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There’s one species of wildflower that none of us wants to see. It’s the “toilet paper flower,” and it’s unfortunately all too common along Colorado trails and dispersed roadside campsites where there’s no established toilet to answer nature’s call. Because many hikers and campers rely on inadequate methods of poo disposal, outdoor destinations across the state are experiencing an alarming uptick in toilet paper flowers—and other evidence of barely concealed business.
Well that’s gross.
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But over Memorial Day weekend, the Gunnison Crested Butte Tourism and Prosperity Partnership launched the “Doo” Colorado Right campaign, which placed 3,500 free backcountry bathroom kits at welcome centers and visitor information hubs across Colorado (see the full list here). Demand for them has been robust, says “Doo” Colorado Right spokesperson Andrew Sandstrom. “We are hearing from many of the distribution centers, particularly those that are closer to the large populations, that they are moving through their stocks very quickly,” he says.
Funded by a grant from the Colorado Tourism Office, the campaign distributed kits made by PACT Outdoors, a Crested Butte, Colorado-based company that developed poop-burying supplies containing tablets made of mycelium—the fungal growth network that produces mushrooms and helps all manner of organic material break down and return to the earth. These tablets help buried poop decompose about 10 times faster than it otherwise would. They’re included in the free kits, which also contain a trowel and wipes that biodegrade better than toilet paper.
“The goal of the program is to educate and equip people with the tools they need to responsibly go to the bathroom outside,” Sandstrom says.
That education is more nuanced than you might think. Digging a hole and burying your poop is an acceptable method of disposal in many Colorado locations, but not all. What follows is, dare we say, a breakdown on where and how to use your free PACT Lite bathroom kit, along with other best practices for doing business in the backcountry.
So you nabbed a free PACT Lite kit. Now what?
Hide your hole: Bury waste at least 200 feet from any water source and away from trafficked areas (duh). If you’re above treeline (on high-elevation sites such as alpine tundra) or in desert terrain, don’t bury your poop at all. These ecosystems are too arid and fragile to effectively biodegrade your excrement. Pack it out.
How do I pack out my poop?
You could pick up and bag your poo as any dog-walker would, but there’s a better way: Before you head for the outdoors, buy a “wag bag” (such as the GO Anywhere Toilet Kit) and make your deposit into it. These bags typically include toilet paper and hand sanitizer, along with a zip-top plastic bag that’s filled with an odor-squelching powder that makes the parcel unoffensive enough to carry to the nearest trash receptacle.
Do I have to use a fresh wag bag for every day that I’m out?
Your call. Backpackers generally make one bag last for several uses. But if you’re spending extended time at no-facilities campsites, you might consider traveling with a portable cassette toilet (such as those made by Thetford). We can attest that it effectively locks in odors and mess—even when ported over rough, bumpy roads—but you’ll have to empty it at an RV dump after your trip.