Can I leave biodegradable waste (e.g. an apple core or banana peel) in the woods, as long as I hide or burry it?

Most items thought of as biodegradable, such as apples and apple cores, orange peels, banana peels, nuts, candy, etc., aren't native to most natural environments, and generally aren’t thought of as suitable food for wildlife. Anything that we carry into the woods should come out of the woods with us. Otherwise it's simply trash. One apple core will not completely disrupt the local ecosystem, but litter is litter. The biggest problem with improperly disposing of food waste, e.g. tossing apple cores into the woods, is that it is ultimately harmful to wildlife.

Can I urinate or put wastewater directly into a water source?

Generally speaking, no urine or wastewater should ever go into a water source. Both kinds of liquid waste should be disposed of a minimum of 200 ft. from any water source. However, there is one environment where disposal of liquid waste into a water source may be acceptable and/or required by the land management agency: arid, silt laden, high-volume western rivers such as the Colorado and the Green. The idea is that “dilution is the solution” in these unique environments.

How should I deal with my human waste in snow/alpine environments?

Winter conditions present special challenges. Water is everywhere—it just happens to be frozen—and the soil may be several feet out of reach and as hard as a rock. Poop tubes, bag systems or other “packing out” solutions may be the best disposal option unless you can locate a patch of bare ground, usually under a tree where a trowel can penetrate the duff. Because waste generally freezes in the winter, packing it out is not as distasteful as you may think.

What about ocean disposal?

Although ocean disposal has been suggested in the past, it is no longer recommended for disposing of human waste. While anecdotal information has suggested that the ocean environment readily breaks down human feces and related pathogens, there is no concrete biological research backing the practice of ocean disposal. Furthermore, in many popular paddling regions depositing human waste in near-shore waters is a violation of state laws. Be sure to check with local land management agencies for the best disposal method for the area you plan to visit.

What's the best way to dispose of human waste in coastal environments?

The absolute best way to dispose of human waste in costal environments is to pack the waste out using either a bag-type system or a reusable, washable toilet. Other options include using provided facilities – flush toilets, outhouses, privies, etc. – when available. If no other options are available consider using a cathole dug 6-8 inches deep at least 200 ft. from any water source.

What's best for managing pack stock at camp: pickets, highlines, portable electric fencing or hobbles?

While there is no one right answer, the Center encourages all stock users to inquire with the land management agency about the preferred method of managing stock in the areas they plan to visit. All four of these methods – pickets, highlines, portable electric fencing and hobbles – are acceptable for managing stock but the most appropriate method should be determined by the land management agency. Additionally, many areas have facilities built for managing stock in a backcountry and frontcountry campsites and points of interest. Where these exist, the Center recommends their use.

Will hanging my food in the Sierra's provide sufficient protection from bears?

Generally speaking, no. Bears in the Sierra’s (and other places) are quite crafty and have managed to obtain food from even the best bear bag hang. In many locations, bear-proof canisters are required by the land management agencies and should be used at all times to store food, trash and “smellables” such as sunscreen, bug repellent, toothpaste, etc. when in the backcountry. It is strongly recommended that you practice packing your food and smellables into the bear canister before your trip to ensure everything will fit.

Should you walk single file or spread out on cryptobiotic soils? Why?

In areas with cryptogam (cryptobiotic soil), it is vital to concentrate use on durable ground. Open expanses of rock, known as slickrock, and dry washes where no cryptobiotic soil crusts can grow, provide excellent minimum-impact travel corridors. Areas covered with dense leaf litter, such as found under pinyon and juniper trees, offer another durable surface for walking or camping. If you find yourself surrounded by cryptobiotic soil crusts, step directly in one another’s footprints as you move across the crusts to a more resistant travel path.

Is burning trash or used toilet paper OK?

We do not advocate burning toilet paper. Plan ahead to pack the toilet paper out—in a plastic bag—with you. This will leave the least impact on the area. Otherwise, use as little as possible and bury it deeply in the cathole. Attempts to burn toilet paper at the site are not recommended. It rarely burns completely, and has been the cause of wildfires. “Natural” toilet paper such as grass, sticks, and snow can be surprisingly effective, and should always be buried deeply in the hole. Always pack out feminine hygiene products because they decompose slowly and attract animals.

How do Go Anywhere (formerly Wag Bag) Restops, Biffy Bags and other systems like this work? Are these bad for the environment?

Generally speaking, bag-type systems for packing out human waste contain bags that are biodegradable. They are usually made with a blend of polymers and natural starches to break down in landfill conditions after 6-8 months, depending on conditions. There are generally two bags: one waste collection bag pre-loaded with a powder treatment used to contain the waste, and a heavy gauge bag to secure and transport waste. Most commercially available bags are approved for disposal with normal trash as group II non-hazardous waste.

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