As the number of people exploring the great outdoors has exploded, so have the risk to the environment and the public’s health. We’ve known for a long time that burying our waste in six-inch deep cat holes is not a great way of breaking down poop. With so many now pooping in the wilderness, it is clear this is not sustainable to bury our waste, and time to update our backcountry poop etiquette.
we ought to begin teaching backcountry users in nearly every location to pack out their poop with WAG bags (the acronym is for “waste alleviation and gelling”) or similar waste-disposal kits. Such kits usually include toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and special, double-layered bags you can poop directly into, complete with chemical crystals that render human waste inert and minimize the smell. (See below for tips on how to use these kits in the backcountry.)
Many public lands are already moving in this direction. A Forest Service website claims that “waste kits are becoming standard…throughout the West.” Visitors to Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument can now pick up free WAG bags at the visitor center. California’s Mount Whitney has required WAG bags since 2006, and it reports that users pack out 8,000 pounds of poop per year. And Rocky Mountain National Park provides WAG bags not just on climbing routes or above treeline but also at its backcountry permit office and trailheads throughout the park. »