Backcountry waste management

8:27 p.m. on October 20, 2008 (EDT)
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This is probably one obstacle not to many people realize when out packing (including me). LNT regulations say to PACK IT OUT! I must say that I totally agree! Who would want to go hiking through the woods and find mounds of garbage!? So my question for all you guys/gals out there is this: how do you manage your trash while out in the woods? Ive heard many stories and suggestions about repackaging food, to not only reduce weight, but also "reduce" trash.
Whats your say on this?

8:39 p.m. on October 20, 2008 (EDT)
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Step 1 is, as you note, repackage or otherwise reduce what you carry in.

Step 2 is simple - if you carried it in, you can carry it out. It is easy to compact your waste (including food you prepared, but did not eat) into a plastic garbage bag (compactor bags are sturdy and won't tear). If you are worried, just double-bag the wet garbage. I have a bag made for carrying out garbage that is essentially a dry-bag. You line it with a plastic garbage bag (compostable and biodegradable), put the garbage in, then fold/roll the top like any dry bag. The "special" thing about this one is that it has the LNT logo on it. Otherwise, it's just a drybag.

By the way, in many areas I go, you are required to pack out your solid human waste as well as the paper, cans, food waste, etc. And in one place, your liquid waste as well. If you take a dog, pack its waste out, too.

Step 3 - carry some extra garbage bags. Pick up other people's trash and pack it out, too. You can compact it down so it takes less space. Yeah, some extra weight and effort, but it leaves the area cleaner than what you found it, and much nicer the next time you come back.

It is no big deal. You keep your house/apartment/living quarters clean, don't you? Well, the wilderness is your (and my, and all Trailspace members) living quarters, too. I hope I am preaching to the choir here.

9:08 p.m. on October 20, 2008 (EDT)
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On shorter trips it should be easy for you to pack waste free meals. Repackaging is essential. Food comes wrapped in so much trash now-a-days it's rediculous. Packing food in reuseable bags and containers is not only the LNT way, but it's the globally friendly way too. What good is packing all of your trash out, if you're just going to throw it in the dumpster to later help fill up a landfill.

We teach this at our environmental center every day. Here are some interesting facts about the things you throw away.

The little things add up too. Hershey's kisses manufactured in ONE day are wrapped in 330 square miles of aluminum foil. Think you don't contribute to landfill waste?

10:28 p.m. on October 20, 2008 (EDT)
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Thanks for the responses.
Ive heard the idea of using those vacuum seal machines to repackage food and the sorts. What do you think of that? They seem as though it would make the food last longer.

11:29 p.m. on October 20, 2008 (EDT)
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Yes, they are much more compact, as well as light, and they do seem to keep many foods better. I have used them on Denali, where they helped organize things better.

Along those same lines, I have sometimes used the compresser bags for clothes. You put the clothes in the bag, seal, then push as much air out as possible. It works much better to compress things than just stuffing in a stuff sack or compressing in a compression pack, IF the item is the right shape and you have the right size bag (I have found them in only 4 or 5 sizes/shapes). Fleece, Primaloft jackets, and down jackets don't seem to suffer loss of loft and puff up pretty quickly when taking them out. Doesn't save weight, of course, actually adding a couple ounces per bag. But it helps get stuff in the pack for expeditions and long backpacks.

6:09 a.m. on October 21, 2008 (EDT)
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Man, I'm glad there's no one around here telling me to pack out my own feces and urine. After a 15 day trip, my pack would weigh more than when I started.

Anyway, I always repackage my food into ziplocs and never bury my toilet paper, though I use paper towels instead of using the awkward toilet roll. The used cat hole paper goes into a ziploc to be burned at the next fire ring I come to, along with any paper trash I might have(finished books, etc). Burying toilet paper or burning-it-in-place is not adequate. Some animals like to dig up human waste and . . . uh . . . eat it, leaving the unsightly paper on the ground for all to see.

As far as stuffing the pack with clothing and such, I tightly roll each piece(long johns/fleece top/rain pants/rain jacket,etc)and hold with either an elastic hair tie or for the fleece jacket a cord. Then the gear stays compact and packs well.

10:19 a.m. on October 21, 2008 (EDT)
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A quick second to Tipi's concerns on human waste. I understand things are different in dry, barren areas with lots of human traffic, but here in the Appalachian area turnover (decomposition) is quite rapid.

