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WAG Bags for Poop Packing


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  • #3747656
    David Gardner
    BPL Member

    @gearmaker

    Locale: Northern California

    This has come up before, but there is now a growing consensus among scientists and wilderness managers that cat holes aren’t worth shit, so to speak, and that we campers need to be the solution by packing out our waste. The number of campers has exploded over the past couple of decades, and the problem of fecal overload and contamination went into overdrive during the pandemic. At Mt. Whitney, one of the areas that requires packing it out, rangers report that campers to that one small area packed out over 8,ooo lbs. of poop last year. And it’s not the TP that is the issue, the problem is the feces loaded with human drug-resistant bacteria, viruses, hormones and pharmaceuticals.

    Bottom line: packing it out is the only way to truly follow LNT principles.

    “WAG” (Waste Alleviation and Gelling) bags are now required in a growing number of locations and available for free at even more. WAG bags include toilet paper, hand sanitizer and special double plastic bags with chemical crystals that render human waste inert and minimize odor. Best practice is to go directly into them.

    I know y’all hate the thought of packing it out, but I am consoled by the thought that people disliking them and requiring WAG use will likely reduce the number of people in wilderness areas.

    #3747660
    Bruce Tolley
    BPL Member

    @btolley

    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    I have been using them for years in places where they are recommended or requirement such as Lassen and Shasta in winter and the Whitney zone in summer.  I find they are quite convenient for trips up to 4 or 5 days.  With some planning and careful packaging, the used WAG bag can be carried without incident outside the pack.  During our Scout snow camping outings even the young Scouts get used to using them in winter.

    The main downsides I have seen is 1) in the Whitney Zone folks just leave them on the ground expecting someone else to carry them out 2) there needs to be signed bins at the TH for and education about their proper disposal. Folks who  are dutifully carrying them out are pitching them in the regular trash or into the US Forest Service vault toilets at the trailhead.

    If the land management agencies start requiring them for areas that require weeks rather than days in the backcountry, I would posit that the use of WAG bags could create more problems than they solve.

     

    #3747685
    Ken Kaneshiro
    BPL Member

    @oniramon

    Locale: Oahu

    Are the Wag bags single use?  If you are on a multi-day trek, do you keep them in an odor proof bag?  I don’t think you would put them in your food canister, but do we need to keep them protected from critters too?

    #3747692
    David Gardner
    BPL Member

    @gearmaker

    Locale: Northern California

    Single use, definitely. The chemical crystals reduce odor, the double bag locks it in. Everything I’ve read so far says to carry the WAGs on the outside of your pack, definitely not near food. Haven’t seen anything on critter protections, but also haven’t seen anything about bear-proofing them. Which surprised me a bit, since I would have expected a comment one way or the other, at least. Maybe it’s a total non-issue to those in the know.

    On the other hand, given that the after effects of a critter attack would be unpleasant and difficult to remedy, my plan is to hang the WAGs with my now illegal 2 oz sierra bear hang rig overnight, and where there are no trees to cache it. Which presents its own issues. Like, putting it under a bunch of heavy rocks seems to invite disaster. Large cat hole bridged with a large rock, and more rocks on top?

    #3747693
    Jon Fong / Flat Cat Gear
    BPL Member

    @jonfong

    Locale: FLAT CAT GEAR

    WAG bags are usually required in slot canyons.  One problem is that if you leave them out, crows tend to think that they are food containers and will tear into them.  Been there, experienced that: first hand.  Not pleasant.

    #3747696
    Bruce Tolley
    BPL Member

    @btolley

    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    RE: Single use.

    I have found one bag will work OK for two days. But with the caveat that I am out in the winter where everything freezes.

     

    #3747698
    W I S N E R !
    Spectator

    @xnomanx

    Not only is this is going to be a rad new category on spreadsheets, I look forward to the forthcoming research on backpacking food weights pre vs. post digestion…

    #3747699
    David Gardner
    BPL Member

    @gearmaker

    Locale: Northern California

    Jon: slot canyons – that makes total sense. The same thing basically applies to river travel, winter camping, alpine camping, beaches, desert washes subject to flash flooding, etc., even in areas of low use. Burying anything in such conditions means it’s likely going to be exposed and hazardous, not to mention displeasing. Using WAGs is kind of a drag for sure. On the other hand, when I went camping in the Sierras during the 60’s the entire range was very low use. Maybe a few hundred people camping during an entire season. We all drank straight from running water and boiled water from lakes if there was no creek. There were no filters, Steripens, Aqua Mira. We carried iodine pills just in case there was only a questionable source and no way to boil it. I have to wonder if everyone had always used WAGs we might still have safe water up there. And with WAGs, perhaps again in the future.

    Craig, you crack me up man. Hadn’t considered the pre- vs. post- asspect of food and WAGs. I had a fleeting thought about going UL on them, but I’m not sure UL is a good idea for WAGs. I want them to be robust.

    #3747701
    BlackHatGuy
    Spectator

    @sleeping

    Locale: The Cascades

    Certainly not UL when you add in the weight of the sticks or smooth rocks.

    #3747707
    MJ H
    BPL Member

    @mjh

    For two days, I could probably manage without a bag just by diet before the trip and after. It doesn’t seem to be a thing around Pennsylvania anyway. At least I’ve never heard it mentioned.

