Moab, Utah is a miraculous place. For being so vast and barren, it has so much to offer. Whether you’re there for camping, climbing or any of the other activities, we need to preserve our beautiful surroundings so we can continue to enjoy them. Just as exploring and being playful are a part of human nature, so is going to the bathroom. It’s inevitable. While I was in Moab for a climbing trip, I immediately noticed the stench of human urine at a very popular area. Before departing on this trip, I began the research of the places, routes and campgrounds that my group and I would be visiting. After deciding that Wall Street was the place to go and visiting numerous websites and apps about it, I began to see warnings and comments saying:
WARNING: POOP ALERT
There has been a rash of human poops along Wall Street. Please use the bathrooms in the campgrounds a half mile from popular crags!!
My initial thoughts were, “What? This can’t be true.” The thought of human waste scattered in such a high traffic area is absurd, right? I decided to take the group there anyways. With backup plans in order, I was expecting the worst but though the warnings were true, it wasn’t too bad. After a full day of climbing (and using the bathrooms at the campgrounds), the next question was — how can we as visitors keep such an amazing area like Wall Street clean for our fellow climbers?
When it comes to any kind of outdoor recreation, sometimes the only bathroom you have is the great outdoors. You can’t hold it in forever. So what are the best practices for going to the bathroom outdoors? And why do we follow these practices? For the most part, Mother Nature should just take care of it on it’s own. Here are a few tips to help further things along.
If you know you’re going on a trip where bathrooms are not available, I suggest you get familiar with the Leave No Trace Principles. One of the best things you can do is leave the grounds as clean or even cleaner for future visitors. Once you’ve familiarized yourself, here are a few tips about going to the bathroom in the backcountry.
Don’t forget your supplies: Toilet paper isn’t as biodegradable as you think (unless you buy the stuff that actually is). Whether it is or not, you want to use as little TP as possible. Leaves (not poisonous), smooth stones and even snowballs are useful. Make sure to pack out wet wipes, TP and menstrual products in waste bags. Don’t forget a trowel (small shovel) if you decide to dig a cathole!
Find an appropriate spot: A general rule of thumb is making sure you’re at least 200 feet away from the trail, campsite or any water sources. If you need to pee, try and pick an area that is highly absorbent (pines/needles) to avoid backsplash. Gotta poop? If you can, choose a sunny area with loose, rich soil. Using a stick, rock or your heel to dig a 6-8 in. hole for yourself.
Hygiene tips for afterward: Washing your hands with soap and water is probably the best practice but the use of hand sanitizer works as well. I prefer these two options over wipes since those need to be packed out. Make sure to sanitize before handling food and dry your hands with a different cloth than you use for dishes. If you’re backpacking, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly at least once a day.
As the number of visitors to Moab and other public lands continues to grow, the possibility of poop-filled crags increases too. Be sure that you do your part to protect Utah’s beloved recreation spaces.