• Public Lands Hate You

Leave No Trace Principle #3 – Dispose of Waste Properly

***Posted to the @PublicLandsHateYou Instagram account on 8/10/2019***


Leave No Trace Principle #3 – Dispose of Waste Properly


Pack it in, pack it out. That’s all there is to it, right?


For the most part, YES! If you start a trip with something, you should end the trip with that same something, either on your body, in your pack, or in your stomach. That means packing out obvious things like plastics, wrappers, and cigarette butts, but also includes things like nut shells, leftover food, and fruit peels.


Burning trash is generally a big no-no. Burning paper is generally fine, but plastics, metals, and glass do not burn completely at campfire temperatures and will leave remnants behind in the fire pit, leach into the soil and groundwater, and leave a mess for the next users.


It’s unreasonable to ask people to store days’ worth of food and water in their stomach or gut, so let’s talk about going #1 and #2 on our public lands. It’s a highly nuanced topic and the correct way to dispose of human waste varies by location and climate, so if you have plans for a long hike that doesn’t have bathroom access, please learn what alternative disposal methods are acceptable in that area.


For pee, it is generally recommended to go at least 200’ (~70 steps) from the nearest body of water, trail, or campsite. If you have to poop, many sensitive areas require the use of a wag bag or portable toilet. In other areas, a cathole 6-8” deep and 4-6” wide at least 200’ from water sources, camp, and the trail is acceptable. Although some areas have rich organic soil and get enough rain to make burying a small about of toilet paper acceptable, the best practice is to pack out all TP or use natural items like leaves, smooth rocks, or snow to wipe.


And what about bathing during extended trips? Soaps, even those that claim to be biodegradable, should never be used in lakes, streams, or other natural water sources (there are a few notable exceptions). If you need to freshen up, grab some water and perform your cleaning ritual at least 200’ from water sources, where the soils can naturally filter and break down the soap, oils, bug spray, sun screen, etc that get washed off.


These guidelines vary from location to location, so do your research before you drop a doodie.


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