Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Skip to content

Principle 3: Dispose of Waste Properly

Proper disposal of waste, regardless of where you are and what it is, is important to avoid pollution of water sources, negative implications of someone else finding it, and the possibility of spreading disease.  “Pack it in, Pack it out” is a familiar mantra to seasoned wildland visitors. Any user of recreation lands has a responsibility to clean up before he or she leaves. Inspect the trail, your picnic spot, campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash and garbage, even if it is not yours!

Knowing what to do “when you’ve got to go” can be an awkward, but an important lesson to know in order to ensure a pleasant experience for all wildland visitors.  In most locations, burying human feces in the correct manner is the most effective.  However, is some locations (narrow river canyons, paddling/rafting/fishing trips), there are several EPA-approved pack-out systems available. Know the requirements for the area you are traveling, and be prepared with the proper equipment.

Vail is a dog friendly destination and hiking with you dog is a great experience for you and your furry friend.  But, when your dog “does its’ business”, be sure to pick it up and dispose of it correctly in the trash (don’t leave the bag on the side of the trail).  Bring poop bags, pick up the poop and carry it out, all the way to the trashcan.

Tips For Disposing of Waste Correctly:

  • Bring a trash bag to pack out your trash and any other trash you may find.
  • Dispose of trash in a trashcan or recycling bin and make sure those receptacles are secure, so that wildlife can’t access.
  • Pick up your dog’s waste and pack it out.
  • Create a “cat hole” as a method of human waste disposal. Locate cat holes at least 200 feet (about 70 adult paces) from water, trails and camp and follow the approved process (link).
  • When a latrine is more applicable, (with young children or if staying in one camp for longer than a few nights), use similar criteria for selecting a latrine location as those used to locate a cat hole.
  • Use toilet paper sparingly and use only plain, white, non-perfumed brands. Toilet paper should either be thoroughly buried in a cat hole or placed in plastic bags and packed out. Toilet paper should not be burned, as this practice can result in wildfires.
  • Proper disposal of tampons requires placing them in plastic bags and packing them out. Do not bury them because they don’t decompose readily and animals may dig them up. Do not burn, as it takes a very hot, intense fire to burn them completely.
  • Urine has little direct effect on vegetation or soil. In some instances, urine may draw wildlife which are attracted to the salts. They can defoliate plants and dig up soil. Urinating on rocks, pine needles, and gravel is less likely to attract wildlife. Diluting urine with water from a water bottle can help minimize negative effects.

© 1999 by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: