Dispose of Waste Properly: A Guide for Climbers

Finding the most eco-friendly way to handle waste during your climbing trips can be disheartening. We know, we’ve been there and faced the same challenge too; did you know improper disposal of human waste can contaminate water sources? This guide is designed to help climbers like us understand how to effectively manage and dispose of our waste.

Get ready– it’s time for clean climbing!

Proper Disposal of Human Waste in the Backcountry

To properly dispose of human waste in the backcountry, climbers must learn how to pee and poop in the woods, dig catholes or latrines for burying waste, or pack out their waste using specialized bags or tubes.

How to pee and poop in the woods

Naturally, when we’re climbing and spending extended periods in the backcountry, nature calls can’t be avoided. Here’s a handy guide on how to pee and poop properly in the woods:

  1. Always make sure to position yourself at least 200 feet away from any water source. This measure helps to prevent water pollution.
  2. Find an area with deep organic soil for maximum waste decomposition.
  3. To pee, women may wish to bring a pee rag or a device such as the SheWee for cleanliness and convenience.
  4. When pooping, dig a cathole about 6 – 8 inches deep using a trowel or stick.
  5. After you’ve finished your business, cover the cathole with dirt and disguise it with natural materials like leaves or sticks.
  6. Toilet paper should be used sparingly and packed out in a ziplock bag to promote decomposition and keep wildlife undisturbed.
  7. If on glaciers or other areas where digging is not possible, use waste bags or poop tubes to collect your waste and pack it out.
  8. Group activities require planning ahead; discuss how trash and human waste will be disposed of responsibly.

Digging and Burying: Catholes and Latrines

Properly disposing of human waste is crucial for climbers to minimize their impact on the environment. Here are important guidelines to follow when it comes to digging catholes and using latrines:

  • Digging Catholes:
  1. Find a secluded spot at least 200 feet away from water sources, campsites, and trails.
  2. Use a small trowel or shovel (preferably made for camping) to dig a hole that is 6-8 inches deep and 4-6 inches in diameter.
  3. After use, cover the cathole with soil and natural materials like leaves or sticks to discourage animals from digging it up.
  • Using Latrines:
  1. Many popular climbing destinations have designated latrine areas. Always use these facilities if they are available.
  2. If there are no designated latrines, consult local land managers or guidebooks for specific instructions on where and how to dig latrines.
  3. Follow the same guidelines as digging catholes when using latrines.

Pack Out Poop: Waste Bags and Poop Tubes

When it comes to waste disposal in the backcountry, carrying out human waste is often required by land managers. This helps prevent water pollution and keep the environment clean. Here are some options for properly packing out poop:

  1. Waste Bags: Invest in sturdy, leak-proof waste bags designed specifically for this purpose. These bags are often made of durable materials that can contain odors and prevent leaks.
  2. Poop Tubes: Poop tubes are portable containers that climbers can use to store their waste until they can properly dispose of it. They are lightweight and easy to carry, making them a convenient option for longer trips.
  3. Double Bagging: To ensure maximum containment, consider double bagging your waste using two layers of waste bags. This extra layer adds an additional barrier against leakage and odor.
  4. Seal Properly: When packing out your poop, make sure to securely seal the waste bag or poop tube to prevent any accidental spills or leaks.
  5. Separate from Food and Gear: It’s important to keep your waste separate from your food and gear to avoid contamination. Store your waste in a designated location away from any items that could be affected.

Additional Considerations for Waste Disposal while Climbing

– Consider unique environments, such as above tree line, winter climbing, desert climbing, river canyons, and being tent-bound when planning waste disposal methods.

– Discuss protocols for waste disposal during menstruation to ensure proper sanitation and hygiene in remote areas.

– Plan for waste disposal for kids and pets by bringing appropriate supplies and considering their specific needs while climbing.

Waste Disposal in Unique Environments (Above Tree Line, Winter, Desert, River Canyons, Tent Bound)

When it comes to waste disposal in unique environments while climbing, such as above tree line, winter conditions, desert areas, river canyons, or when tent bound, it’s important to be mindful of the impact on the environment and follow proper practices.

In these environments where decomposition rates are slower and water sources may be scarce or sensitive, it becomes even more crucial to adhere to responsible waste management guidelines.

For example, in above tree line areas where vegetation is limited or absent and soil is thin or rocky, it may be necessary to carry out all waste including solid human waste and toilet paper.

