If you have visited an outdoor area, you may have heard the saying “Pack it in, pack it out.” When visiting the Adirondacks the same rules apply. Leaving behind trash can be harmful to the environment and wildlife. Other hikers also don’t want to see trash along the trails. 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!
Take advantage of established restrooms or outhouses before you begin- they may be the easiest method of all! If you do need to go in the backcountry, proper disposal of human waste is vital in order to protect water quality and prevent disease transmission. 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. If you need to poop and there is no snow on the ground, use 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.
A cathole can’t be used in all situations, such as above 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 WAG Bag or Biffy Bag. These products contain a gel which solidifies waste and eliminates odor, allowing you to use the bathroom without leaving anything behind. These items are compact, lightweight, and inexpensive, so it’s worth keeping one or two in your pack along with the Ten Essentials.
Like human waste, it’s also important to pack out or bury your dog's poop. Unlike animals in the wild, dog food contains things that wouldn't normally be found in nature. According to the CDC one days 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! Another option is to dig a cat hole 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 LNT.org.