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Human Waste Disposal - current thinking

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Human Waste Disposal - current thinking

Postby strollinbones » Thu Jun 06, 2013 9:01 am

Greetings,
My buddy and I found ourselves in a "discussion" in which the topic was what to do to properly attend to those things that we, shall we say, leave behind?

I contend that the appropriate thing to do is pack out used TP (double ziploc for maximum safety) rather than bury it in the cat hole. He claimed that it breaks down quickly and can be left behind. We also argued a bit about depth of hole and nearness to water. I said 8 inches or more deep, and 50 yards from water.

Anyone out there have a somewhat expert opinion on this?

I know it's a bit off-color, but these things matter. And I want to make him buy me a beer.

thanks,
SB



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Re: Human Waste Disposal - current thinking

Postby DoyleWDonehoo » Thu Jun 06, 2013 9:26 am

I had a recent energetic discussion about this with Rangers recently. They said they wanted me to pack out the toilet paper. I said I would burn it. They said oh no no, you must pack it out. I said can I burn pine needles? (Yes) Twigs? (Yes) Dead-fall? (yes) Toilet paper? (What? No!) Why, in the name of all that is rational, not!? What is the difference!? I got no real answer other that it was a Rule And Rules Must Be Obeyed.
Well, I don't have fires anyway, sooooo...
I did an experiment some years ago. I went to a particular spot in the backcountry and crapped in the woods burying it in the order of pee, TP, crap and fill the hole in with dirt and then a bit of no-trace camo. I marked the location in a way only I would recognize. I did this a few times in a few places. The next year I came back and dug up those spots. Results: I found nothing except one small 1/4 square of severely thinned and decayed TP, and that was it.
The real problem is that animals, in particular deer, who will dig it up and scatter the TP if it is not well soaked. (I will refrain from telling you what the deer do with it all.) If a deer is watching you intently when you head off into the woods with a shovel, shoo away the deer.
I say, if you have fires, burn your TP. It is the rational thing to do.
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Re: Human Waste Disposal - current thinking

Postby maverick » Thu Jun 06, 2013 9:33 am

HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Human Waste Disposal - current thinking

Postby rcymbala » Thu Jun 06, 2013 2:04 pm

Thanks to doctor Ken Murray for the following. I heard him speak at Adventure 16 in W. Los Angeles (on Pico). He referred to a scholarly paper published on a website (I can't remember but I saw it once) that studied the longevity of organisms in human waste according to different methods of disposal (i.e., NOT packing it out). The fastest time, two (2) days, your brownish solid human waste is biologically dead if it is left in the open air under the sun. You fry it, it dries up, and 2 days later there's no chance that some critters from inside you will make it into the groundwater and possibly affect others on down the slope. The problem with burying it is, surrounded by soil, not only do organisms stay alive longer in the the cooler, moister environment, but they have direct access to the groundwater which, of course, begins at the soil level. This is a descrip of Ken's talk from a Facebook page:

"""There are places that have been lost to memory, or that nobody talks about. Places that people come across that are mysterious and without explanation. Places that baffle, that challenge possibility. That are not described in any guidebook. These are the Secret Places. Rangers know about them and Ranger Ken Murray shares the oral tradition of these secrets. Some are on maps in plain sight. Some you can take pictures of. Some will bring back memories of childhood. Can YOU keep the secrets?"""
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Re: Human Waste Disposal - current thinking

Postby Scouter9 » Fri Jun 07, 2013 6:25 am

I think the relative simplicity of a general rule(s) on burial and carrying-out TP is the smartest and most ecologically-responsible approach. Weird smearing ideas and sunlight theories, were they spread about, would only lead to a much higher incidence of piles of poop "just anywhere" (because they done heard the sunlight will clean it all up for them) and a run-up on the price of spatulas.

The last things I want to see in the wilderness is a pile of human poo or some hideous "icing" or scattered TP left by one or more variation of slobs. I'm sure that those who choose to do whatever the hell they want to have plenty of justifications for that, as we've seen above, but it's all crap to me. [-X
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Re: Human Waste Disposal - current thinking

Postby John Dittli » Fri Jun 07, 2013 7:14 am

The "spread and cook" method is not new, as rangers, for a short time, we were doing that in the North Cascades back in the '80's. Theoretically it is good, in practice not so much. While many of the pathogens will be dead in a few days, it can take weeks for it to "blow away". Not exactly aesthetic when you consider the tens of thousands of yearly Sierra poopers. One might think they are leaving it in a place no one will see, but in the Sierra, chances are someone else will. I'm sorry to here people are still advocating that method as I believe it to be unaccepted (illegal) in the Sierra.

The preferred method is still 6" cathole preferably in soil with "organics" that will digest it (poop can last a long time in "sterile" soil (sand, DG). 100+ feet from water and if possible seasonal water courses.

