Leave No Trace Waste Disposal

Leave No Trace

Waste Disposal


Human Food:

  1. When we leave any food or food particles behind, animals begin to associate humans as a food source.  Annoying, but not a huge problem if we are only talking about cute squirrels, but a much bigger problem when talking about predatory animals such as large cats and bears. 


  1. Reduce weight and trash—remove food such as trail bars from original wrappers and pack in a seal tight bag.  Not only do you reduce weight, but the bag also collects all the little flakes of food that will rub off.  Think of the crumbs as a great flavoring treat for a future bowl of oatmeal.  This will also help reduce the amount of trash you will have to carry out.


  1. After a cooked meal, there are a couple of options for cleaning and disposing of food particles.  (in the backcountry)
    1. only cook what you can eat
    2. after the meal, place water in pot, scrub the stuck on food while heating and then drink the food particles.  This is good for hydration, think of it as dinner soup.
    3. use the above method, but instead of drinking, strain the food particles with a bandana and place all particles in a sealable bag and prepare to carry it out with you.  The water can be dumped 200 yards from camp and water sources. 
    4. if you plan to be in the same location for a long period of time, dig a sump hole (like a cat hole) for the purpose of disposing gray water.



  1. Dishes can be washed using small amounts of biodegradable soap or experiment using sand, ash from a fire, or a scrubbing pad.  Dump gray water 200 feet from camp and water sources or in a sump hole.


  1. When breaking camp, check for loose food and equipment, clothing, etc…  Properly dispose of each.


  1. If you are at a camp ground (front country), use the appropriate disposal site and trashcans.


  1. Disposing of live kills will need to be handled differently depending on the animal.



    1. Fish:  There are a couple of proper ways to dispose of fish entrails and bones. 

                                                              i.      leave locally caught remains out of sight of trails and campsites (if you packed in the fish—you must pack out the remains)

                                                            ii.      only dump remains in the body of water the fish originated from, but since remains may wash up and become unsightly to other hikers only do this in bear country.

                                                          iii.      in high use areas, pack out all remains and dispose properly at home


    1. Other game:  The disposal of mammal, reptile and bird remains.

                                                              i.      leave locally caught remains out of sight of trails, campsites and 200 feet from water sources (if you packed it in—you much pack out the remains)

                                                            ii.      in high use areas, pack out all remains and dispose of properly at home




  Dogs are wonderful companions, but owners must take responsibility for food, waste and keep control of their non-human companions at all times. 

1.      Pack in and Pack out food.  Never dump left over dog food to save weight because animals will associate your pet as well as you as a food source.


2.      When Fido takes a dump, pack it out or dig a 6-8 inch cat hole to bury the waste. 


3.      Never dig a cat hole in Heritage Sites.  You must always pack out pet waste in these locations.


4.      In the front country use provided pooper sacks or bring your own and dispose of properly.  If your pup has a case of diarrhea, please use the smear technique and try to get it off the trail.  This will help prevent another hiker from slipping on it like a banana peel as well as help the decomposition process.


5.      When breaking camp, check for chunks of dog food and waste.  Properly dispose of each.


  Horse back riding on proper trails is a treat, but owners must take responsibility.

1.      Pack in and Pack out feed.


2.      When breaking camp or after a rest on the trail, carry manure away from camp or the trail and scatter by kicking apart manure piles.


3.      Check for and pack out bits of leather, pieces of rope, and any other litter.  




Human Waste:

  This is never a subject that we enjoy thinking or even talking about, but it is one of the most essential LNT topics.

1.      Cleanliness is next to Godliness or so the saying goes.  It is important to maintain a certain amount of sanitation when on the trail, and can be easily and environmentally accomplished by following a few suggestions.

a.       Avoid washing with soaps in water systems.

b.      If you must use soap, stay 200 feet from water sources, campsites and trails.

c.       Use biodegradable soap.

d.      Experiment with exfoliation instead of soap.  You mainly want to rid yourself of the dead skin cells.   Perhaps a skin brush or a loofah?

e.       If you drink hot tea, use the bag as a facial cleanser.

f.       Don’t worry about shaving; nobody really cares about that kind of thing on the trail.

g.      Always wash your hands after using the bathroom.  This is true in the backcountry as it is in your own home. 

2.      Urination normally will not cause concern in the back country, but there are proper and improper ways of relieving that got to go feeling without impacting the environment.

a.       Stay 200 feet from water sources and trails.

b.      Avoid urinating on trees and delicate vegetation.  Salt deprived animals love to seek out and lick or nibble on your waste.  This could lead to damage to tree trunks or destroy delicate ecosystems of plants and bugs. 

c.       Ladies, consider using a pee rag that can be reused and tied to the back of your pack to be dried in the sun.  Don’t worry about what others might think, real men will appreciate your cleanliness and good outdoor ethics. 

d.      When in the front country, hold it until you can locate the nearest port-a-potty or bathroom.