Now let's talk about food, (maybe I did that in the wrong order), Oh well.

Pack it in, pack it out! It really is that simple, everything that follows this concept is merely a way to do it more efficiently.
It is good to keep this in mind when preparing for your trip, freeze dried foods are packaged about as well as possible.
I do like to bundle them tightly with saran wrap in daily use bundles, breakfast, several snacks, drink mix, supplements, supper ect. in each bundle. It makes it easier to pack, and I can keep track of my food consumption better.
I do that mostly longer on thru hikes, not so much on week long trips where I set up and camp in the same spot.

Store bought dry goods almost always need to be repackaged. Any cardboard or paper packaging my food comes with gets removed at home, you need to reduce all packaging to only what is absolutely essential. If you have store bought food with cooking instructions on the box or package, cut out that part only, and repackage with the food. I use zip locks for some things but vacuum sealed bags for most others. The vacuum bags are quite durable and are absolutely water tight.
You can even bundle snack size packs of nuts and berries (gorp) in a larger vacuum bag to protect them from the rigors of outdoor travel. It's kinda like an insurance policy for your food.
There is nothing worse than getting down to your last bit of snacks and finding mold on your raisins due to package failure, git rid of that little cardboard box they come in!

Any trash left over after food consumption during your trip is what you will pack out. After several trips you will get a better idea of how to more efficiently do this.
Once I have all my food packaged and ready to go, it all goes in a colored nylon bag, then in my pack.
With one motion I can pull my food cache out of my backpack in one big bundle and place into my bear bag for the night, or to just gain access to something else. It is just easier to unpack this way.
This also keeps food from migrating all down my pack as I hike. I don't have to dig all through my pack just to get my food cache out.

Clothing can be treated the same way as already mentioned. Nothing worse than needing some dry clothing after hiking in the rain/sleet to get to camp before dark, and pulling out wet or damp clothing with plummeting temps, real bad situation!
As f klock stated, all recyclable trash should be recycled. We are all tired after a long trip but try not to toss your packed out trash in a trashcan you find at a trailhead. Recycle it!
It is good you are thinking this way, you should be proud of yourself CShamrock.

11:17 a.m. on October 21, 2008 (EDT)
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Tipi -
pack would weigh more? That means you are gathering food on the way!

The reason a number of places I go have the pack-out rules is, as trout suggested, some of them are barren and dry. But in the winter camping and backcountry ski tour areas, almost no one would dig down through 10-20 feet of snow to get into the soil (frozen anyway), so the feces would reappear during spring and summer lying on the ground. Places like Yosemite backcountry and along Tioga and Glacier Point Roads are very popular (overcrowded!) during the summer. Though there is almost no one in those areas in winter. At high altitude, such as in the Cascades, Sierra above timberline, and Rockies, it is often hard to find organic soil to dig a cathole, and the feces just dry out on top of the rocks. It used to be that LNT recommended using another rock to spread the material out in a thin smear, with the strong UV sterilizing it. But in popular climbing areas like Rainier, Mt Baker, Longs Peak, etc, you would have a continuously replenished smear of brown yuck on all available flat rocks. In Antarctica, the general rule by international treaty is that, except for historical artifacts, all human introduced material must be removed (one reason dogs are no longer allowed on the continent). Since the fuel barrels that are flown in for refueling the aircraft have to be flown out anyway, these are set up in the fixed camps as urinals. On the trail, you are encouraged to carry your pee bottle (you take that for use in the tent anyway - one hates to get out of the sleeping bag during a blizzard), use that, and dump it into the barrel at the fixed camps. The climbing camps do have designated pee holes to concentrate the urine.

On the compacting of the clothes - I used to do just as you say. However, I tried some of the plastic air removal bags on a flight where getting everything in for the climbing and tourist visits to "the sights" when in town was proving problematic. Those bags are vastly more efficient at compacting fleece, down gear, and even the requisite suit needed for being the "honored guest" in town following the successful expedition. Since it is also a good idea to keep everything separated in plastic bags for water protection and separating the stinky used clothes from the clean, not yet used ones anyway, it just makes packing a pack a LOT easier. Eagle Creek, Outdoor Products, and a couple other companies make them, and you can get them at REI and EMS, among other places. At that Eagle Creek link, click on one of the sets, then click on "Multiple Views" to get a comparison of unpacked and packed volumes. The principle for these is that the bag is sealed air tight, with a one way valve to let air out. Put the clothes in, then squeeze the air out. You can do a couple stages of squeezing and rolling to get more and more air out. The claimed "80% reduction in volume" is really true for down gear and close for fleece.

