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Good Camp Hygene and Sanitation is EssentialCamp Hygiene

The camp restroom

Personal hygiene: Biodegradable camp soaps are a must and many work equally well as a dish soap, bath soap, and shampoo. Use them sparingly and at least 200 feet from water sources. This will allow the soap to break down and filter through the soil before reaching any body of water.

If space and weight are not limiting, you can take a hot shower with you. With a Sun Shower, water is solar heated in the collapsible bag and, when suspended, an adjustable nozzle provides spray.
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When water is not available you can give your face a quick wash with face wipes, or cotton balls and astringent or toner. Don't forget to keep adding sun protection during the day.

The more embarrassing stuff

Human waste is a pollutant to both land and water, a potential health hazard, and a repulsive eyesore on a route or near a camp site. There are also health risks to be considered: Fecal-borne contaminants can find their way into your body via one of several routes: contaminated drinking water, direct or indirect contact, and contact with insects that have contacted a contaminant.

Given enough time exposure to elements like oxygen, heat, ultraviolet radiation, and dryness, the waste will eventually break down into a harmless state. You can usually count on the fact that other people with be there before that happens. This is why it should be carried out in a bag, or disposed of in a place that maximizes decomposition and minimizes the chance of water contamination or discovery by someone or something.

Urine contains an insignificant amount of bacteria and is relatively sterile. The disposal method you use will depend upon the situation and the environment. Urine is not considered a health hazard, but it is salty and thus an attractant to wildlife, especially rodents, deer, and mountain goats. Protect your gear and keep animals wild by urinating on bare rock, far away from camping areas, and by keeping salty gear and other food items out of reach of wildlife (use a bear canister, or hang food from tree limbs or large boulders). Take a walk before dinner and find a scenic site far from your camp area to cook and wash up. This will help reduce smells and animal visits to your camp.

Use restroom facilities whenever possible. This is the most responsible way to handle the situation. Understandably, also the most limiting as trails are usually not that well developed, so even if your campsite has facilities, day hikes must be taken into consideration.

Pack it out

When traveling, camping in areas with no facilities, or paddling and hiking through canyon country, rocky terrain or in the snow, your only option might be to pack waste out. Many parks require this method. Wilderness rules can vary widely, so check with rangers or land managers in advance.

Many national parks have composting toilets. This is one of the safest and most respectful ways to deal with the issue, but they are not available in every backcountry location, so, you can blue bag it! Pack your waste out in a blue bag or other pack out system (kitty litter in a paper bag, PVC “poop tube” or whatever other inventive contraption you would like to carry).

If you are camping a only a few miles from your car you might consider a portable toilet. (Those that use water are easy to use and have better odor control). You can make your own system by lining a sturdy sealable can, such as a large "ammo" box, with a couple of heavy-duty garbage bags folded out over the rim. A seat can be placed on top if desired. Before and after each use, throw in powdered bleach, quicklime or holding tank deodorant to reduce odor and slow decomposition. Toilet paper goes in the bag but not urine as it dilutes the chemicals and increases bag weight. To transport the bag, squeeze out the air and tie it closed. After your trip, dispose of the bagged waste by putting the contents slowly down a flush toilet. Some waste disposal sites for RV's can handle this type of disposal, but not all of them will, so again, plan ahead.
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Bury it

Small cat holes have been used for years. Locate them on a level spot and dig about 6 inches into an organic layer of soil, then stir your "deposit" into the soil and cover with several inches of soil and pack well. This will speed decomposition and hide the spot from those who hike after you. Where toilets are not available you must carry out your used toilet paper (a plastic ziplock bag works well) Be sure you are at least 200 ft / 60 m from trails, campsites, and water sources. There are specific urination rules, as well. for example, the current policy at Grand Canyon national park specifically states that along the Colorado River, you are to urinate directly into the wet sand at the river's edge. Always ask, they've answered the question before. (Shop Camp Trowels)

The "do's and don'ts of of waste disposal

Know and follow these simple rules for dealing with human waste. Don’t bury your waste in snow—it melts out in a few days, looking just the same. Don’t toss it in a crevasse—glaciers of the Pacific Northwest are relatively thin and it melts out quickly. Don’t smear it on a rock nearby—it gets in the water, and if you camped here, someone else probably will, too. Would you want to drink or even filter the water if someone else had smeared human waste nearby?

Don’t be shy about dealing with your human waste. Everyone confronts this same issue in the backcountry. Don’t let members of your group get away with leaving a pile of poop in the wilderness! Do talk about waste disposal options and plans with your group. Do ask an experienced ranger how many piles of poop he or she has seen while on patrol, and you will realize that this problem is bigger than you want to think. Do ask rangers about your bathroom options in various camping areas—rangers are happy to answer questions. Do pick up blue bags at a ranger station and keep some handy on every hike and camping trip!

When there is snow

When snow conditions exist, you must resort to the above option: Blue bag it! Always be aware of the fact that fecal matter will still appear come springtime or sooner, so plan ahead! Don't ruin someone else's day, or risk their health.

Hygiene checklist

( ) Portable Toilet
( ) Plastic Garbage Bags
( ) Ziplock Bags
( ) Tank Deodorant
( ) Quicklime
( ) Biodegradable Toilet Paper
( ) Shovel or Trowel
( ) Sani-Fem
( ) Water Purification
( ) Bleach
( ) Germicidal Soap
( ) Biodegradable Soap
( ) Sun Shower

Rules of the trail

  • Carry out all garbage.
  • Hike on marked trails, not across fragile alpine growth.
  • Use existing campsites or sites away from water and trails.
  • Respect and protect the wilderness.
  • Tread lightly and only carry home photographs and memories.

Questions? Call us at 800-290-1920 / 707-528-1920
Santa Rosa Store Hours
Monday - Friday: 10 am - 7 pm
Saturday: 10 am - 6 pm
Sunday: 11 am - 6 pm