It’s Time to Start Packing Out Your Toilet Paper

It’s Time to Start Packing Out Your Toilet Paper

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My permit for the Pacific Crest Trail was granted to me in 2011, two weeks before I started my first thruhike. It was a formality—less than 300 people completed the trail that year, so I never had to jockey for a preferred start date. It was quiet and there was the option of choosing any campsite in desert. It was what I had hoped for: total immersion in nature. 

In the 1980s, long-distance hiking was a popular choice. The trail also saw a lot more signs. In 2016, I was back on the PCT, and a new sight dotted the trail: Toilet paper “flowers” were all around the established campsites. It was even worse when I returned to the trail in 2018, as some areas were beyond what was visible. 

The situation has only gotten worse. Last year, there was a lot of waste on the John Muir Trail. Paper clung to the bushes and cringingly small, barely-covered catholes surrounded almost every campsite. It was not only alarming to see, but it also meant that I had to be more careful when looking for a place to relieve myself. 

The hike was hard. I set the fastest recorded time. However, I didn’t forget my toilet paper. Trail use is only increasing, so we need to all start packing it out or find another alternative when going into the woods. 

There are many places to go on the Appalachian Trail. Yet, there are still plenty of toilet paper flowers. The frequent outhouses can’t mask the signs of use from three million people on the popular east coast trail. 

The solution is simple: get rid of your toilet paper, regardless if it is picked up by animals or left on the surface from thru-hikers. The garbage is an eyesore and can also cause damage to plants and animals. It can take years for garbage to break down in alpine and fragile environments. 

Forest users had the crazy idea of burning their business papers, rather than packing them. The results have been devastating. Arizona’s Pipeline Wildfire was ignited by a man trying to light his paper toilet roll on fire. It would burn over 20,000 acres. The fire started by a man burning his toilet paper in 2017 in Arizona. It grew to 5,000 acres in the Canary Islands and 4,000 in Portugal in 2016. Obviously, lighting it up isn’t a good option.

Principle 3 Leave No Trace means to properly dispose of waste, which includes toilet paper. Your impact can be reduced by as simple as placing the waste in a container and then packing the paper in a clear plastic bag. Double bagging it, adding powdered bleach, and using an opaque bag or an empty freeze-dried meal bag can make the act feel less gross, but if it feels gross to carry it, it should feel even worse to discard it in the woods where it becomes someone else’s problem. 

There are many ways to get rid of toilet paper. Many hikers have switched to a compostable toilet paper. small bidet system It screws on to the top of a water bottles. The Kula Cloth It has been a huge hit with women who are out on the trail. This antimicrobial and eco-friendly piece is a great alternative to toilet paper. 

Nature is resilient but it’s not invulnerable. It is possible to leave litter and create fires in order to impact ecosystems. People explore the woods for an escape, an adventure, and an immersion in nature—not to see other people’s gross leavings. It is time that we all make the pledge to take “pack it out” to the next level and bring a new level of respect to the outdoor spaces. 

How to Be Responsible

These are the principles to be followed when nature calls.

  • You must take care of business within 200 feet of the trail. It is not possible to be found out by a trail crew member or another hiker, so it is important to keep your distance from the hiking corridor. 
  • Dig at most a 6–8 inch hole. Most environments will not allow for a trekking pole to create a hole acceptable in size. Trowels They are lightweight and relatively inexpensive making it easier. (Note that catholes aren’t a good solution everywhere: In fragile ecosystems like the desert or the high alpine, using a wag bag is a better way.)
  • You must cover the hole completely. The majority of catholes are found in lower areas of trails, near campsites. Heavy rains can wash away a partially covered hole. The possibility of a curious varmint discovering the hole increases if there are more animals at lower elevations. 
  • Take out all papers, feminine crafts, and wet wisps. Toilet paper was buried securely for years. However, in certain areas it can take as much as a year. Three years to decompose. Some feminine products, such as wet wipes, will not decompose. I keep mine in a zip top bag, inside of a transparent outer bag like a shopping bag. You can also wrap the bag in duct tape to hide it. 

It’s Time to Start Packing Out Your Toilet Paper

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