4:40 p.m. on October 21, 2008 (EDT)
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There is already a lot of good advice here on packing it in and out. I just wanted to add that taking along some hand sanitizer, like Purell, is a good idea for proper hygiene.

I double ziplock bag the really gross garbage (for example, used wipes, tp, and so on) and travel with it in an outside pack pocket, when possible.

Of course, don't forget to hang your garbage, just like the rest of your smellables.

Here's LNT's "Dispose of Waste Properly" page:

6:16 p.m. on October 21, 2008 (EDT)
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My wife and I did Whitney this summer and experienced the Wag Bag. First and foremost, I completely support this. Whitney has around 60,000 people per year on a well defined trail with well defined overnight camping locations along your way to the summit. Imagine a stadium full of people taking a dump on the mountain and you should have a pretty unpleasant image in your head. With that said, hauling ones own poop around is a rather unpleasant experience.

We usually take a few gallon sized zip-locks with us when we go on short trips and larger bags for expended trips. We always end up with more trash than we brought in because I just can't pass an empty bottle or power bar in the wrapper, I have a compulsion to pick it up.

8:02 p.m. on October 21, 2008 (EDT)
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BigSmoke, good analogy.
I have not been to an area where you had to pack your waste out, but I would have no qualms complying, it does make sense in certain areas.

Alicia, I am a firm believer in Purell & GermX. They have many uses, sanitizer, fire starter, cleaner. When with a group I take an extra container to be placed in the cooking area.
I feel there's no excuse for poor hygiene just because you are in the backcountry, not that I'm scared of getting dirty or sweaty.
I am also a big believer in Listerine, I use it regularly to cut down on sore throats and such, which I seem to be susceptible to.
Just my own experience here, but it seems to work for me.

11:18 p.m. on October 21, 2008 (EDT)
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Thanks Alicia for adding the comments about hand sanitizer and baby wipes. I might note that Adventure Medical has introduced a large, towel-sized "baby" wipe that actually works pretty well as a whole body cleanser.

In Antarctica, everyone was issued a small bottle of Purell (maybe some other brand) and at the fixed camps, there was a large pump bottle of it at each latrine. At the camps with central dining facilities, there was a daily reminder to use the sanitizer.

Turns out that, according to studies done in the Sierra and Rockies, almost all the intestinal problems are due, not to giardia or other water-borne critters, but to poor sanitation - people forgetting to clean their hands after relieving themselves, but even more important, just before eating, and especially the food preparers (the cooks for the meals spreading the germs to everyone else in the party). Alicia is editing my writeups on purification of of water in the wilderness, so the article on that should be up before long.

8:34 p.m. on October 22, 2008 (EDT)
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I meant to come back and add the point that most intestinal issues when backpacking are due to poor hygiene, versus untreated water, but Bill beat me to it. I recall reading that fact in Backpacker a while back and I believe it.

I had giardia a couple years ago and once I finally got diagnosed and started treatment I also had to endure everyone telling me, "you should know better!"

The thing is, I didn't get giardia from drinking unfiltered water, something I've never done. I hadn't even been backpacking during the probable time of infection. My best guess is that I picked it up from eating at a fast food restaurant (a rarity) when I made a few road trips to see family members. So in my experience, lax sanitation among the general public (and your fellow backpackers) is more likely to get you.

I still treat all my water though. Even if I'm less likely to get something from drinking it when backpacking, that doesn't mean I want to risk repeating that experience again. I'm just more attentive to treating water AND using the wipes and Purell.

12:11 a.m. on October 24, 2008 (EDT)
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Safe to say I would never want to haul out my own waste. Doesnt sound like such a pleasant experience! But hey, you gota do what you gotta do.
Which brings up the concern of mine about a local trail. The 44 mile trail around some local mountains is said to be one of the most popular trails in central oregon. Which in other words means, LOTS of visitors from all over the US. With only 44 miles ish... Do you think there is any chance of to much waste? I mean how long does it really take for bodily waste to decompose? Pretty soon I have a feeling we might have to start carrying our own (bodily) waste out of that region. As noted by trouthunter, decomposition in the east is probably quite rapid do to humidity. Here in central oregon it is actually quite dry! And we dont get much rain. How would that change decomposition?