    #3747756
    Rex Sanders
    BPL Member

    @rex

    WAG bag requirements are working their way east.

    “The highest point in Texas is not a toilet”

    https://www.star-telegram.com/news/nation-world/national/article260673727.html

    — Rex

     

    #3747759
    David Gardner
    BPL Member

    @gearmaker

    Locale: Northern California

    It’s the future. We might as well embrace it.

    #3747928
    HkNewman
    BPL Member

    @hknewman

    Locale: The West is (still) the Best

    Interesting study but thinking more backcountry privies (especially the solar powered/composting types) would be an easier sell than trying to alter the typical outdoor users behavior.  I’m just not seeing Joe/Jane Average using their WAG bag vs dedicated canyoneers /mountaineers.

    #3747931
    W I S N E R !
    Spectator

    @xnomanx

    ^I was thinking same.

    As much as I hate the thought of seeing toilets in the backcountry, think that for ultra high-use sites (thinking spots like Viddette Meadow on the JMT/PCT) it could be appropriate. As ugly as the thought is, some of these areas are hit so hard it would likely be the lesser of evils. Seems it’s either that or drastically reduce permit numbers…Which I doubt will happen.

    I don’t like any of it but I suppose it’s where we are.

     

     

     

    #3747938
    AK Granola
    BPL Member

    @granolagirlak

    There have been privies in the Boundary Waters Canoe area since the 60s, maybe before. What’s the big deal?

    #3748044
    JVD
    BPL Member

    @jdavis

    Locale: Front Range

    Interesting perspective that has me thinking about using a WAG bag in high use areas (Indian Peaks Wilderness) even if they are not required. I have used them a few times where they were required and while I don’t relish it, it does feel like a small thing I can do.

    Maybe I’ll put carrying my WAG bags out in the same category as changing my kids’ diapers. Gross at first, then tolerable, and finally just a fact of life … and certainly for a good cause.

    BTW, I get 2 days per bag and wrap them in small/medium size Oven Roasting Bags. And for sure, hang them well.

    #3748160
    Ben H.
    BPL Member

    @bzhayes

    Locale: No. Alabama

    I take issue with the idea that we need to use WAG bags for the environment. If I have to poop into a plastic bag that will last a millennia and carry out of the woods every time I go backpacking I may just find a new hobby. I understand the localized needs for them in particularly impacted environments, but I wouldn’t consider it particularly environmentally friendly to store every poop in a plastic bag.

    #3748168
    JVD
    BPL Member

    @jdavis

    Locale: Front Range

    Ben, I agree. WAG bags for heavily impacted and sensitive areas only.

    #3748173
    MJ H
    BPL Member

    @mjh

    For long term storage, you probably want glass jars, like Howard Hughes used for urine.

    #3810264
    John P
    BPL Member

    @jep

    I’m thinking of storing poop in a large plastic jar that some whey protein came in on an upcoming desert boat trip. I’m not sure how big it is, but 3-4 gallons I think. I plan to dump the poop out onto rock to dry whenever we are camped for the night. This is in a sensitive area that sees a lot of boaters so of course it will be returned to the container each morning when we leave.  Dumping the most recent poop out at the end of the day will be slightly nasty but in the desert poop drys fast and shrinks down to very small size which is the point. Perhaps we’d want two containers, one for fresh poop and the other for poop that has dried and shrunk enough that it’s easier to handle.  I’ve experienced the delight of hauling wet poop off glaciers before and prefer not to do that on this trip. I’m not clear on the environmental down side of my plan, if any. I often camp in desert spots on BLM land repeatedly and poop in the same spot for days. Within a day it shrinks quite a bit. After 3 days it’s hard to find.  I’ve pooped in the same place repeatedly on separate trips say in April, then May, then June and it has always disappeared. I don’t know where it goes, whether it dries up and blows away or is carried off by animals. I use soap and water (no toilet paper) so that isn’t an issue.  I’m not sure exactly what environmental repercussions are. I’m curious about what people think of this.

    #3810268
    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member

    @retiredjerry

    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    People leaving WAG bags on the ground is sort of like people leaving dog poop bags on the side of the trail

    Annoying and counter productive

    #3810270
    Terran Terran
    BPL Member

    @terran

    No. Just no.

    #3810271
    John P
    BPL Member

    @jep

    No just no why? And I didn’t suggest leaving wag bags on the ground. I suggested drying the poop out over night and putting back into its containers while we are traveling. When we get to civilization the dry poop can be flushed down a toilet. I would argue that it is far more environmental than disposing of  plastic wag bags full of wet poop which will take years to dry out.

     

    #3810274
    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member

    @retiredjerry

    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    I assume that’s about leaving bags with poop on the side of the trail

    Climbing Cascade volcanoes – it’s just loose rock, no place for poop to decompose, lots of people.  That would be another place where a WAG bag would be appropriate

    #3810280
    John P
    BPL Member

    @jep

    Your reply has nothing to do with my question. I’m not talking about leaving wag bags full of poop on any glacier or anywhere else. I’m not talking about using wag bags at all. I described a way to dry out poop on a desert river trip which would end with my flushing my dry poop down a toilet. I didn’t mention that part because I assumed it would be obvious. I claim my proposal is more environmentally friendly than carrying around plastic bags full of poop and then disposing them however local law allows. That ends up being a plastic bag full of poop that will take years or more break down.

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