept at least 100 feet from tent and kitchen sites and hung at least 10
feet off the ground between trees and 4 feet away from the trunks of the trees.
All food items and trash must be hung. Even with this preparation black bears,
who are adept at climbing, may still reach your food. Food brought to your
tent invites danger to your sleeping area and food left in your pack may result
in a destroyed pack as the bear searches for the source of food odors.
How Long Does it Last? Packing out trash is increasingly important
as greater numbers of people visit the backcountry. Here are some estimated
life expectancies for different kinds of litter.
Think before you throw.
Remember to Pack it In, Pack it Out, and recycle.
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