Would you drink this water?
In the news yesterday you could read about water in the streams in the southern mountains reaching high levels of Escherichia (Ecoli). Ecoli comes from feces from animals or humans but as the concentration peaks in august, the end of the high season, it indicates that the reason is human waste. Many hikers don’t know how to take care of its own poop and few people talk about their poop, it is just something you don’t talk about.
For several summers I’ve been working for NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) that follows and educates their student in the 7 principles of Leave no trace. One of the principles talk about how to take care of waste properly, including how to take care of human waste.
Here are 3 simple steps to leave-no-trace pooping.
1 Walk the distance
Walk away at least 100 meters from camp, trails and bodies of water and do your best to be 50 meters from any streams, rivers or running water. This way you minimize the risk of feces contaminating our drinking water. Preferably you choose a site NOT optimal for camping or breaks.
2 Dig a cat-hole
Always bring a small shovel with you when you hike long enough to risk pooping business. Your hole should be about 15 cm deep and 15 cm wide. Deep enough NOT to attract animals or for anyone who step on it to get poop on their boots, but also shallow enough for it NOT to reach the ground water. Please avoid pooping under rocks, I’m always nervous lifting a rock because I never know what is under it.
3 Make it invisible
Defecate and put back the dirt you dug up. Preferably you have a natural “lid” created when you started digging to finish your hole with. After closing your hole you should feel safe to step on it and if you did a good job you can hardly see that anyone have been there.
Two more things to consider. If you use toilet paper make sure you put it in the cat-hole before closing it or carry it out in a plastic bag. When washing your hands, don’t wash them directly in the stream or river. Fetch water in a water bottle and wash your hands away from the water to avoid contamination with soap.
Help us safe our water sources!
/Mirja Andersson Laponia Adventures