3.      Bowel Movements are a fact of life and can be handled in a couple of different ways. 

a.       Stay 200 feet from water sources and trails.

b.      If you must use toilet paper, you must pack it out.  Bring a sealable bag to carry it out with you.  Never burn because little embers of paper can float in the air and cause a larger fire. 

c.       In lieu of toilet paper, experiment with natural wipes such as smooth rocks, moss, leaves, snow and anything else that feels comfortable.  Learn to identify poisonous or plants that cause allergic reactions such as poison ivy and avoid using those plants.   

d.      Dig a cat hole about 6-8 inches deep and bury only the poop as well as any natural material you use.  Remember, if you must use toilet paper you must pack it out.

e.       Choose to dig your cat hole in an area with dark soil since the richer the soil the quicker the decomposition.  Avoid delicate ecosystems or areas of high erosion. 

f.       If you are in an area where digging is not an option such as a desert or the artic, use the smear method.  Simply put, do your business on a large rock or non-eco sensitive area and then use a small rock to smear your movement into a thin layer.  This method will help with the drying and decomposition process. 

g.      Never leave chunks of bowel movements out in the open for other hikers to see.  Not only it is unsanitary, but it is also just simply gross.

h.      When in the front country, hold it until you can locate the nearest port-a-potty or bathroom.


4.      Ladies:  That time of the month may come during a hike and it is imperative to be good scouts and be prepared.  It is also important to male leaders to understand how to gently provide advice if necessary.

a.       Even if you are not close to your cycle, carry a couple of tampons or pads just in case.  Nothing is more embarrassing or inconvenient than to start and have nothing to help prevent a mess.  Some women may never need to worry about this scenario since strenuous exercise may cause the body to delay the start of a cycle; however, for other women the exercise may have the opposite effect.  So be prepared for anything.  Besides pads and tampons can be used in an emergency first aid situation.

b.      Never bury used sanitary napkins or tampons.  Animals will be attracted to the smell and dig it up.  Very gross for passing hikers.

c.       Absolutely never dump sanitary napkins or tampons onto the ground, the animals will definitely get into it.  Super gross!

d.      Place used pads and tampons in a sealable bag with crushed aspirins to help cover the smell.  Then place that bag into a darker bag for aesthetic purposes. 

e.       When in bear country, hang the bag with the used pads and tampons in a tree to help avoid unwanted visitors from snooping through your tent or pack.  This can be hung with the food bag or in a separate tree if hanging it with the food just grosses you out. 



Basic Questions:


1.  Why 200 feet from trails, campsites and water sources?

            Seeking an area 200 feet from these locations will help reduce water contamination and the spread of disease by run off.  It will also help lessen the possibility of another hiker from discovering your cat hole. 


2.  How far is 200 feet?

            It is about 70 adult steps or 100 child steps.


3.  Dogs are animals, why bother picking up dog feces?

            As a hiker, the sight of a pile of dog feces means other people have passed through and that simply takes away from the serenity of the environment.  It is also rude.  When you take responsibility to own a pet, you must also take responsibility to care for anything that comes out of your pet.  Plus, pets are fed human created food and so they also excrete human created vitamins and materials which are not natural to the environment. 


4.  Why strain out the bits of food from the wash water?

            Even a little bit of food will attract animals including bears, large cats and nuisance critters who may seek out the rest of your food stash or even you.  These bits of food are not natural to the environment and can cause a negative impact.  


5.  In a nutshell, what are the 4 principles of disposing of waste properly?

            a.  Pack it in, pack it out.  Inspect your site before you leave and pick up all trash

                        and food particles.

            b.  Deposit solid human waste in cat holes, 6-8 inches deep, and cover completely.

            c.  Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.

            d.  Carry and scatter all gray water 200 feet from water sources, campsites and




Works Cited

Backcountry classroom lessons, tools, and activities for teaching outdoor leaders. Guilford, Conn: Falcon, 2005.

Bill Bryson; William Roberts. A Walk in the Woods [Audiobook] [Unabridged]. Rec. 1 Nov. 2001. Chivers Audio Books; Unabridged edition, 2002.

“Dispose of Waste Properly (Pack It In, Pack It Out).” Boy Scouts of America National Council. 29 Mar. 2009 <http://www.scouting.org/boyscouts/teachingleavenotrace/033_dispose.aspx&gt;.

Fieldbook. Irving, Tex: Boy Scouts of America, 2004.

“Get Outdoors – Backpack: In Camp: Washing Dishes.” 29 Mar. 2009 <http://www.getoutdoors.com/go/golearn/69&gt;.

“Leave No Trace Board Game.” National Park Service – Experience Your America. 31 Mar. 2009



“Leave No Trace.” Dartmouth College. 30 Mar. 2009 <http://www.dartmouth.edu/~doc/leavenotrace/&gt;.

“Leave No Trace Quiz.” AMC NY-NoJ :: Appalachian Mountain Club – New York-North Jersey

Chapter :: Welcome. 31 Mar. 2009 <http://www.amc-ny.org/recreational-



Leave No Trace. 31 Mar. 2009 <http://www.lnt.org&gt;.

McGivney, Annette. Leave no trace a guide to the new wilderness ethic. Seattle, WA: Mountaineers Books, 2003.

“Minimize Horse Impacts.” Leave No Trace Dude. 30 Mar. 2009 <http://www.leavenotracedude.com/lnt-horses.shtml&gt;.

National Park Service – Experience Your America. 30 Mar. 2009 <http://www.nps.gov/isro/planyourvisit/upload/LNT%20Booklet.pdf&gt;.

NOLS – National Outdoor Leadership School. 31 Mar. 2009 <http://www.nols.edu&gt;.

O’Bannon, Allen. Allen and Mike’s Really Cool Backpackin’ Book Traveling & camping skills for a wilderness environment. Helena: Falcon, 2001.

Sheehan, Kathryn. Earth child 2000 earth science for young children : games, stories, activities,

            and experiments. Tulsa: Council Oak Books, 1998.


US Forest Service – Caring for the land and serving people. 30 Mar. 2009 <http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/recreation/camping/backpacking.pdf&gt;.



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