Backpack Bags - Mother Nature's Not-So-Pretty Parts

Backpack bags are packed by millions of hikers every year. According to the Outdoor Foundation, around 7.9 million people go backpacking every year in the US. Eventually, nature's calling happens to us all while we are hiking. Are you considering hiking but find yourself panicky at the thought of having to defecate in the outdoors? Here are some rules and tips for proper pooping while backpacking to alleviate your fears and help you relax about this concern so that you can enjoy the fabulous world of hiking exploration.

 Backpack Bags- Important Things To Include

Hikers have the privilege of being in Mother Nature's home. Being responsible and treating your waste properly is a question of respect that all hikers should adhere to. Have you ever visited a popular camping area and out outside camp behind the bushes, trees and rocks you find lots of little wads of toilet paper? That's not only gross, but extremely inconsiderate.  Everyone poops and sometimes it happens when it's least convenient. Being prepared for your backpacking trip is paramount to handling every situation. Make sure you have the following items in your hiking bag.

  • Toilet paper (amount depends on length of trip) Another alternative is baby wipes
  • A flashlight (for night callings)
  • A small shovel or trowel
  • A Ziploc-type freezer bag
  • Hand sanitizer

 

Find a tree or clearing with a big rock to hide behind for privacy. Figure on being about 200' away from your campsite, trail or water source. Using your pack shovel, dig a hole 6" deep. Put the dirt to the side of the hole. Using a tree or rock to lean against helps you balance while going, or a boulder or fallen log can double as a toilet seat.   Once you are done, wipe and toss the paper into the hole and bury it all with the dirt from the hole you dug. Don't let your shovel touch your feces.

If you don't have a shovel or trowel, you could use a stick but it would make things more difficult. If you are caught off guard and have to poop quick, you can always treat it like your dog's poop and use a baggie like a glove to pick up the poop, then deposit the poop-containing baggie in a larger, sealable bag for proper disposal later. Use caution to not contaminate your hiking pack.

Don't have any toilet paper? Big leaves that are not from poisonous plants like ivy or oak can be used, but check the leaf for bugs before wiping. Smooth rocks or a handful of sand or snow work equally well.

Another option is to pack standard coffee filters, place those on the ground, and aim. Or poop into brown paper bags. Then wrap up the business, pack it out in a waste tube, bag, or Tupperware and seal it up. Any waste should be properly disposed of after reaching the trailhead restroom. FYI...cheap toilet paper will decompose just as easily as the feces itself. Feces contain plenty of bacteria that can break itself down like a septic tank. More expensive toilet papers may contain substances to enhance the strength and softness and therefore may not decompose as quickly. Be sure to use your hand sanitizer when you are finished.

 

Your backpacking pack should always contain zip-loc type sealing bags for toilet paper and feminine hygiene products for disposing of once you are off the trail at a restroom or ranger facility. Always choose your defecating area at least 200' away from water such as creeks, rivers and lakes to eliminate contamination.  Being aware of why disposing of feces and toilet tissue is important will help you understand why it's done that way. We bury or dispose of poop to avoid:

  • Minimizing the chance of water pollution
  • Minimizing the spread of disease.
  • Minimizing the aesthetic impact of our hiking trails
  • Maximizing decomposition
  • Respecting fellow hikers
  • Not to attract bears or other large predators who are attracted to the saltiness of pee. Bears smell everything, including the undigested bits of food in your dog's poop. It's great to have Fido along, but please clean up after him in the same manner as disposing of your own waste material.

Backpack Bags - Hiking In The Desert or Mountains

If you are backpacking in the desert, don't bury your fecal waste in there. The waste will not decompose due to lack of bacteria in the dry soil.   Instead, smear the dropping into a thin layer with a stick or large rock. Leave the smeared remains uncovered and the sun will quickly decompose and sanitize the area.   If hiking in the mountains, rock slabs can be used in a similar manner, but don't use places right on the trail. Choose a way off the beaten path behind brush about 200' in the distance.

 

For everyone's sake, we should all strive to keep Mother Nature's house clean and tidy. Never leave toilet paper behind or fail to bury your feces properly. Hikers are a community of like-minded outdoor lovers. We shouldn't be disgusting and irresponsible toward one another. Leave no trace, ever.  Happy hiking!


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