7:56 a.m. on October 24, 2008 (EDT)
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Something to think about:

From my LNT educator conference -

Leave No Trace goes beyond what you can see. Decomposition is not the only reason to pack waste out. There are over 400 potentially toxic items and compounds in human waste that do not exist in nature.

Human waste is NOT considered organic due to the drugs (legal and otherwise), chemicals, cleaners (like hand sanitizer), soaps, artificial colors, artificial flavors, sun block, carcinogens, and god-only-knows-what-else we put in and on our bodies every day. Many of these substances bio-accumulate - that is, they never become diluted, they simply stay in the area where they are left and add to the other compounds that have already been left in the ground - in more heavily used areas, the concentration is enormous.

A portion of EVERYTHING you put in or on your body can eventually make its way to our drinking water.

I know this all sounds like hippy-dippy "save the planet mumbo-jumbo, but as an illustration to how a "little bit" adds up to a lot, consider this...

The Hershey's kisses manufactured globally in one 24 hour period are wrapped in a total of 330 sq. miles of aluminum foil. But people who eat just one would never consider that they are contributing to landfill waste.

That’s all the time I have here on Coffee Talk. Until next time, chat amongst yaselves!

9:03 a.m. on October 24, 2008 (EDT)
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Not to be gross, but when packing out human waste, what do you do with diarrhea?

1:05 p.m. on October 24, 2008 (EDT)
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f_klock quoted LNT as

There are over 400 potentially toxic items and compounds in human waste that do not exist in nature.

Human waste is NOT considered organic due to the drugs (legal and otherwise), chemicals, cleaners (like hand sanitizer), soaps, artificial colors, artificial flavors, sun block, carcinogens, and god-only-knows-what-else we put in and on our bodies every day....
A portion of EVERYTHING you put in or on your body can eventually make its way to our drinking water.

(OGBO makes gasping and choking noises, falls to the floor, having passed out) OMG! Well, ok, I knew that, from having read the LNT literature and gone through the LNT Educator courses myself. Still ....

tbastress, yes, you are being extremely gross! But first of all, since Barb and I learned many years ago about the need for diligent sanitary paractices, especially for food handling, we haven't had that problem in the backcountry (just the occasional fast food restaurant on the cross country trip, and one very fancy supposedly 4 star restaurant and one airline food incident).

But to answer your question. If the basic prevention dictum fails, the human waste bags from WAG and Restop (pronounced "rest stop") are large enough to handle a major outburst. They both have a powder in the inner bags that gels and deodorizes the waste, plus, to answer CShamrock's concern, are a double-bag setup that prevents spillage and leakage, as well as keeping the odor suppressed.

Decomposition does vary tremendously from one area to another. If you are in an area that catholes are permitted, be sure to bury the waste in organically active soil (that's where the "6-inch deep" rule comes from). But in many areas, like the Sierra and Rockies plus most dry desert areas, you have sandy soil. So the waste just dessicates and lasts literally for decades. Best rule is to talk to the local land manager (rangers for National Forests and National and State Parks). Find out what their rules are and follow them.

7:40 p.m. on October 24, 2008 (EDT)
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When quoting facts and figures it is good to take a step back and think on your own a little, put it into perspective, get the whole story and have a balanced opinion.
While I do not dispute the number of chemicals and such present in human waste, the same is true of the cow's milk we all consume in the sense that it is full of pesticides, antibiotics, fertilizers, and so on.
The level of contaminants in milk is within the allowable concentrations and considered safe, although there are 100 + (depends on whose report you read) of chemicals in cow's milk.

Of course we could argue over what amount is really safe.

8:00 p.m. on October 24, 2008 (EDT)
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Yeah, but it's the vision of having swallowed hand sanitizer, soaps, and sunblock that got to me. I mean, I don't normally drink sunblock or Purell, and it's a long time since my 3rd grade teacher washed my mouth out with soap (what I said seems to be normal language on family television these days, plus there were few child abuse restrictions in to long ago decades).

