Let's talk $#!T!

The outdoor areas around Durango, Colorado are getting stinky. Between pets and people, poop is ever present in our forests, trail systems, and wilderness areas. Nothing kills the vibes of being outside faster than stumbling upon waste or toilet paper.

Surprisingly, there is a lot of confusion and mystery around how to be a good steward regarding going number #2.

That's why the team at Visit Durango, Durango Trails, San Juan Mountains Association, and La Plata Open Space Conservancy have put together a guide on the right way to poop outside!

Why You Should Poop the Right Way Outside

A dog lays down next to a wag bag portable outdoor restroom

Before we dive deep into the 'do's and don'ts', it's crucial to understand why hitting the mark on this matter is more than a courtesy—it's essential for our environment and health.

Protects Wildlife

Proper waste disposal is critical in protecting wildlife. Wild animals might mistake human waste and toilet paper for food, leading to ingestion of harmful bacteria and chemicals. This can cause diseases and disruptions in their digestive systems, proving fatal.

Furthermore, the presence of feces can alter the natural behaviors of wildlife, discouraging them from accessing essential water sources or their natural habitats, due to the pollution and the unnatural scents it introduces.

Keeps the Trails and Backcountry Clean

Proper disposal and etiquette regarding poop keeps our trails and backcountry clean. It also ensures that fellow hikers, bikers, and outdoor enthusiasts can continue to enjoy these beautiful spaces without encountering unpleasant surprises.

Imagine walking in the Chicago Basin or Hermosa Flats, surrounded by the towering Needle Mountains and Columbine flowers, only to have the experience marred by unsightly toilet paper or worse, human or dog poop.

Prevents Contamination

Human waste is full of harmful bacteria and pathogens that can contaminate water sources, leading to pollution and health hazards.

These contaminants can cause severe illnesses such as giardiasis and cryptosporidiosis, which can be dangerous, especially for children and those with weakened immune systems.

Protects the Water Sources for All

As they say, "$#!T runs downhill." And downhill offer means into the local water system!

Protecting our water sources might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you're answering nature's call outdoors, but it's a crucial consideration.

When thoughtlessly disposed of, poop seeps into the ground and finds its way into the water table or directly into water bodies, carrying pathogens and bacteria along with it.

Proper disposal of waste, like using biodegradable toilet paper or, even better, packing out what you bring in, can help prevent the contamination of our beautiful rivers, and lakes.

Is Part of the “Leave No Trace” Principles

Adhering to good poop etiquette outdoors directly aligns with the "Leave No Trace" principles, a set of outdoor ethics promoting conservation and responsible outdoor practices.

The "Leave No Trace" principles emphasize minimizing human impact on the environment, including properly disposing of waste.

How To Poop The Right Way Outside

Now that you understand why it's essential to have good poop etiquette, let's get into the proper ways to go number #2 outside.

Use a Wag Bag

a smiling dog sits down on a wag bag

One of the simplest and most environmentally friendly methods for dealing with poop outdoors is using a Wag Bag. A Wag Bag is a portable, leak-proof, and biodegradable toilet kit designed to safely contain and neutralize human waste.

Here's how to use it:

  1. First, find a private spot away from trails, water sources, and campsites.

  2. Open the Wag Bag kit, which typically includes a waste bag with a gel that solidifies liquid and neutralizes odor, a zip-close disposal bag, toilet paper, and a hand sanitizer.

  3. After doing your business directly into the bag, use the toilet paper provided and then seal the waste bag.

  4. Pack it out! Secure the Wag Bag to the outside of your pack.

Most importantly-dispose of it in a trash can! Take it with you- don't leave it on the trail for the poop fairies to take away.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, poop fairies don't exist. You have to dispose of your Wag Bag on your own.

If You Don’t Have a Wag Bag, Dig a Deep Cathole

dog on a leash wearing a vest holds a small shovel in its mouth

Sometimes, you're caught without a Wag Bag, but nature calls urgently. In such cases, digging a proper cathole is your best bet.

Here's how you do it right:

  1. First, find a secluded spot at least 200 feet away from water sources, trails, and campsites to avoid contamination. 

  2. Dig a hole 6 to 8 inches deep with a small trowel– this depth ensures that your waste can decompose properly, minimizing its impact on the environment.

  3. Once your business is done, cover the cathole with the original dirt, patting it down to leave no trace.

Depth is the key with digging a cathole. Dig a deep enough hole to protect water quality and prevent animals from digging it back up from being too close to the surface.

If you don’t have a trowl stop by San Juan National Forest Office in Durango and Purchase a Pact Lite kit,  an all in one backcountry bathroom kit for digging a cathole and burying your poop.

Pack Out Your Toilet Paper- No Exceptions!

dog on leash wearing vest shakes a ziplock bag in its mouth

One of the most common misconceptions is that common toilet paper is biodegradable. That couldn't be further from the truth!

Toilet paper takes 1-3 years to decompose- much longer in cold and wet environments like the ones found around Durango!

Packing out your toilet paper isn't as hard (or gross as you expect):

  1. Do your business with either a Wag Bag or cathole

  2. Take your toilet paper and pack it into a plastic ziplock bag

  3. Put the bag in an outside pocket of your pack

Don't leave your toilet paper under a rock! Toilet paper is trash! Pack it out!

Bonus Tip- Pee on Rocks, Not Plants

Did you know a lot of our backcountry friends like mountain goats and marmots like the taste of your pee?

To collect salt, numerous critters will dig at areas where humans or pets have urinated. Therefore, you should always urinate on rocks rather than on plants or vegetation. This encourages animals to focus on rocks, preserving sensitive plant life from potential damage.


Dog on a leash walking

Responsible and thoughtful disposal of your poop outdoors preserves the natural beauty and safety of Durango forests, river systems, and wilderness areas.

By practicing proper poop etiquette and leaving no trace, you can protect our water sources, prevent contamination, and minimize our impact on the environment.

So next time you're exploring the great outdoors and you've got number #2 on the mind, be sure to utilize that Wag Bag, trowel, and always pack out your toilet paper!