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Why pack out poo?
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Scott Lehr
(lehrscott4) - F

Locale: Louisville - KY
Why pack out poo? on 04/26/2010 12:46:07 MDT Print View

In the Eastern US where i hike, we never pack out our poo, we just bury it. Whats the deal with packin it out?

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Why pack out poo? on 04/26/2010 12:56:36 MDT Print View

Most places -- decomposition happens pretty rapidly. So packing out poo is pretty unnecessary.

But there are a few places where packing out poo makes sense -- such as, for example:

1. Mt. Whitney -- certain places above treeline where it's dry and there's really no topsoil to speak of AND where people camp out continuously in a relatively small area -- packing out poo and TP really is a must.

2. Desert - no need to pack out poo cause there is plenty of land around -- but one should burn or pack out TP. In the dry desert, things breakdown very, very slowly, and TP's buried in place will remain there for a very long time (think Egyptian mummy wrappings). Given the dry environment, packing out TP is preferable to burning them.

Edited by ben2world on 04/26/2010 12:58:04 MDT.

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Re : Why pack out poo? on 04/26/2010 13:01:09 MDT Print View

I think it depends on the area. In the Cairngorms NP in Scotland, pack out bags are available free in one area in winter. It is an area heavily used by outdoor schools and students. This area is covered in snow holes dug by students, and as the winter draws to a close, it can look a bit like a rabbit warren.
For years, the spring thaw left evidence of thousands of 'night-time visits' that were once buried deep in the snow, now lying on the bare ground. Not nice.

Mike S
(MikeyLXT) - F

Locale: Maryland
Re: Re : Why pack out poo? on 04/26/2010 13:16:27 MDT Print View

I think packing out poo on a multi night trip just may eliminate that destination for me

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Re: Why pack out poo? on 04/26/2010 13:26:36 MDT Print View

"Desert - no need to pack out poo cause there is plenty of land around"

It's often recommended that you pack out poo in the desert actually. Much hiking is done in canyons in much of the desert southwest. Those canyons are actually quite small... not a lot of place when the walls are steep. So packing poo out of a canyon is common practice.

In general, pack out your poo in situations where leaving it will cause problems for others. Sometimes this is because there are just so many backpackers that leaving poo creates disgusting messes for others behind you. I've camped in places where poo is buried everywhere around a camp. It's nearly impossible to dig within 500 ft of a camp without digging into someone else's turd. Another situation is when you can't get far enough away from well traveled sites or water sources. This happens in caves, mountain tops, climbing spots, rivers and canyons on a regular basis.

If it's going to be disgusting to others or cause problems for the environment, pack it out!

The "morals" of the profanity detector is pretty radically conservative. Poo*p isn't allowed, but poo is. That's cråp.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Why pack out poo? on 04/26/2010 13:31:59 MDT Print View

+1 What Jack said.

Definitely situational -- and we should all exercise judgment and consideration.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Why pack out poo? on 04/26/2010 13:55:38 MDT Print View

Benjamin mentioned Mount Whitney. Similarly, tall volcanoes may have limited campsites. But there typically isn't any real soil for things to decompose. The volcanic surface is almost impossible to dig in. Therefore, many volcano camps have mandatory pack-out rules.

In contrast, I was on an expedition camping at 19,500 feet, and it was all volcanic rubble surface. It was pretty cold, dry, and windy, so there were all of these little petrified artifacts scattered around the snow (where we had to collect snow to make drinking water). Yup. Pretty disgusting. They needed a pack-out rule there.


Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: Re: Why pack out poo? on 04/26/2010 14:03:17 MDT Print View

People probably need to start wrapping their heads around the idea of packing it out. I'm fully expecting to see more and more delicate ecological areas implementing the pack-it-out rule in the coming years. With the amount of people running around out there, the necessity is an inevitability.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
.. on 04/26/2010 14:19:38 MDT Print View

A better idea of what to do with your dooty:

Edited by isaac.mouser on 04/26/2010 14:23:30 MDT.

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Packing P00P Out on 04/26/2010 14:23:44 MDT Print View

I'd like to suggest a "Last two days" guideline for any area where turd piles are a problem. This generally means a combination of heavy use and lack of soil- Winter, rock, etc. Impossible to enforce against those who want to violate, but most backpackers would probably comply.