8:23 p.m. on October 24, 2008 (EDT)
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HaHa, I think soap is much more effective than time out, it happened to me also.

8:48 p.m. on October 24, 2008 (EDT)
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As Bill S noted earlier, lots of things absorb through the skin. Can you imagine munchin on a deoderant stick? Atleast your breath would smell good though!!

9:06 p.m. on October 24, 2008 (EDT)
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Some people have survived on toothpaste and such.
I guess they didn't find any bugs!

Yes, CShamrock, f klock was referring to things absorbed through the skin, and stuff consumed by us that is already laced with chemicals.
It is also true that a lot of toxins exist in plants and animals naturally, both as part of their chemical make up, and as defense mechanisms. Many of the chemicals we use are organic in nature.

11:44 p.m. on October 25, 2008 (EDT)
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Just some food for thought here... Do you think Black toilet paper would be a better choice of TP while out in the woods? I mean who wants to see all their poop on white toilet paper? Atleast it would take away some of the visual grossness though:)

7:23 a.m. on October 26, 2008 (EDT)
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Olive colored toilet paper could be a good product idea in the dense populated hiking areas like US, but here it is no problem. I cannot even remember seeing a toilet paper in the woods in all my years. But mind you, the population density is 4 per km2, about 1 per mile2. And the hiking nuts like me are even fewer.

7:38 a.m. on October 26, 2008 (EDT)
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CShamrock, You look?! ;-) That IS gross!

4:51 p.m. on October 26, 2008 (EDT)
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When I was younger, and on a camping trip, one of the older boys said to me: Hey, come look at this, hurry!!

Guess what he wanted to show me.

7:16 p.m. on October 26, 2008 (EDT)
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A couple of the exercises I have the learners do in my LNT courses (both adults I am training to work with youth and the youth when I work directly with them)are intended to do a bit of "desensitizing" (analagous to Wilderness First Aid/Responder courses where the "victims" in the scenarios get extremely realistic makeup). One is practice in disposing of used TP into a ziplock for transporting out - each learner gets 2 squares, then wipes the paper on a brown shoe polish container, and puts it into the ziplock without getting any of the polish on themselves (yeah, yeah, some army veteran is instantly reminded of the old saying about ignorance).

The other was intended for the old days before WAG bags - you had to somehow pick up your droppings and get them into a ziplock. To practice, each person got one of the miniature (Halloween size) Baby Ruth bar. This was placed on a rock or other convenient location. The object was to use the plastic bag to protect your hands as you picked up the simulated "droppings" (as dog owners learn to do when taking their dogs on a walk through the neighborhood or the park - and is a requirement in most cities). Afterward, you could do with the Baby Ruth as you wished. Needless to say, almost no one ate the candy confection, and many told me afterward that they would never look at a Baby Ruth the same way again.

Hey, if you learn the techniques, it is sanitary. Just like you train young children, you have to learn what to do as an adult in the wilderness.

10:24 a.m. on October 27, 2008 (EDT)
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No f klock, I dont look:) Looking a it would be gross!!! Needless to say it would be harder to see black toilet paper than white though. Kind of a low-impact-on-the-environment idea. But of course it would still be wiser to PACK IT OUT! duh...

9:09 p.m. on October 27, 2008 (EDT)
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I found this as I was going through some materials to get ready for a 3rd grade field trip to our place. I thought it may be interesting to some of you.

How long does your trash last? Here are some things to ponder:

Apple core - 3 to 6 months
Orange/Banana peel – Up to 2 years
Wool Socks – 1 to 5 years
Cigarette butt – 1-5 years
Plastic coated candy wrapper – 5+ years
Plastic grocery bag – 10 to 20 years
Plastic 35 mm film container – 20 to 30 years
Nylon fabric – 30 to 40 years
Leather – Up to 50 years
Tin Can – 50 years
Plastic 6 pack holder – 100 years
Glass – 1,000,000 + years
Plastic bottle – Indefinitely
Styrofoam – Indefinitely

9:50 p.m. on October 27, 2008 (EDT)
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f klock,
That is exactly why I became a convert to recycling a number of years ago, I saw a list very similar to the one you posted.
Everyone should give that some thought (I mean the general public)it really opened my eyes. So much of that stuff can be re-used.
In the home building industry we are starting to use an amazing amount of recycled materials and try to get most building materials from within a 500 mile radius to reduce the energy consumed by shipping and trucking materials long distances.
I personally now consider paper grocery sacks more enviro-friendly than the plastic ones. They simply don't get recycled as they should and are all over the place, roadsides, ponds & lakes, even in landfills they take too long to decompose. They really do a lot of damage in ponds and lakes.

