Leave No Trace is just as relevant in winter as it is the rest of the year, but some of the methods that you use have to change because the ground is frozen solid or covered with snow.
For example, take human waste and toilet paper disposal. Without the ability to dig a cat hole, you have a limited set of choices for what you do with number 2’s in winter.
- You can crap on top of the snow, which is the least desirable option because your poo and toilet papers will not decompose in the cold and will lay on top of the soil after the thaw for all to see or step in. If this is your choice, at least dig a deep hole in the snow and cover it to hide it. In addition, crap 200 feet off trail and away from natural water sources. This method doesn’t scale very well if you have a group of people who all need to poo and you’d probably be better off with a pack-it-out approach which forces people to think about the consequences of improper poo disposal in winter.
- You can crap on the snow and then scoop your waste and used toilet paper into a double-bagged zip loc plastic bag so it doesn’t leak in your pack. In winter, it will freeze solid and can be properly disposed of when you get back to civilization. You can also use a Cleanwaste wag bag like the ones sold at REI for this purpose.
- If you’re in a group, everyone can scoop their poop into a group-sized double-bagged zip loc plastic bag and carry it out. Another option is to use a waterproof stuff sack that’s partially filled with kitty litter, which will absorb any excess liquid. Draw straws to determine who gets to carry the stuff sack out and dispose of the contents after the trip.
- If you’re with a group, everyone can pack out their own waste, using method number 2 above. That’s what I ask the backpacking and hiking groups I lead in winter to do, because it’s the least embarrassing and easiest to implement.
- Finally, if you’re within easy walking distance of a backcountry privy or outhouse and can get the door open (in time) in deep snow, by all means use it!
What do you do with your human waste on winter hiking, backpacking, and camping trips?
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