Everybody carries a WAG bag. Use it for all solid matter the last two days of your trip. Longer than that and it starts to get rather ripe. This helps to reduce the amount of p00p lying around near trailheads. But you don't have to carry it from the beginning as would be the case where certain areas require packing out.

Edited by jimqpublic on 04/26/2010 14:29:10 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Packing P00P Out on 04/26/2010 14:44:29 MDT Print View

For those who have never experienced a WAG bag, they aren't too bad. Within some plastic bags, there is a dry chemical that foams and encapsulates everything once it is exposed to moisture. When it is double bagged, it doesn't take up much room in your pack, and it has no odor.

When the Forest Service started requiring those and issuing them (free) to permit holders on Mount Whitney, it took a year or so for them to catch on. Now it is just part of the game.


Abraham Schlossberg
(ernda) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Doing it in a bag on Mount Whitney on 04/26/2010 14:58:40 MDT Print View

This summer I'm going to do the traditional 2-nighter with my kids from Whitney portal to the top. I usually camp overnight at trail camp. This will be the first time I'll be going since they removed the solar toilets. All I want to know--is there anywhere at Trail Camp, with all the people around, to go in your bag with some privacy? This will be even a bigger issue for my 17 year old daughter.

Willie Evenstop
(redmonk) - F

Locale: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
Why pack out poo? on 04/26/2010 15:02:31 MDT Print View

I had tons of space in my DuoMid to use the wagbag, and I appreciated the protection from the cold stormy weather outside.

Nate Meinzer
(Rezniem) - F

Locale: San Francisco
Yosemite on 04/26/2010 15:05:28 MDT Print View

Last time I headed out, the ranger told me I had to pack out my poo in Yosemite. This was in a below treeline area, not well-traveled. I hadn't ever heard you were supposed to, and it certainly wasn't on their website, so I just chalked it up to his personal zealotry. Needless to say I didn't pack it out.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Doing it in a bag on Mount Whitney on 04/26/2010 15:08:35 MDT Print View

Trail Camp. Yes, no, not exactly.

Before dawn and after sundown, everybody always seems to creep off behind some boulder outside the edge of camp. During the day, the only place for total privacy is _inside_ your tent. I know that sounds odd, but it works. Virtually anyplace above or below there is almost right on the trail. I'll bet that a person could get lost in the talus rock pile directly uphill from camp. Of course, you might break a leg getting in there and back out. I guess that is the price you pay for camping far above timberline.


Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Packin' It on 04/26/2010 15:32:56 MDT Print View

Our family spends a week each year on Lake Powell, AZ/UT. This is an extremely dry climate. You can camp on the lake shore or use a houseboat. When camping, people used to just walk up above the water line, dig a hole and do their duty. They would also bury their paper along with their poo.

The problem is, the high water line is not just above where you are camping, but when the lake is at full pool or 3,700 ft. Well, if the water is low, like the last few years, you will never be able to get above that line and will be burying your poo below the water line. When the water is low people buried figuring it was okay since the were "above the water line". A few YEARS later, when the water would inevitably rise, they found the paper and poo would just come to the surface and float away. There was virtually no decomposition. Now, if you camp on the lake, you are required to take your own port a potty to take care of your poo. They also have pump out stations all over the lake to help keep things clean.

As for Whitney, if they did not require people to pack it out it would be a total mess up there. You can't believe how many people are there on any given day from May to September. It's not fun to take a Wag Bag but it is necessary.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Why pack out poo? on 04/26/2010 15:46:59 MDT Print View

Add Mt Rainier and other permanent snow/ice areas to the mandatory Wag Bag list.

Edited by asandh on 05/06/2010 07:34:48 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Why pack out poo? on 04/26/2010 15:55:59 MDT Print View

"I believe it is technically mandatory to pack out your TP from all wilderness areas of the Sierra, the poo part is only mandatory in certain places."

I believe that it is very effective to burn up used TP and bury the ashes. Ashes have virtually no mass.


Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: Why pack out poo? on 04/26/2010 17:09:38 MDT Print View

"I believe that it is very effective to burn up used TP and bury the ashes. Ashes have virtually no mass."


Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Caution! on 04/26/2010 17:15:31 MDT Print View

While burning TP (and trash as well) can be a great way to dispose of unwanted pack weight... please be mindful that burning anything at all is strictly prohibited in wide swathes out West and here in southern California. Please pay careful attention to local warnings.