Similarly, in winter conditions where frozen ground makes digging catholes challenging or impossible, climbers should utilize portable toilets or pack out their waste using specialized bags designed for cold weather use.

In desert environments with delicate ecosystems that require minimal disturbance and little water availability for decomposition purposes, carrying out all solid human waste is highly recommended.


Waste Disposal for Menstruation and Period Protocol

Properly managing waste during your period is essential for climbers to maintain hygiene and protect the environment. Here are some important tips to remember:

  • Use menstrual products that minimize waste: Consider using reusable menstrual cups or cloth pads instead of disposable tampons and pads. These options reduce the amount of waste you generate during your climb.
  • Pack out used menstrual products: If you do use disposable tampons or pads, make sure to pack them out with the rest of your waste. Do not bury or leave them behind, as they can attract wildlife and pollute water sources.
  • Seal used products in a separate bag: To ensure containment and prevent odors, place used menstrual products in a sealable plastic bag before disposing of them. This will help keep your waste storage area clean and odor-free.
  • Dispose of the waste properly upon returning: When you’re back from your climb, make sure to dispose of the sealed bag containing used menstrual products in designated trash bins or follow local regulations. Do not flush them down toilets or leave them behind in nature.
  • Minimize environmental impact: Remember that proper waste disposal is not only about personal hygiene but also about protecting the environment. By following these guidelines, you contribute to preserving climbing areas for future generations.

Waste Disposal for Kids and Pets

Climbing with kids and pets can be a wonderful adventure, but it’s important to consider waste disposal for their safety and the environment. Here are some tips:

  1. Pack extra supplies: Make sure to bring enough waste bags, diapers, and wipes for your kids and pets. It’s better to have too many than not enough.
  2. Bring a portable toilet: If you’re climbing with young children who are not yet potty trained, consider bringing a portable toilet specifically designed for camping or outdoor use. This will make waste disposal easier and more hygienic.
  3. Use waste bags: Just like adults, kids and pets should also use waste bags to collect their waste. Double bagging can help prevent leaks or odors.
  4. Properly dispose of waste bags: Remember to pack out all waste bags and do not leave them behind on the trail or at the campground. This applies to both human waste and pet waste.
  5. Bury pet waste: If you’re unable to carry out pet waste due to its size or weight, bury it in a cathole at least 200 feet away from water sources, trails, and campsites. Be sure to cover it with soil afterwards.
  6. Teach your kids about Leave No Trace principles: Help educate your children about the importance of proper waste disposal in nature. Teach them how to dig catholes for human waste or pick up after their pets.
  7. Consider reusable options: For kids in diapers, consider using cloth diapers instead of disposable ones when climbing outdoors. Just make sure you have a plan for handling soiled cloth diapers during the climb.


In conclusion, proper waste disposal is a crucial aspect of responsible climbing and environmental conservation. By following guidelines for disposing of human waste, including using catholes or waste bags, climbers can help prevent water pollution and the spread of diseases.

Additionally, it is important to consider unique environments and the needs of menstruating individuals, children, and pets when planning for waste disposal while climbing. By taking these steps to dispose of waste properly, climbers can contribute to the preservation of natural landscapes for future generations.


1. What are the consequences of not disposing waste properly while climbing?

Not disposing waste properly while climbing can have negative impacts on the environment and other climbers. It can contaminate water sources, harm wildlife, and degrade the natural beauty of climbing areas.

2. How should I dispose of human waste while climbing?

When it comes to disposing of human waste while climbing, it is important to follow Leave No Trace principles. This may involve using designated toilet facilities if available or packing out solid waste in a specifically designed container. In some cases, burying waste at least 6-8 inches deep and away from water sources may be necessary.

3. Can I throw trash or food scraps off cliffs or ledges when climbing?

No, throwing trash or food scraps off cliffs or ledges is never acceptable. It not only creates an eyesore but can also attract animals which can become habituated to humans and become a nuisance or even pose a safety risk.

4. Are there any specific guidelines for disposing food packaging while climbing?

Yes, when disposing of food packaging while climbing, it’s important to pack out all wrappers and containers as they do not decompose quickly in the wild. Keeping your trash contained in a sealable bag will also help prevent littering accidents during your climb.

Calvin Rivers

Hey, I’m Calvin Rivers, a climbing veteran with 10+ years on crags and walls around the world. I can’t wait for you to explore our site and fall in love with the outdoors just like I have.

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