An Alimentary Discussion About Backcountry Etiquette

No, that title isn’t a misspelling of “elementary.” I use “alimentary” because I am talking about consuming nutrition (eating and digesting) and the last stage associated with this process (eliminating). This is not exactly a savory subject (well, it may have been when you first ate, but it wasn’t later), but it is an important one.

Nobody likes to visit a camp in the backcountry, or any area for that matter, that is spoiled and ruined by poor elimination practices. Do I seem to be beating around the bush a little? I better be careful because I might find something I don’t want to find out there. I am talking about poop, doo-doo, rey-rey, #2, brown trout, crap. Human waste can, and has, spoiled many popular spots in the backcountry. Even in remote areas, a couple careless individuals can ruin the next party’s experience, if not the whole trip, by failing to take care of human waste properly.

Recently, a foreign climber visited a popular crag that had unimproved camping nearby. The visitor was walking in with a friend, and the trail went downhill on the last approach to the camping area. They were about 100 yards from camp when the visitor exclaimed, “Oh, look at the wonderful white lilies in that field! You Americans have such a beautiful country!”


No, it was toilet paper marking each “deposit” left behind, and the visitor went from impressed to appalled in fewer than 50 yards. Respect those who will follow so they can enjoy our great land too.

Leave No Trace is a great organization that has widely accepted guidelines, called the Seven Principles, on all aspects of reducing or eliminating our impact on the backcountry spaces we visit. Principle Three explains how to dispose of waste properly, including how to dig a cathole, build a latrine, and dispose of toilet paper and feminine hygiene products. Nothing ruins a day faster than stepping in (or worse) someone’s poorly handled poop. You are responsible for how you handle your own excrement – both solids and liquids — when in the backcountry. To learn more about the Seven Principles, visit // (Paul Schenkenberger)

A variation of this article originally appeared on the Mountain Gear blog “The Mountain Blog.”

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