Leave it Better: Hikers Being Sponsored to Pick Up Your Trash

Leave it Better: Hikers Being Sponsored to Pick Up Your Trash

Upping the ‘Leave No Trace’ ante! To reverse the poor state of some of America’s trails, Granite Gear has hand-picked a team of dedicated ‘Grounds Keepers’ to hike their butts—and toenails—off, to clean up the parks you love.

“I'm confident that together we can inspire a positive shift in our nation’s values and help rejuvenate landscapes that are being loved to death.”

Words from Seth Orme, founder of Packing it Out and a huge part the inspiration behind the idea for Granite Gear’s Grounds Keepers program: selecting and sponsoring 15 individuals committed to thru-hiking long trails for the next year, scooping up as much garbage as they can find and documenting their experiences along the way.

Seth "Cap" Orme and Paul "Spice" Twedt heading in to pack it out.

In 2015, a chance meeting took place at the Appalachian Trail Days. Cap and Spice (trail names for Seth Orme and Paul Twedt), from Packing it Out sauntered up to the Granite Gear stand and nonchalantly mentioned that they were on a mission to remove 1,000 pounds of garbage from the Appalachian Trail that year. Instantly wanting to help, Rob Coughlin and Shelly Smith got involved and Granite Gear became the team’s first sponsor.

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Packing It Out: Cleaning America's Wild Trails from Colin Arisman on Vimeo.

Proving Cap and Spice’s belief that “attitudes are contagious”, Smith told The Outdoor Journal that their work continued to inspire the Granite Gear team until they asked Seth, “what if we had a bigger group and you were their mentor? People that were already committed to trails.”

So, that’s exactly what they did.

After placing the call out on the world wide web, over 200 serious thru-hikers applied to dedicate themselves to the Grounds Keeper program

“We found people that already had strong Leave No Trace ethics, who poured their hearts out to us, who really wanted to do this. They understood that it could be treacherous work and they were committed to it,” says Smith.

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Overwhelmed with the amount of people still wanting to be involved, Coughlin, VP of Sales and Marketing for Granite Gear, told The Outdoor Journal, “we still have so many people out there that weren’t able to even apply that are helping out with the program. Picking up trash, whether on long trails or at their local park, and calling in to tell us about it. The idea is that anyone can be a Grounds Keeper at this point. You tell us what you’ve done out there and we’ll post it.”

At The Outdoor Journal, we are always impressed by brands that really stand-out in making an effort to protect this planet that lets us do what we love—no matter the size.
Rob makes it clear that “as an outdoor company, as any outdoor company, the trails, the thru-hikers, that’s our business. If we keep polluting our trails, we’re not going to have our business anymore.”

We’re not huge, we’re not Patagonia, but we’re going to do whatever we can and try to be as effective with the funds we have.
Photo courtesy of Granite Gear
Photo courtesy of Granite Gear

Armed with their kit from Granite Gear, the Grounds Keepers will update the team throughout the year with as many stories, photos and increased numbers to the ‘total garbage collected’ tally as possible. The kit was worked on with Seth and includes the new Crown2 multi-day backpack, 1 Dump Trunk (Tactical Line), 2 16L Air Zippsacks, 1 7L Air Bag, 1 Scale and 1 Trash Grabber. They will also have access to Seth for any advice or inspiration if things get tough along the trails.

Some updates from the trails so far:

Ali "Chicory" Edwards (with special guests Aqua Pops, HoHo and Van Geaux)Hiking with her boyfriend and their dads, optimism is high on the Arizona Trail as they've gathered over 30lbs so far (despite lost toenails). Continually impressing Chircory on the trail, her father replied with a sincere, "Well, it’ll grow back!".

ali and all
It's all smiles with Chicory, Aqua Pops, HoHo and Van Geaux.

Leland “Woodsy” Kolson
After 6 days of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, he’s already added 16.7lbs of trash to his tally—including a full blow-up mattress he found half a mile in, a selfie-stick and more dog poo than anyone expected.

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The man makes a good point...

Gretchen “Dirty Bowl” Matt
Through swampy waters and with more than one close call with alligators, she has cleared 29.6lbs of trash out of the Florida National Scenic Trail. Oh, and she celebrated her birthday the day she completed the trail—gator-free!

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Already thinking about the future of Grounds Keepers, Rob speaks excitedly and confidently about what's in store after this inaugural year:

We have 15 out there today, but 5 years from now, I would love for there to be hundreds! On trails throughout the world. And this is where we’re going.

We'll be keeping up with the team and posting updates of their progress when we can. For more information on the members and their trails head to the Granite Gear Journal.