When you find large trash items left by others in less accessible places, what should be done?

The exact scenario:
We were hiking a ten mile trail on US Forestry Service land with river crossings and came upon an abandoned tent. It was one of those larger four man, twenty pound tents and damaged beyond use. We do carry bags that we use to ferry out other trash we find but there was no room in our packs for an extra tent.

Edits for clarity: Things that are very clearly trash and fairly large.

  • Is it in a managed park?
    – user2766
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 14:28
  • Not in the cases I have ran into it Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 14:28
  • Is remembering the spot and coming back with a big backpack (or whatever else is suitable to carry the respective item) some days later an option? Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 15:08
  • 1
    If its an area you go to often and its sure nothing happened to the owner and its an abandoned item and there are no authorities to report it, you could keep an eye on it visit after visit and eventually carry it out when you see noone went back to it. When I found large items it was people stashing stuff along the route to retrieve on their way back or were areas where homeless people was known to pass through. In those cases its not my place to go remove the items. Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 15:12
  • You should mention the state. For example in Germany, we just can call the police. They'll take care of it (hopefully).
    – OddDeer
    Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 9:59

8 Answers 8


When it's unsuitable for removal by your group, contact the relevant authority for that land and let them know the type of litter and its location (pictures and GPS coordinates are helpful). For example, in cases of extreme littering, U.S. federal land management agencies will sometimes organize major cleanup efforts to pack out trash with mules or even a helicopter if there is enough litter in a remote area to justify it.

  • 8
    My solution to things the rangers should know about is turning on the GPS on my camera and taking a picture. What and where bound together in a single package. Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 2:26
  • This is the only correct answer. For example here in Germany one would just contact the police.
    – OddDeer
    Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 11:17

This is what I do:

I always have extra carry-bags to keep the trash in. Depending upon what my plan is, if I am coming around the same way back home, I usually pickup everything which shouldn't be out there and place the bag at location where it will not be easily found by people or by animals.

On my way back home, when I know I don't have an extra bag to carry, I can pickup small non-biodegradable things like, very commonly: plastic wrappers, tetra-packs and similar stuff that I can carry without a trouble, and stuff it somewhere in the side of the haversack. So I can carry everything I brought with me, and that I collected as garbage during the trek.

And, I insist on suggesting other fellows to do the same if they can and care about environment.

Now this is specific to my place. In India, carrying liquor in any form during a trek/hike or in a National Park is a serious trouble if caught by authorities. So, I would never want to be getting in trouble if I am carrying an empty Beer can or a vodka bottle some stupid fellow didn't bother to bring back and trash where it is supposed to be trashed. In such a case, when I notice that a particular route needs cleaning, I take pictures, reach out to people, friends and we together plan a clean-up activity with permission and support from villagers, That goes onto a different level altogether when it really matters.

  • 3
    Great answer. I am curious though if the bottle or can were clearly aged from being outside, do you think you would be at the same risk?
    – Escoce
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 15:05
  • @Escoce: That should not be much of a problem. :)
    – WedaPashi
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 15:28

If the item is small enough to move, but too large to easily carry out. Organize the junk so that it is stacked as inoffensively as practical, but remains easily accessible. Don't hide it or drop it into a ravine, you want to make it easier to remove not harder.

Contact the landowner or manager. This might be a park ranger, corporation or private land owner. Presumably, someone built and maintains the trail, after getting permission from the landowner or manager. This should put you in contact with the team who maintains the trail, you can inform them of the issue and schedule a time to work with them in the removal.

Alternatively, for objects that can be moved, but are too difficult to extract in a single event, move them closer to the entrance/exit. If you move it partway, and the next person moves it part way, it should find its way out fairly quickly.

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    If the trail is used by a packer, tell the packer. The packer will probably haul it out on one of his return trips. The packers I know do a lot of cleanup.
    – ab2
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 18:53

This is country specific - but yours may have some automated way of reporting this. My own little homeland made me proud when they rolled out a smartphone app for hikers that allows to report any kind of environmental damage (along with GPS data and possibly pictures) directly to the authorities. They are usually pretty quick to investigate such things.

  • And what country is that?
    – user2766
    Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 12:24
  • 3
    @Liam Latvia. It's quite small and flat, so I don't expect many people on this site to be from around those parts.
    – Ordous
    Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 12:40

If it is a more polluted area, try the method suggested by WedaPashi (cleanup activity with friends), or take a look at Let's Do It - a worldwide trash-collecting/volunteering action; find your country and contact the local organization. This also puts the issue in an other light (and on the world map), and it might get bigger media attention too, spread the awareness etc.


Contact USFS via their website and let them know the location and description of the item. They have a 'Contact Us' link in the About the Agency drop-down menu.

  • Better yet, look up the appropriate Ranger District and give them a call. Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 3:12

I agree with the answers that recommend notifying the managers of the land. In addition, if the area is served by a packer, I would notify the packer. The packer might be able to take the trash out in a return trip when his mules were lightly loaded. As James Jenkins said in his answer, organize the junk and put it in an easily accessible place. Packers often do clean-ups, both because they love the area they are working in, and because a clean area is good for business.


If you cut it up, then many hikers could each take out a piece and eventually the job would be done.

Just leave it better than you found it.

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    Clever, but doesn't this just make an even bigger mess, with pieces that could be spread around a larger area? Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 1:35
  • 2
    Whatever you cut up, or whatever pieces you can, you take with you. Place a rock on the rest so it doesn't blow away; use common sense. It's a tent not a gigantic truck tire (that's when you start making phone calls). I like this answer because it distributes responsibility, it doesn't try to offload it.
    – Mazura
    Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 4:29

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