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If you've frequented the mountainous trails of the Adirondacks, you may have heard the phrase,“Pack it in, pack it out.” It is essential that anyone recreating in our shared outdoors brings back with them any litter they created. Leaving behind trash can be harmful to the environment and wildlife, and other hikers don’t want to be surrounded by trash as they explore the Adirondack wilderness. To avoid leaving trash behind, bring a plastic bag so you have something to pack out your trash, including organic litter like banana peels or apple cores. See someone else's litter? Pack that out too!

Human Waste

Established restrooms or outhouses 

Around the Adirondack trails, some locations may have outhouses and restrooms that can be used before or after your adventure. More often however, you may need to use the restroom while you're out on the trail. Here are a few tips to manage human waste safely in the Adirondacks. 


If you need to "go" in the backcountry, proper disposal of human waste is vital in order to protect water quality and prevent disease transmission to wildlife and others. To ensure the sanitary safety of others, find a spot at least 200 feet from any trail, campsite, or running water.


Try to find a location up high to avoid seasonal drainages, as the springtime thaw will lead to lots of groundwater. For urine, wipe with a reusable cloth or pack out used toilet paper in a sealable bag. 

the cathole method 

Dig a hole about 6-8 inches deep (pack a lightweight plastic trowel for this purpose), go in the hole, and after you’re done take a stick and mix up some soil with the waste. This may sound like an odd thing to do, but it will allow the soil’s natural microorganisms to break your waste down much quicker.

Pack out toilet paper if possible. Finish by filling in the hole and covering the area with natural materials such as leaves, pine needles, or anything else making up the area’s ground cover. 

Warning: A cathole is not the best method to dispose of waste in all situations, such as above the treeline on a fragile alpine summit or when the ground is covered in snow. The only option then would be to pack out all waste. There are a few commercial products that can help make this as painless as possible, such as the W.A.G Bag or Biffy Bag. These items are compact, lightweight, and inexpensive, so it’s worth keeping one or two in your pack along with the Ten Essentials.

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Like human waste, it’s also important to pack out or bury your dog's poop. Unlike animals in the wild, dog food contains ingredients that wouldn't normally be found in nature. According to the CDC, one day's worth of dog waste can contain several billion fecal bacteria along with Giardia, hookworm, and tapeworms. If our pet waste reaches waterways, it can be harmful to other animals, wildlife, and even humans.

The best way to clean up after your pet is to pack their poop out in a bag. Don't forget to pack out the bag - no one one wants to see them lining the trails! You can also dig a cathole 6-8 inches deep and 200 feet away from running water just as you would if you were the one needing to go. For more information on why it’s important to pack out our pet poop, visit the pet principles page on

Pet waste

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