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361 LNT - Waste Disposal 2011-03-14

toilet paper at a popular spot on Mount Baker

Waste disposal is a problem in the outdoors. The more popular the trail, then the more noticeable the problem. For example...

Hiking the Garnet Canyon Trail in the Tetons, the trail climbs through an open grassy slope with long switchbacks. At each switchback there seems to be a potty stop. In a small clump of trees or perhaps behind a big boulder are the remnants of maybe thousands of hikers (this is no exaggeration). Much of the waste was not disposed of correctly and lays exposed. It is disgusting. The Park has a "blue bag" policy above treeline but in the woods, the issue of disposal is left to the conscience and knowledge of the outdoors person.

The problem is that when going poo, you back in, go, wipe, and walk away. It is not necessarily disgusting to you, you have an excuse - you were desperate(!) but it definitely is to the next person to pass that way. Don't turn your back and try to forget; instead learn to Leave No Trace.

Digging a Hole

If possible look for a spot to go. Look for an area at least two hundred feet from water, camp, and/or trails. If possible find an area that is exposed to the sun and is not where water drains. (A ridge would meet both of these qualifications.) The more isolated the area is, the better. Dig a hole 6 to 8 inches deep and about six inches wide.

Paper and Products

Carry only plain white, unscented, and hopefully recycled paper. In moist soil it is generally acceptable to bury paper; but we recommend carrying out all paper. All other hygiene products should also be carried out.


Once the business is done, spend a minute removing all evidence of your presence. Cover the hole and disguise the area by scattering rocks, twigs, etc over the area of use.


Don't forget to wash your hands with a disinfectant and if it is a wipe, carry it out.

A few potty tips...

If hikers went two hundred feet from the trail in the Tetons (above illustration) there probably would not have been poo and paper collections.

Find a hole location far enough away (usually over two hundred feet) where you feel private. No one should be able to hear you whistle while you work!

We love the Snow Peak Handy Scoop. It is small, light, and very sturdy.

An ice axe or trekking pole are capable of digging holes. A stick hardly ever works well as a hole digger.

We carry dog poop bags in our toilet kits. We use them to pick up the waste and other products. We have had no issue from the bags. We like dark bags. Just remember to take them out of your pack!

Waste collected in the bags should be considered as a food product for a marauding animal. Hang the waste bag below the food bags.

We feel it is an easy practice to never leave paper products.

Some Parks require the use of "blue bags" or other waste disposal methods. Know and follow there rules.

Nobody likes to pick up someone else's used toilet paper or tissue, let's keep it clean out there and be considerate of each other.

(see also Toilet Kit)

Happy waste disposal trails

Leave No Trace


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