As far as TP, if you use it, pack it out. As Doyle mentioned, Rangers don't like you burning it, namely due to the fact most don't burn it in a campfire, but here and there, by itself and incompletely. If you have a campfire, I seriously doubt any ranger would have issue with you burning your paper (paper is usually used to start a fire). If you do burn it, be sure your fire is hot! I threw some in a smoldering fire where the smoke promptly engulfed me. I returned home with a nasty respiratory infection that took weeks to clear.
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Re: Human Waste Disposal - current thinking

Postby Jimr » Fri Jun 07, 2013 8:56 am

I have a strange system. It tends to take me three days to form a poop worth evacuating. Considering I mainly hike in high country where it is nearly impossible to find ground where a 6" hole may be dug, I choose to pack out all solids in a wag bag. The bag has desiccant in it and double bagged. I bag it again in a gallon size ziploc. It goes in my bear can along with the food wrapper baggie.

Many years ago, I used to use the flat rock method. I can't count how many times I've turned over a rock to find somebody else's toilet. I wish more people used wag bags. If you can haul it in as food, you can haul it out as compacted waste.
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Re: Human Waste Disposal - current thinking

Postby John Dittli » Fri Jun 07, 2013 9:00 am

Jimr wrote:I have a strange system. It tends to take me three days to form a poop worth evacuating. Considering I mainly hike in high country where it is nearly impossible to find ground where a 6" hole may be dug, I choose to pack out all solids in a wag bag. The bag has desiccant in it and double bagged. I bag it again in a gallon size ziploc. It goes in my bear can along with the food wrapper baggie.

Many years ago, I used to use the flat rock method. I can't count how many times I've turned over a rock to find somebody else's toilet. I wish more people used wag bags. If you can haul it in as food, you can haul it out as compacted waste.


Kudos to you! You set a fine example that we all should follow!
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Re: Human Waste Disposal - current thinking

Postby Tom_H » Fri Jun 07, 2013 8:31 pm

I would like to suggest that the moderators merge this thread into the previous thread on the same subject (the one Mav linked above).
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Re: Human Waste Disposal - current thinking

Postby SweetSierra » Mon Jun 10, 2013 7:38 am

Regarding Doyle's comment on deer digging up cat holes, my mystery is solved from last weekend's hike up Canyon Creek in the Trinity Alps. I went back to the place that I had used the day before and the hole was opened up and nothing was in it.
One of the worst places for the smear toilet that I've seen is at Lion Lake. Pretty much the only place to camp is near the outlet of the lake and there aren't many good places to bury waste. I explored a pile of boulders near my camp and found that many others had used it as a toilet by smearing and just pooping in between the rocks. It was disgusting.
I always pack out my toilet paper unless we've had a fire and then I burn it.
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Re: Human Waste Disposal - current thinking

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Jun 10, 2013 8:59 am

Just use common sense. You need to be a "minimalist" with TP the same as you are a minimalist with equipment when backpacking. Twigs, rocks etc get most of the stuff off, and the TP is just the final wipe. Some people may do better with baby wipes rather than TP. Then carry out the TP or dispose of it in a HOT fire if you have one later in the trip. I have carried out 14 days worth of TP and it is not a big deal. Use a plastic bag plus a wag bag and it will be fine. I also "sun dry' the TP if needed - reduces the smell and the garbage weighs less.

My first concern is to avoid contaminating water. Obviously, do not go in a place where there is immediate runoff to a body of water. Burying avoids poo becoming part of surface runoff. An arbitrary distance from water may or may not do the trick. You may be 200 feet from a lake but if you go in a dry gully that will become a runoff channel at snowmelt, then you will still contaminate the water. And, DO NOT then wash your behind directly in the lake or stream after the deed to clean off the last bits!

Second is the aesthetics. Nobody wants to stumble upon or step in someone's poo or TP. In well used areas burying is the way to go (pun intended!). In very remote areas, I see nothing wrong with tossing poo in thick bushes or drop down a boulder field (provided that it is not going to be flushed into waters). Those who disagree need to convince me otherwise, with facts. By remote, I mean an off-trail area where only a handful of people visit. Anywhere along the PCT/JMT corridor is NOT remote.

If you are in a large group (say 6 people or more, particularly if base camping for days), I feel it is more efficient to dig a group latrine. This assures that everyone's waste is properly disposed of.

Everyone has a different digestive system. I am lucky in that I usually can time it so that I can do my duty away from camp, en route. I have been know to walk several hundred yards away from a trail to do my duty.

I think everyone should take a wag bag or two. Sometimes you "gotta go" and there just is not enough time to find an appropriate place. The wag bag is perfect for temporary transport.

I suspect a lot of human waste is dug up by animals. I do not know how to prevent that, other than the wag bag. I wonder if anyone has done a scientific study on the effects of animals eating human waste. I will admit that I am never going to haul out 14 days worth of waste in a wag bag!
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Re: Human Waste Disposal - current thinking

Postby dave54 » Mon Jun 10, 2013 9:05 pm

Buy your backcountry TP at Walmart (or any camping or boat supply) in the RV section.

RV/marine TP is designed to rapidly dissolve in water. Regular brand name TP is made thicker and stronger, and often has fragrances and skin lotion added. Does not break down as well.

The down side -- you must keep RV/marine TP really dry in your pack. Even high humidity can start to break it down.
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