Okay, I'm done ranting now.

11:30 p.m. on October 27, 2008 (EDT)
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On the trails my wife and I hiked this year in the White Mountains, I noticed a lot of "tissue" along the trails. I didn't see this when we were more active in the hills back 30 years ago. With the passage of time and the mental reinforcement of the mantra of "pack it out/be environmentally conscious" among the younger generation, I thought there would be more self discipline.

If ya gotta least walk a short distance into the woods and bury it. At Least.

9:46 a.m. on October 28, 2008 (EDT)
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There have been Poo Tubes for years when going on some mountaineering ascents. In the beginnings (and when this was rec.) there were creative ideas on building the lightest and most sturdy of the breed.

For the less vertically inclined, The Wonderland Trail around Rainier (and many others) has a warning. Don't be a bear and poop in the forest. You can urinate anywhere it is appropriate, but feces are contained in provided 'containers' that range from impressive outhouses to completely open pit toilets. You are not allowed, with one exception, to camp anywhere else but at designated camp sites. Each has a depository that urinating in is not only considered bad form but bad karma.

I've often wondered about the aspiring ranger who has finally been accepted at one of the premier national parks in the world, and being the most junior worker, gets their first few years as manager of the poop cans -- secured (sometimes blue) plastic barrels left at various pickup sites for helicopter removal.

As mentioned before WAG bags are required on all of the eastern ascents of Whitney, including the technical approaches. The outhouses have been removed from the main trail.

There is growing public relations background rumblings hinting at the same necessity for many of the popular over night trails in many of the parks in the US...or reduce the allowed permits.

With so many clumping in popular areas, we are all going to have to take a tad more responsibility while going out of our way for our actions out there.

I suspect that many years from now some are going to say, "You are kidding. You mean they just went out and did it, like, anywhere? Geesh. Gross."

Take it in? Bring it back.

For those down stream in the Grand Canyon, it is encouraged that those upstream of you do their business in the Colorado River rather than concentrate it in relative small plots of the fragile desert.

12:05 p.m. on October 28, 2008 (EDT)
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One place in the table of durations I have a little issue with. Well, the table is ok as an average of all locations. But I had pointed out to me many years ago when I started doing a lot of peak-bagging in the Sierra that there were peaks on which the orange peels were clearly more than 15-20 years old. These were (still are) remote, rarely visited peaks in the Sierra far backcountry that at the time had been visited only a couple of times since the first ascents in the 1930s or (post-war) 1940s, and in one of the cases, we were the second ascent party (this was in the late 1950s to mid-1960s). The thing that preserved the orange peels was the low humidity, low temperature year around, and exposure to UV at the high altitudes (12,000 ft and above). The fact that this is well above tree-line (hence no organically active soil) adds to the preservation. The peels were shrivelled and blackened, but still recognizable. We did carry them down.

trout -
As I have noted on Trailspace before, Barb and I are rebuilding our house (the old house was a 1953 tract house). A requirement of the State of California plus a more stringent requirement of the City of Palo Alto is that at least 50% of the materials from the demolition must be recycled. In our case, it ended up being a little over 70%. Some of the material was recycled "as is" to be re-used in a remodelling program for low income houses. The concrete slab was crushed, with the metal reinforcing mesh (can't be dignified as "rebar") pulled out with magnets and the concrete itself crushed to be re-used as part of concrete for road building and maintenance. The wood went mostly into material for "composites". Copper (plumbing and electric wiring) is being recycled as well.

So it is possible to recycle building materials.

I should note that the new house has many green features, some mandated by the City - thermopane windows, insulation in floor, walls, and ceilings to specified R-levels, hydronic heating, "on-demand" domestic hot water, and continuing our solar hot water but with a more modern, more efficient design (we have had solar hot water for 25 years, and yes, it rapidly pays for itself). We did not go with photovoltaics, because for our low usage, it would take over 50 years for payback, even with the subsidies. We plan on xeric landscaping (low water needs, with mostly native plants). Floors and cabinets are to be from sustainable sources.

