Food + Packing Out Waste In Bear Country

12:10 p.m. on December 28, 2013 (EST)
GUIDE/OUTFITTER REVIEW CORPS
770 reviewer rep
115 forum posts

Happy Holidays, all! I have a question(s) that I need help with. Say you're in bear country, and you're using a bear canister. It is not uncommon to have that can loaded up with smelly items, and food. Say you also happen to be packing out your human waste. This stuff is clearly not going in with your food... What do you do? If one is solo, or traveling with one can, there are limited options, right? Hang a bear bag with the waste? 

I am becoming more and more driven toward paying it forward, and looking to leaving as little of a trace as possible these days (mound fires, no fires, LNT etc). Even running around in the mountains of WV I am seeing more and more evidence of human waste impact, and I want to do everything in my power to leave a better place. What is your method of LNT principle #3 in these conditions? I have most always only buried my waste, and packing waste out is going to be more and more important in the future for caring for our wilderness!

Quick question #2: Any experience with WAG Bags vs. Biffy Bags? 

 

Thank you very much in advance for your solid (heh) considerations!

3:51 p.m. on December 28, 2013 (EST)
REVIEW CORPS
1,699 reviewer rep
1,299 forum posts

I don't think the human waste itself is the issue, its the TP most people use which is treated/made with all kinds of stuff and takes forever to break down and is the typial eye sore in the backcountry. Use a biodegradeable TP and bury your waste properly in a cathole and it will be composted before you know it in most locations.  More power to you if you pack it out, but i think its a little over the top.

Walk at least 200ft from trails, structures, camp sites, and water sources, dig yourself a cathole 6-8in deep, do your business using a biodegradeable tp of some form or another, bury your waste in the cat hole, and carry on. Do it properly and no one will ever be the wiser. Human waste only takes a matter of weeks to compost in most temperate areas. Some places are the exception, such as the desert, or in a high elevation perdominantly rocky area. It needs soil contact/the microbes in soil combines with moderate temperatures and moisture to compost. So depending on the locale and time of year this can take as little as 3-4 weeks or as long as 6 months or so. But I would say the average is around 2 months for the vast majority of the country.

But, if you are truly dedicated to packing it out then i definitely would not store it with your food, and would make sure its well sealed and its not a bad idea to hang it or place it far away from camp with your canister.

 

4:09 p.m. on December 28, 2013 (EST)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,329 reviewer rep
5,258 forum posts

Sean,

If you look around a bit on the LNT website, there is a pretty thorough discussion of how to deal with human waste in the backcountry. Rambler has covered the most salient points, but the website goes into more detail.

As he said, going the 200 ft off-trail/away from water sources and burying te solid waste in a cathole (6-8 inches deep in bio-active soil and using a stick or your trowel to mix it into the soil will keep most critters away). Sand is not active, but there are other alternatives in that case. For the TP, keep them from becoming "Charmin lilies" by mixing the paper into the soil in the cathole or put it into a ziploc bag and pack it out. Some people burn it in a campfire, though that can be dangerous (a woman in the Angeles National Forest manage to let the fire get away, resulting in a forest fire that burned thousands of acres a few years back).

In areas where you are required to pack the human waste out (winter in the Sierra, including Yosemite, Sequoia-Kings Canyon, and Inyo NF for example) the WAG and ResTop bags work quite well as a way of packing it out in a sanitary manner. On Denali, climbers are required to carry a "Clean Mountain Can" to put their WAG-bags in. On several of the Cascades peaks, a "blue bag" is issued to all hikers and climbers (basically like the WAG and ResTop).

5:02 p.m. on December 28, 2013 (EST)
GUIDE/OUTFITTER REVIEW CORPS
770 reviewer rep
115 forum posts

Hi Bill,

I apologize for not being clear, I'm referring to not burying the waste at all. My concern is that I don't want to put my waste with my food in one can... People that are required to pack out their waste definitely don't pack two bear cans. There has to be a method that has been tried and true thus far. I guess the best solution for non-solo hikers is to pack two canisters, especially if hanging is not a valid option. 

