Can You Bury Toilet Paper While Backpacking? A Comprehensive Guide

The Importance of Leave No Trace Principles

When it comes to backpacking, adhering to Leave No Trace principles is crucial. These guidelines aim to minimize our impact on the environment and preserve the natural beauty of the wilderness for future generations. One common question that arises while backpacking is whether or not it’s acceptable to bury toilet paper. Let’s delve into this topic further.

Understanding Biodegradability

To determine whether you can bury toilet paper while backpacking, it’s important to understand biodegradability. Regular toilet paper typically takes several weeks to break down naturally, especially in higher altitude areas where decomposition rates are slower due to colder temperatures and reduced microbial activity.

Pack It Out: The Preferred Method

Ideally, when venturing into pristine wilderness areas, adopting a “pack it out” approach is highly recommended for waste disposal—including used toilet paper. By carrying your used TP in a resealable bag or designated waste container, you eliminate any potential risk of contaminating water sources or disrupting ecosystems during decomposition.

Tips for Proper Disposal:

  • Carry an adequate supply of sealable plastic bags specifically designed for waste containment.
  • Avoid disposing of soiled toilet paper in regular trash cans as they may attract wildlife.
  • Ensure all waste containers are securely sealed within your pack.
  • If using reusable cloth wipes instead of traditional TP, wash them separately after your trip using eco-friendly detergent.

Burying Toilet Paper: When Is It Acceptable?

In certain situations where “packing it out” isn’t feasible due to limited space or resources (e.g., long-distance treks, multi-day trips), burying toilet paper may be a temporary solution. However, it’s essential to follow specific guidelines to minimize environmental impact.

Follow these steps for proper burial:

  1. Select an appropriate location at least 200 feet (about 70 adult steps) away from water sources.
  2. Dig a cathole approximately six to eight inches deep using a trowel or other lightweight tool.
  3. Place used toilet paper into the hole and cover it with soil, ensuring complete containment.
  4. Pack out any remaining waste that cannot be buried effectively.

Note: Consider Local Regulations and Cultural Practices

It’s crucial to be mindful of local regulations regarding waste disposal in the areas you plan on backpacking through. Some regions have specific rules in place due to fragile ecosystems or cultural practices that must be respected. Prior research and consultation with park authorities will help ensure compliance with all guidelines.

To Bury or Not To Bury?

In conclusion, while “packing it out” is generally recommended as the best practice for responsible waste disposal during backpacking trips, there may be situations where burying toilet paper becomes unavoidable. If this is the case, following proper methods for burial becomes essential in minimizing our ecological footprint.

Remember that preserving nature’s beauty is a collective responsibility we all share as outdoor enthusiasts. By abiding by Leave No Trace principles and adopting environmentally conscious habits during our wilderness adventures, we can play an active role in protecting these precious landscapes for generations to come.