Lonely Planet Writer

Meet the backpackers who cleaned up thousands of miles of US hiking trails

Three friends who travelled thousands of miles across the American Hiking trails cleaning up trash and rubbish that they found along the way have been inspiring people all over the world with their story.

The friends cleaned a wide range of rubbish from the trails, including heavy mattresses.
The friends cleaned a wide range of rubbish from the trails, including heavy mattresses. Image by Paul Twedt
Packing It Out
A stunning view of the surrounding area from the Pacific Crest Trail. Image by Packing It Out

The “Packing It Out” project, started by Seth Orme, Joseph Dehnert and Paul Twedt follows the principles of leave no trace backpacking that sees people ensuring that nothing taken out while camping or walking in nature is left behind. The Packing It Out project takes that ideal a step further with the participants having cleaned up a range of objects left behind by other people.

The friends camped along the trails following the leave no trace guidelines.
The friends camped along the trails following the leave no trace guidelines. Image by Packing It Out
So far, Packing It Out has seen the friends travelling over 5,000 miles.
So far, Packing It Out has seen the friends travelling over 5000 miles. Image by Packing It Out

The group began their first journey on the Appalachian Way in March of last year, starting at Springer Mountain and travelling two thousand miles clearing 2000 pounds of rubbish along the trail. Having completed that, Seth and Paul took on another popular route, the Pacific Crest Trail, walking north from the border of California and Mexico towards the border of Washington and Canada.

Packing It Out
So far the friends have cleared over 2000 pounds of rubbish from trails. Image by Packing It Out
The project started as a way to inspire people to rethink their relationship with nature.
The project started as a way to inspire people to rethink their relationship with nature. Image by Packing It Out

“The ultimate goal has always been to inspire others and to influence people’s values about nature. What better way to do that than to put your actions over your words? By removing trash along trails we can make them even more enjoyable and aesthetically pleasing for everyone,” Seth Orme told Lonely Planet Travel News. Throughout their journey, the group cleaned up everything from cigarette butts to 70-pound mouldy mattresses that had to be carried off the trail.

A view from the Pacific Crest Trail.
A view from the Pacific Crest Trail. Image by Packing It Out
Another trail clean up is planned for 2017 from Georgia to Washington.
Another trail clean up is planned for 2017 from Georgia to Washington. Image by Packing It Out

Packing It Out is planning another big clean up in 2017, when Seth plans to cycle across the country from Cumberland Island, Georgia to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. “It’s what happens in between these two locations that really matters. I plan to clean as many popular scenic areas as possible, spreading our mantra to leave it better”, he said. More information on the adventures of Pack It Out is available on their blog.