Hikers, Brace Yourselves for a New Poop Protocol

Sentiment is growing that it's time to start packing it out instead of burying it
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 25, 2022 3:04 PM CDT
Updated Apr 30, 2022 6:30 AM CDT
Hikers, Brace Yourselves for a New Poop Protocol
Oh, the places you'll go. And when you do, it might be best to pack it up and carry it out.   (Getty/Poike)

For a long time, the standard protocol for hikers and campers who had to poop in the woods was to bury it in what's known as a "cat hole," writes Krista Langlois at Outside. But with more people than ever on the trails, a new sentiment is taking hold: It's time for people to pack up their waste and bring it out with them. Langlois' essay rounds up the grisly details. For one thing, those cat holes—six inches deep and 200 feet from water—have never been particularly good about keeping pathogens in human waste from leaching into the soil and spreading from there. But with relatively few people in the woods, they were good enough, even if they were more about getting waste out of sight than anything else.

Things are different now, as the number of people using public lands has "exploded" in the last few decades. Today, unburied waste—aka "surface turds" to those in the know—and discarded toilet paper are all too familiar sights. More and more, parks are suggesting people bring WAG bags ("waste alleviation and gelling" bags) to pack up their waste, and Langlois' piece details some options. "Honestly, bringing WAG bags on every backcountry excursion and carrying days’ worth of your own poop out of the wilderness on a multiday trip is not appealing," writes Langlois. "But ultimately, it’s less gross than eating, sleeping, and playing on poop-filled public lands." (Read the full piece.)

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