An Ultralight Solution to a "Leave no Trace" Problem

Ultralight Trash Bags for Backpacking
Whether it's food packaging, Band-Aid wrappers, tea bags, half-eaten energy bars, or used tissues, backpacking and hiking usually produce some amount of waste. And as stewards of the places we love to explore, we're obligated to carry it out. I used to put my trash in a small Ziplock bag, and that worked fairly well; however, they very weren't durable. They can tear open in your pack and leak all over your gear. Not to mention that they're easily pierced by anything sharp inside. Then, years ago, I was about to throw away an empty bag of Starbucks coffee, and it struck me that it would make a perfect backpacking trash bag. And that's what I've been carrying every since.

Why They're Good

  • They're tough! They're made from a durable plastic material with a foil lining that are nearly impossible to puncture from any trash within or pointy gear in your pack. I've never had one tear or puncture.
  • They're odor-proof (kind of). The tight roll-top seal not only makes them leakproof, but also spares your nose from smell of even the nastiest garbage inside. Note: this does NOT mean that they'll conceal odors from bears. You should still use a hanging bag or canister in bear country.
  • They're compact and ultralight. The average coffee bag weighs about 0.5 oz. so it won't add any noticeable weight to your pack. Plus, when empty, they pack flat or roll up and take up no extra space.
  • They're free! If you're a regular coffee drinker, you'll probably end up with a lifetime supply. In fact, you might have some nearly empty ones in your cupboard right now.
  • Feel good about upcycling! In a world where everything is over-packaged and under re-used, I try to upcycle as much as I can. Plastic coffee bags aren't recyclable, so why not give them a second life by taking them on a few trips. They're reuseable too. When you get home, just empty the garbage out, and wash them with a sponge and dishsoap. I've gotten many, may trips out of a single bag.
Ultralight Trash Bags for Backpacking
This isn't a revolutionary idea. Sometimes, the best ones aren't. But as backpackers, we pay attention to minutia and know that the littlest things in the backcounty can make a big difference void of the ample amenities we have in our day-to-day lives in "civilization". And this is one small idea that has solved a problem for me.
Ultralight Trash Bags for Backpacking

Talk trash to me! How do you carry your garbage on the trail?

An Ultralight Solution to a "Leave no Trace" Problem An Ultralight Solution to a "Leave no Trace" Problem Reviewed by Jason Klass on October 14, 2018 Rating: 5

5 comments said...

Hi Jason,
Good post and good idea. I use ziplock bags and/or a plastic grocery bag. I use the ziplock bag if my trash is small, which it usually is. The plastic grocery bag is usually used to collect found trash that other people have left behind. The grocery bag can be folded several times and rolled up very small. Both are one-time-use and are very cheap to replace.

brant said...

Hi Jason. Good recycling idea. PS: Try Starbucks Sumatra, my fav. Jimmy

Unknown said...

Great idea Jason. I carry most or all of my food repackaged in zip lock bags. I use the left over quart size to carry my trash. However, when I go on my next week long trek, I will try to coffee bag. Great idea. Thanks for sharing.

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