Call this a public service announcement or a Leave No Trace reminder. Leave No Trace Principles can be applied at any time – not just in the backcountry.
Please pass this on to anyone who travels, especially in remote areas.
So let’s talk potty. Yep, potty. As in going pee when a potty is not available. Really, I am probably mostly talking to the girls, women or female gender – although, this also applies to men who use toilet paper.
Nobody wants to see used toilet paper on the side of the road – or behind a bush or rock. We were recently in a beautiful camp spot in the Catlins in southeast New Zealand. We had cycled all day and arrived at the simple campground at Curio bay. There was a toilet (with toilet paper) in a central location in the camp. Each of the campsites were nestled back with rows of flax bushes providing wind protection. It was obvious that the last few campers in our spot used the flax bush as their toilet. Probably that “I gotta pee in the middle of the night and don’t want to walk to the toilet”pee. Which, because it rains so much there (think dilution is the solution to pollution), probably a little urine is not a problem. There was not a noxious smell – but there was lots of used toilet paper left –which is just gross. I spent 10 minutes cleaning up the trash (including toilet paper) in the flax plants. My father instilled in me to always leave a camp spot cleaner than you found it.
Then we stopped on the road from Te Anau up to Mavora lakes. There is a small pullout for motorists to rest with a picnic table and a large rock – which, seemed to be the spot to pee – as noted by all the toilet paper. Again, gross. Unhygienic, ugly and unnecessary.
We have discussed this issue with several cycle tourists along our journey from Oslo to Istanbul and with trekkers in Nepal. What I really hope is that cycle tourists are not contributing to this ugly littering of a beautiful land. Any land for that matter.
So what are some options for when ya gotta go pee and you are out there? Whether backpacking, biking or in a car:
- Don’t use toilet paper. Yep, girls, you don’t have to use toilet paper. Drip dry like the boys.
- Use leaves, grass or bark as toilet paper – be sure not to use a poisonous plant…
- Use a pee rag. I use a light yellow bandana as my pee rag. This is my preferred method while backpacking. I tie the bandana to my backpack and the UV light kills anything nasty. I wash the pee rag out in camp (not in a stream!).
- Carry a plastic bag for used toilet paper. I have a small dry bag in which I carry toilet paper in one small zip lock bag and I have a second, empty small plastic bag. If I have to pee while out on the trail, I pee, I wipe, I put the used toilet paper in the plastic bag and it goes back in the opaque dry bag. When I get to my destination, I empty out the used plastic bag, wash and dry it and it’s ready to go for the next use.
- Bury the paper (not the best option from an environmental standpoint) – be sure to bury it at least 6-8 inches deep – or it will just rise to the surface in the rain or animals will dig it up.
(remember not to go in or near rivers or lakes – be respectful of private property and delicate ecosystems)
There is no reason why we should see used toilet paper, tampons (you can use option four for used feminine products as well- just add some baking soda to reduce any odors) or any trash for that matter.
As cycle tourists, we are connected to the lands we travel. We should respect the lands we travel and pass the word to others to help keep our world litter free.
If you have any other options that people can use to reduce used toilet paper or other garbage being littered, leave your suggestions in the comments.