7:26 p.m. on October 28, 2008 (EDT)
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Bill that is great to hear, not surprising considering where you live, some areas around here are still lagging.
On most of the building sites I work on, we segregate all scrap materials into bins or containment areas, then we have a specialty contractor come in and grind it all up as you mentioned.
Almost nothing goes to the landfill.
One thing that I think differs here (Charleston SC) is that most new home builders/buyers are using, sprayed in, closed cell foam insulation for the most part, very little fiberglass, some builders are using recycled blue jeans.
Anyway, most people seem to be going with the foam, which is expensive but highly effective and are seeing a bigger power savings with investing in the foam vs. solar. Although I'm a fan of solar
We also use a lot of tankless hot water heaters.
Most of the work I do personally is interior woodwork, and we strive to use local, sustainable lumber. We use a lot of Poplar from NC for interior trim, with Southern Yellow Pine being used as an economy grade. We do only top notch work designed to last, this saves resources over time.

12:56 a.m. on October 29, 2008 (EDT)
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Not that we have huge heating needs (and essentially zero cooling needs), but we are using the foam insulation. Yeah, it is a petrochemical, but it turns out to be recycled in large part (I'm not sure of the feedstock or processing, but that's what the "label" reads).

12:53 a.m. on November 2, 2008 (EDT)
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Been thinking about Bill's comments on his house rebuilding...30 years ago, my wife and I took a look at a new community of solar houses being built in Acton, MA ( I believe). If we didn't have jobs and family far away from that project, we would have purchased one of the homes. Lots of common land around the cluster of homes and the latest construction techniques for solar. So, what did our generation do? As soon as the oil crisis abated, off we were to purchase bigger fuel inefficient trophy homes, autos, boats, expensive and raw material eating second homes, you name it. I hope this generation keeps a grip on new green technologies

11:55 p.m. on November 5, 2008 (EST)
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Although a little expensive, I found these bags:
to work well for packing out (even smelly) trash left over from meals.

They seem difficult to actually seal, but once you get it sealed, they do seem to block (contain) the odors quite well.

11:51 a.m. on November 6, 2008 (EST)
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The O.P.Saks are more intended for packaging food than for human waste and garbage. Sea to Summit makes what is essentially one of their dry bags intended to carry out garbage (food waste and other smelly garbage). You line it with a plastic bag (they include a couple with the bag, but you can use the light trash can bags as well), then roll down the top and click the buckle as you would with any dry bag. I don't see the exact one on the REI website, but the small "lightweight" appears to be the same sack a $9.95. A couple bucks gets a box of trash bag liners, and for less than the OPSak ($11 for 3 of the large size, $9 for 3 of the small size), you have something that is easy to deal with for a much longer term, so lower cost in the long term (cheaper per use after 3 or 4 uses).

9:43 p.m. on November 6, 2008 (EST)
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great, thanks for the tip :)

8:23 a.m. on November 20, 2008 (EST)
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For food packaging waste I repackage things like oatmeal, trail mix and other dry goods into zipper bags. If you're in bear country the Ursack ones have a "zero odor" emitting properties. For prepackaged dehydrated foods, just fold up the package and put in a zipper bag. For human waste I bring a zipper bag to hold the tissue. You can also burn it.

5:00 p.m. on January 25, 2009 (EST)
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I know I’ll be in the minority, but here’s some food for thought. I think that we sometimes over state the problem. The candy kiss scenario is a good example. I did some quick calculations, and assuming a 3” x 3” wrapper, the 330 square miles, would equal over 146 billion candy kisses per day. According to Hershey’s web site, they make only 80 million per day. That’s an overstatement of 1800 times.
Another interesting point here is trash is mined from the earth and in lands fills, goes back to the earth. In all the years that humans have been here, they have not added one ounce to the earth.
Now I hate finding a beer can in the woods as much as the next guy, but I have never seen any buried waste.
I can’t speak for all environments, but here in the Midwest, there are a lot more animals pooping in the woods than humans, and the natural eco system has no problem handling this.
The bottom line is, I for one, will never pack out my poop.

