On my last tour I've found a lot of litter in the woods again. While I do my best to get things out, I was not able to take an old oil barrel and a care tire with me =). However, these two items made me think about how they even come here? Maybe I can do something about the originating source or the way the things get there rather than carrying them out.

Don't get me wrong, I'm aware that these items come from a car or something but I can't believe that someone takes a car tire, hikes the hell out of the forest and throws his stuff in there just to hike back again.

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    In Norway, I've seen oil barrels that were left behind in the middle of the wilderness. Apparently those contained Allied aid droppings for the Resistance (against the German Nazi occupation) during World War 2.
    – gerrit
    Aug 3, 2016 at 11:02

2 Answers 2


I live an area where a lot of the woods was farms a hundred years ago. 50 years ago it was bushy fields, now it's heavily wooded with increasingly narrow cart paths running through it. A lot of the stuff I run into was probably dumped by someone creating a dump site a few decades ago, when you could drive to it with no problem, but if you see it today, it's pretty obvious the path wouldn't allow a car to pass.

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    Yep, the forests here were farmland 100 years ago so it's not unusual to find stuff in the woods one wouldn't normally expect to find in the woods. Aug 8, 2016 at 15:13
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    This is true in much of the US. Many places people think have "always been forest" were heavily farmed until the advent of industrial farming and refridgeration centralized much of our food production to a few high yield areas. For example, most of Appalachia used to be clear cut for side hill farming. Aug 8, 2016 at 23:42

There are two ways stuff can get into the wilds. People and nature. Nature is simpler so I'll get that out of the way first. Once heavy debris ends up in the woods it's likely to stay there if it doesn't degrade.

The only natural processes that can shift big things are wind and water. Your examples are too heavy to blow (though this explains things like fertiliser sacks). Flooding can carry things that float quite a long way from water sources if the land is flat. Empty barrels really fall into this category. Wheels might but probably not tyres on their own.

People do strange things. Some people's idea of enjoying the outdoors is noisy and petrol-powered, even if the trail isn't really wide enough and even if it's illegal. Sometimes they crash or get stuck, and if the car is stolen they'll flee. I've seen whole cars abandoned in or near footpaths. The spare wheel could also come off if the car hits the ground in the right place. Oil barrels are unlikely to be carried in by joyriders but forestry contractors refill their vehicles' tanks from them and I've never seen a major contractor be diligent about clearing up unless they were forced. After a few years of rust it would be hard to tell unless you could see an end cut off, but old metal oil drums are used as fire containers. If someone had lived rough in the woods they could have brought it in. Other signs of their presence could be more subtle - they'd degrade, get overgrown, or be more portable. I've certainly seen signs of people living rough on public land in the UK, US, France and Canada.

  • In hilly country, gravity can further rearrange things, sometimes in unexpected ways. A car wheel or tyre can roll a long way if it doesn't hit anything.
    – Chris H
    Aug 3, 2016 at 13:09
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    @karen that's not something I really considered. As an answer I can guarantee you one vote.
    – Chris H
    Aug 5, 2016 at 19:24
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    Converted to an answer!
    – Karen
    Aug 8, 2016 at 12:57
  • -1 for two reasons. The first is that this seems to contain quite a bit of subjective judgement on individuals preferences in the outdoors. The second is that some parts just don't make sense to me: "Sometimes they crash or get stuck, and if the car is stolen they'll flee." -- I've never known anyone to abandon a car (due to cost) and stolen? What does that have to do with anything? Do we have carjackers in the 100 mile wood now? Seriously I think I must be reading this sentence wrong and I just don't get what you're trying to get at here. Aug 8, 2016 at 23:40
  • @RussellSteen maybe I was a little too brief. It's less common now with modern car security but joyriding used to happen quite a bit. Cars were stolen just to drive around in fast, and often crashed. This could well be in the woods if the path looked wide enough at the beginning. The joyriders would then have no choice but to leave on foot. This would normally be within a couple of miles of the nearest road, but that covers a huge amount of land.
    – Chris H
    Aug 9, 2016 at 5:53

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