How One Man Removed 1,720 Pounds of Backcountry Trash

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Okay, so Packing It Out founder Seth Orme did have some help, but at it’s core, the Packing It Out initiative has a simple and effective strategy: When you see trash on the trail, pick it up, and pack it out. It’s really as easy as that.

That’s how the Packing It Out initiative started in 2014, while Seth was thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. Frustrated with wilderness areas that had been “loved to death,” Seth wanted to do something about it. So in his spontaneous way, he got after it. “If there was a bunch of random trash on the floor of your house, would it really matter who put it there, or would you just want to get rid of it?”

Seth and his friends decided to pack out any trash they came across on the AT, with the ultimate goal of removing over 1,000 pounds from the trail. The Packing It Out crew was successful in that mission, and since then Seth and his friends have packed out over 1,720 pounds of trash from the AT and Pacific Crest Trail. This year the Packing It Out crew endeavors to bike across the country from Cumberland Island, Georgia to the Pacific Ocean in Washington, cleaning up scenic areas along the way.

I’ve been following the Packing It Out story closely over the past couple of years. I’ve been impressed and inspired to say the least. Not only do I respect their effort and initiative, I also think their story proves that small actions can lead to big changes. Like the Packing It Out motto suggests, whether you only have five minutes to clean up, or five months like Seth and his crew, we can all pitch in to make a lasting difference.

I recently reached out to Seth to see if he’d be willing to answer some questions for my blog in an effort to spread the word about Packing It Out. He was kind enough to respond with the heartfelt answers and images below. Hopefully I can help spread the enthusiasm for his project in my small way as well.

Interview with Seth Orme, Packing It Out Founder

Q: What’s your favorite part about backpacking? What gets you out there?

A: Simplicity, pure and simple. Life at 3 miles per hour gives you time to process and appreciate.

Q: What sparked Packing It Out?

A: Primarily leading by example. By putting our actions over our words, we not only inspire others but we actually get things done, right now. Packing It Out was sparked after yet another summer living outside. The outdoors had become synonymous with home, to me. I had a desire to help preserve and protect it. Being impatient and stubborn as I am, I got to work. If there was a bunch of random trash on the floor in your house, would you pick it up? Would it really matter who put it there?

Q: What’s next for the Packing It Out crew?

A: This year we are biking across the country, from Cumberland Island, GA to the Pacific Ocean in Washington. We will clean up scenic areas that are being loved to death.

Q: What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about the Packing It Out crew?

A: We are usually only 2-3 people. People are often surprised at how much trash we remove with just two people. And we love food!

Q: What’s your favorite piece of trash you’ve packed out?

A: My favorite things are the one’s that remind me of why we do what we do. Packing out 40 pounds of broken glass is one of those things. It’s challenging and a slow process, but it make a huge impact on an area.

Q: People seem to really vibe with your mission. Why do you think you’ve gotten so much attention?

A: Good question. I don’t know. Maybe because we just, DO IT. Ask anyone that knows me well and they will tell you that I only talk for a short period of time before I start making moves.

Q: What’s the best trail magic or positive feedback you’ve received along the way?

A: Pshh, I can’t even begin to answer this one. Sooooo many amazing people out there.

Q: Hauling trash out of beautiful wilderness areas must get emotionally taxing too. Have you hit any truly low moments on your trips?

A: Sure, but they are usually just that, a moment. I move on quickly. Having half my face paralyzed by Lyme Disease on the Appalachian Trail could be considered a low moment, haha.

Q: What’s the most common garbage you find and what’s the fix?

A: 1) Toilet Paper – Bury it properly and educate on the use of natural materials. 2) Bottles – Reuse your bottles and secure your things properly. 3) Food wrappers – Prior planning and repackaging can prevent some trash from even coming into the woods. Educate people on Leave No Trace.

Q: After thru-hiking the AT and PCT, what’s your favorite piece of backpacking gear?

A: My Snow Peak 1.8L pot that I bought for 27 dollars used in 2008. I’ve used it for over 7 years, it’s fed me more times than my mother… maybe. Major trips it’s been on include the Source to Sea Mississippi River Trip 2010, Appalachian Trail 2015, and Pacific Crest Trail 2016. Bonus: We used the SD Tensegrity Elite for most of the PCT. Toward the end of our hike we tested out the SD High Route. The High Route is hands down one of my favorite tents. The design and setup is just plain smart.

Q: If you could be any animal (living or fictional) what would you be and why?

A: Wolf. I enjoy my solitude and yet function well with a pack. I am infatuated with distance endeavors. While hiking the PCT, Paul and I shifted our thinking and decided to move like wolves for 4 days. What resulted was a series of days trotting, not hiking. We trotted a 30, 35, 38, and then 41 mile day, with backpacks and trash. It was incredible.

Q: What can we all do to help Packing It Out?

A: Simple, go out and leave the people you meet and places you go BETTER.


Seth Orme

Packing It Out Founder

Want to learn more? Check out the Packing It Out website and get involved.
Want to do more? When you see trash on the trail, pack it out.

Seth Orme, Packing It Out Founder