5:40 p.m. on January 25, 2009 (EST)
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Hi Steve, Welcome to the forum.

If you read back in some of the (much) older threads you will learn a lot about human waste and how it's composition is very different from animal waste due to the inorganic chemicals and substances we ingest. Natural ingredients are moderately easy for the planet to process. Inorganic materials are not.

I appreciate your research into the whole Hershey Kiss thing. Because of your post, I checked my sources and realize that I made a very large typo. My sources actually read that the daily production of kisses are wrapped in 130 square miles of foil not 330. A big typo indeed, but still...think about 130 square miles of foil buried in a landfill each day - or week for that matter.

How long would it take you to completely cover the bottom of a dive area 130 square miles in size?

Some trash IS mined from the earth, but once it is processed, made into something marginally useful, and discarded, much/most of it will never return to it's original composition. The materials that can, if buried in a landfill, may never return to their original state.

In all the years that humans have been here, they have not added one ounce to the earth.

There are physicists who would argue with you on this point, but lets say for the sake of argument you are correct. Honestly I don't know either way. What about the raw material that is being extracted from the earth to make products that become landfill trash. Eventually, those materials, in their natural state, are going to be used up. OK, no problem, you say the materials are going to return to the earth - in a landfill. How do we get them out, separate them, purify them, and reprocess them?

As far as packing out your poop goes; no one said you have to - oh wait, in some areas, the government bodies who own/run the land say you do!
Seriously though, it's a personal choice. Rules are things you follow when others are looking on, principals are what you do when no one is looking.

It's been a while since I posted this website, here it is again:
If you've never seen this 20 minute video, watch it and become enlightened.

9:49 p.m. on January 29, 2009 (EST)
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2 forum posts

Hi f klock,

Thanks for the video link, it was very interesting. I’m not sure how much of it I believe, but it certainly merits further consideration.
We have several topics going on here, but let me touch on a couple. The problem with the candy kiss story is not your typo, it’s the accuracy of your source. The real answer is not 330 miles or 130 miles, it’s less than 3/16 of 1 mile. I think that a lot of alarmist/extremist ideas would be toned down if one looks deeper into the facts.

Never say never. All things come from the earth and all will certainly go back. Because it happens very slowly in our eyes it may seem to take forever, but in geological terms it will be in the blink of an eye. The materials in the landfill will be able to be mined just like we mine any other material today.
I hope some of this is food for thought.

11:31 p.m. on January 29, 2009 (EST)
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For your perusal, my source:

5:03 a.m. on January 30, 2009 (EST)
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... and never bury my toilet paper...

Toilet paper!? There's nothing like a handful of leaves, some nice moist sphagnum moss, or a carefully molded handful of snow for a good clean wipe. And it's all natural! (But you better know your poison ivy).

The of course there is the time-honored technique for wiping with a single square of toilet paper:

1. Fold square of toilet paper twice so it makes a 1/4 square

2. Tear off the corner away from all the edges and PUT THE CORNER IN YOUR POCKET!

3. Open up the square and put your finger through the hole in the middle.

4. Use your finger to carefully remove dingleberries, willnots, etc.

5. Remove the torn-off corner from your pocket and use it to clean off you finger.

(6. Wash before eating and/or, as is the practice in much of the toilet-paper free world, always eat with your right hand).

Seriously, though, in areas where there abundant and perfectly satisfactory natural wiping materials, I have gone for weeks without using toilet paper.

5:22 a.m. on January 30, 2009 (EST)
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Just some food for thought here... Do you think Black toilet paper would be a better choice of TP while out in the woods? I mean who wants to see all their poop on white toilet paper? Atleast it would take away some of the visual grossness though:)

About 30 years ago I did some trekking in Nepal in late autumn and winter. At that time many of the trailside "inns" on some routes did not boast toilet facilities of any kind -- you were on your own, buddy (and of course in third world travel the need for conveniently located facilities is often considerably greater!). Consequently, there was an accumulation of highly visible pink and white toilet paper "flowers" in the paddies and barley fields etc. along the trails, each one announcing that some wealthy trekker shat here. I tried to be a little more discreet but with frozen ground and no place to hide in some areas the options were rather limited. Hopefully things have improved since then, but at that time some earth-brown TP would have at least addressed the visual aspects of the problem!

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