Lately, Ranger stations in California sometimes offer quart size zip-lock bags to hikers for the use of storing used toilet paper while in the back-country. This offering is for the hiker’s convenience and to promote LEAVE NO TRACE principles. Many wilderness areas now require or strongly recommend all hikers pack out used toilet paper. The environmentally conscious try to always pack it out.
However, I question how often hikers are successful with this often disgusting and smelly task? You see the first use of the new bag is easy, just add soiled paper, but additions after… not so much. Let’s face it, reopening the same bag is well…nasty. Reopening the bag over and over is just too much for many and that is where I think success goes down the drain or in the back-country, in the dirt. Besides, I don’t know of anyone on a beautiful outdoor adventure that wants to worry that their pack smells like poop, because they are carrying a loaded bag of ripe paper.
Years ago, I got a great tip from my hiker friend, Arrow, on how to store used paper without smells and unpleasant color. I have used this system since. It has never failed. No smells, no brown toilet paper, and the reopening is less offensive. This is how I prepare the “Pack It Out Bag” at home before a day hike or backpack.
quart size Zip-lock freezer bag
sandwich size Zip-lock bag
1/2 tsp. dry bleach (any brand), baking soda or borax
-add 1/2 tsp. dry ingredients of your choice to sandwich baggie, squeeze out air, seal
-place small bag in quart size bag, squeeze out air, seal
-used paper goes in the small bag, outer bag is extra protection
-Always squeeze out air before sealing.
-If I am on a longer trip and am sending resupply boxes to a post office, I add small zip-lock bags with dry bleach and reuse the outer quart size bag.
-On extended trips with no resupply (8-10 days), I use a gallon bag for the outer bag and a quart size for the inner bag.
-I often make up extras that ready to go for the next trip. I have even been known to hand these out to new hikers.
-For those of you that use baby wipes or paper towels (I do), this system works perfectly.
*Updated November 2015