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The Things They Carried: Disposing of used toilet paper

This is a subject that, the more I backpack or climb, the more it concerns me. At times, I have been in beautiful backcountry destinations (including very high and remote mountains) where you only have to dig a bit with your shoe on the ground to expose unseemly paper.

Full disclosure: I almost never carry my "gently loved" TP back to civilization, but I'm thinking that I (we all) should start doing that once and for all. Do you carry back your "mountain money" to wherever you can properly dump it (no pun intended)? If you do, how do you do it in a clean and efficient way? What do you do to minimize the impact of your pit stops?

Farther. Higher. Longer.
6 Replies

I use snack-size zip-top bags with a single use amount of TP and hand-sanitizing wipe in each bag. The used TP and the hand wipe with wrapper then get sealed in the small zip-top bag. The used individual bags then go into a second, larger, heavier duty freezer-style zip-top bag (reused from a consumed meal). That goes into the overall trash bag which is carried out to be disposed of properly back at the trailhead.

I pack enough of these individual bags based on the number of days we'll be out (plus a few extra), along with a trowel in a small cinch sack to keep things organized and easily accessible.

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Get outdoors, stay safe, and happy trails!
Todd the Hiker

@Todd_the_Hiker @DavidM 

This is a great topic and a really good suggestion. I'll definitely be using this idea on some upcoming trips this summer. Thanks!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

You're welcome! Going places that require you to pack out the TP is definitely more common these days, and given the amount of used TP I've seen scattered in some places I'm definitely an advocate of packing it out, but definitely want to be sanitary about it at the same time.

Get outdoors, stay safe, and happy trails!
Todd the Hiker

Loose surface toilet paper is a big problem at popular backcountry campsite areas and even on hiking trails.

According to the rules, toilet paper must be packed out in many places in the western US and particularly in arid areas such as above treeline and deserts.  Some places even require you to pack out your poo.   TP,  even the camping variety takes a long time to break down and can work its way back to the surface. 

I use basically the same system as Todd in combination with a travel bidet...discussed here...

I find the bidet works best with a wet wipe wash to finish although some people don't find this necessary.  Toilet paper does not so work well for this since it tends to disintegrate when wet.  I do still carry some toilet paper in case it is necessary.

Unlike Todd, I generally use bulk Wet Wipes in one of those resealable travel packs for less waste cost and general laziness.  You can dry them out and repackage them and then re-wet them before use with the bidet if you want to save weight although I have never bothered.  I take a few opaque dog poo bags to hide the result more discretely inside the waste zip lock.   This is kept in a larger zip lock that contains the wetwipe pouch and hand sanitizer. 

One possible concern is that wet wipes are scented even if they claim to be "fragrance free" and therefore may attract bears even in used form.  The waste ziplock is not something I really want to store with the food in the bear can.   It's more the "gross" factor than a real contamination issue given the layers but as far as I can remember I have not put this in the bear can    I have not had this be a problem but that is not a recommendation and it is something to consider if you will be a bear country and particularly where bears are historically habituated to human food and smelly things. 


I've been packing out the used TP for years.  Also training my Boy Scouts to do the same.

Don't go hiking or backpacking without a poop-kit:  Ziplock containg the right amount of TP in it's own zip lock.  And another zip-lock or two for used.  

This is a great way to reuse zip lock bags used for food but not reusable for food.  Rince and dry, then retire to the poop-kit.

We were backpacking in the Smokies and overnighting at one of the AT shelters.  There was a toilet sign pointing to a field behind the shelter. The field was too gross to use being covered with not only TP but human unburied feces as well. It still grosses me out to think about it.

I have what I call my pee pack. It's a small dry bag containing my folding metal shovel, FUD, pack of wipes, and one or two previously used sandwich size ziplock bags for the used wipes.  I use the same bag until full then switch to the next.  At the end of my trip the small bags with used wipes get disposed of appropriately. Using minimal number of waste bags reduces plastic waste. I use the dry bag for my pee pack since I move it between my kayak, day pack and backpack.

Pee pack goes in two layers of lacsack at night in bear country