7:49 p.m. on December 28, 2013 (EST)
102 reviewer rep
2,280 forum posts

I carry trash separately and hang it, regardless I have a canister.  Human wate is a bag in the trash bag, and disposed of in an appropriate manner.  If you decide to hang anything, make sure it is out of reach.   These are my favorote hanging techniques.

Ed

10:09 p.m. on December 28, 2013 (EST)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,329 reviewer rep
5,258 forum posts

Sean,

I should have been explicit when I said that WAG and ResTop bags seal well (double bags) plus have a powder in them that reduces the poop to an odorless, sterile gel. The "blue bags" issued in various jurisdictions are much the same (they come in multiple colors, varying from one jurisdiction to another, not just blue). It is easy to make a "Clean Can" (a la Denali NP) or the Yosemite style Poop Tube yourself from a 3 inch PVC pipe and screw-on caps to carry the bags, well protected from the rest of your gear. You can make your own bags that are similar to WAG bags with a paper lunch bag or quart to gallon-size ziploc (depending on how good your aim is), with a cup of kitty litter in it, which goes inside an outer gallon ziploc. Many people just put that in a 30-gallon garbage bag along with your other garbage and hang it on the outside of their packs. As Ed says, in camp, be sure to bear-bag it in areas where bear bagging is feasible. It is legal and safe to dispose of the WAG and ResTop bags in regular dumpsters, though most jurisdictions that provide bags have designated dumpsters for the purpose. Do NOT flush it down a toilet - it is guaranteed to plug up the plumbing, or for composting latrines or pit toilets, cause the system to fail.

It is basically the same thing you do when walking your dog in the park, but with the addition of the kitty litter and outer bag. If you can do that without contaminating yourself or your food, you can deal with a ResTop or WAG bag, a park-issued similar bag, or a make-your own.

However, the LNT-suggested of burying the waste in a 6-8 inch deep cathole in organically active soil 200 feet or more from trails, shelters, camping areas, and water is effective, decays the poop in just a couple months (unlike the ignorant folks who leave it in the sun to dry). If you bury it properly, there is no visual impact. Sterile soil like sand or rock calls for packing it out.

11:33 p.m. on December 28, 2013 (EST)
200 reviewer rep
4,086 forum posts

Yosemite and the Sierra Mtns require one to pack out body waste in winter? When did they start this?

If I had to pack out waste I would use a large ziploc bag draped over a collapsible container. I have done this with toilet paper when burning it was not an option as in the Grand Canyon where fires are not allowed.

11:01 a.m. on December 29, 2013 (EST)
REVIEW CORPS
1,699 reviewer rep
1,299 forum posts

Not sure about the Sierras, but Yosemite doesn't REQUIRE you to pack it out.

http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildregs.htm

Obviously a little common sense is required here. If its a rocky barren soil, or sand, do the right thing and pack it out, or pack it to a suitable burying location.

I have read somewhere that if the elevation is over like 9,500-10,000 feet then pack it out.

11:54 a.m. on December 29, 2013 (EST)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,329 reviewer rep
5,258 forum posts

The pack-out requirement is for winter, and depends on where you are going. If you go to backcountry campgrounds that do not have an open latrine, it is required. Bridalveil campground is a drive-in campground in summer and has had an open latrine that has been available some winters, but not others. Since it is impractical to dig down through 5 or 10 feet of snow, pack it out. Ostrander Lake has the ski hut and a latrine that is usually open in winter, so no pack out requirement. Of course in winter, the waste freezes, so the problem is less for carrying it.  But it has been an on again off again requirement.

8:29 p.m. on December 29, 2013 (EST)
200 reviewer rep
4,086 forum posts

I still guess this is something new as I winter camped in Yosemite's high country everyday/night from January 4th to May 31 1980 and was never told any of this pack it out stuff before no matter where I stayed. Not saying one should or not just had never heard of it before in Yosemite. 

August 1, 2014
Quick Reply

Please sign in to reply

 
More Topics
This forum: Older: Pretty good book Newer: The sun's last splendor
All forums: Older: Store With Nice Inventory/East Coast USA Newer: Stove pad material for snow camping?