pooping on islands

I’m more of a backpacker but have done a few overnight paddling trips. So far, I’ve yet to have had the earge dig a hole. If I need to dig a hole on a small island, how do you do it? If its impossible to find a spot 50ft (or is it yards) away from water, What next? Do you bring gallon ziplocks for carrying it out and how do you do it… Do you just hover over the open bag or is there some devise available that makes it easier yet is nice and small for packing purposes? On a comercial rafting trip we had an aluminum potty, but that is obviously not an option on a kayak where space is limited (I kayak and not canoe, BTW).

So basically, I know the process while backpacking but not paddling… Please teach me.


May I suggest…




good luck!

small island pooping
The generalrule of thumb is don’t doo it. Paddle to the nearest mainland and do your business there.

Poop and Pack

– Last Updated: Oct-08-05 6:30 PM EST –

If you can't avoid dropping your drawers, poop and pack it out would be the best alternative.

I used to be the type of person (before a lot of my backcountry experience) that thought it was ok to dig a cat hole and leave the toilet paper in the hole and bury the mess. That was until I really understood the environmental impact.

I suggest picking up the book "How to Shit in the Woods." May sound stupid, and I couldn't believe it existed, but it truly offers a ton of advice on how to do it properly!

Try this

poop kit
it’s fascinating in it’s own gross way…we made a poop kit…in that dry bag are toilet paper and baby wipes and folded newspaper and one large gallon ziploc bags and lots of smaller ziploc bags and a large dark ems bag.

you spread the newspaper on the ground and do your business…use appropriate cleaning supplies and wear the gloves if so inclined…fold the paper up and around the waste and then place in ziploc bag…last thing in ziploc is the now pealed off disposable gloves. that ziploc bag goes into a larger ziploc (it’ll hold 3 or 4 depending) and then that bag goes into the dark ems bag…

the poop kit supplies go back into the dry bag for the next use and the ems bag is now separated and stashed in some lucky paddlers hatch.

when we get to shore, the ziplocs need to be emptied and then broken up and flushed or placed in appropriate receptacle if you are dealing with a campground or outfitter prepared to deal with human waste.

another method is going below the high tide line…it’s an option but really, do you want to do that in the same water than you are paddlng in? yeah, yeah, it’s a tiny amount in a real big ocean but i still have a hard time with it…what if everyone did that?

don’t bury your waste on islands - they have limited resources can’t support than kind of use…

I used to use the wrap it and pack it
method described here: http://www.wetdawg.com/pages/wrap0503.html.

But now I have switched to the poop tube method described here: http://www.fastq.com/~jrschroeder/poop.htm.

Either way if you bring it in, you need to take it out. No exceptions.

That island is unsuitable for camping on
If you can’t get safe pooping distance from the water, then you’re camped on the wrong island. Move to the mainland, or a larger island.

Islands suck anyway. They’re picked clean of firewood. They don’t offer any more protection than the mainland, unless they’re a few kilometers from shore.

picked clean of firewood?
up this a-ways on the islands off of maine, we as ecologically sensitive kayak tree hugger types try to leave no trace…this includes not only packing out the poop but not having a fire.

the islands are mostly just rock with a thin layer of topsoil…little ground for the tree’s to grow on in the first place and in burning that wood, you decrease the usable biomass…besides which, you could start a fire in those roots that are right below that this surface soil, not know it, and have a huge impact.

Make a poop pipe
BLM published instructions for making a small portable toilet (suitable for carrying in/on a kayak) out of PVC pipe. Cheap, and easy to make. I don’t have the URL but search on “Rogue River” and “toilet” and the link should come up.

You could also buy a commercial “boom box” but these are boxy and big. Big enough for 2 people for at least a week.

Good ideas
Try just using the Wag Bags that are used with the Pett system. You really don’t need the seat part.

I like that PVC idea.

in some places it has become LAW to pack your own toilet kit…

one place that i know of is the 150 mile long “National Wild and Scenic River section” on the upper Missouri river. here, even tho there are “privy’s” at designated campsites along the entire section, all paddlers are required by a new BLM law to carry a toilet kit… they suggest a kit for a week per person…LMAO… we never had to use our kits as the privys were enough… go figure. Kits can be purchased at any of the Canoe outfitters in FortBenton

also the kits contain chemicals to “add” so ya can toss in any dumpster

I second the WAG bags

– Last Updated: Oct-20-05 12:21 PM EST –

I built and used a "torpedo toilet", but when I tried the WAG bags I retired it. Mind you, I have not used WAGS for multi-day trips, just overnights and day, so I cannot vouch for how they travel day after day. Just make sure to pack some extra paper.


I have first hand experience with small islands where catholes are impossible to dig. We named one in the Kippawa Reserve "Ile de Feces". (sorry for the poor French)

Good on ya!

I used a Home Depot welding rod
holder. It cannot be through-washed, but it is water tight and secure.

One minor technical note. I used the tube for a two night solo run of Dolores Slickrock Canyon, and I did not empty it until I returned to Atlanta. By that time the contents were pretty hard, and needed some soak time in order not to risk jamming a home toilet.

Just thought you’d want to know.

Wag Bags
The only way to ‘go’.

I know a lot of people are going to dislike this but dose the enviromental impact of most pooping require the introduction to the planet of all this plastic material that will be here poluting the earth for thousands of years to come. Think; What happens to that poop bag over the years. And throw in a set of gloves to boot.

choose something degradable
The PVC tube-style pooper doesn’t add any plastic extra environmental waste. If you empty it into your toilet and clean it out afterwards, you can use it over and over with no plastic waste. Another great product is the WAG bags that we use on longer, group trips. The materials are biodegradable and break down in the landfill.

pvc isn’t biodigradable. I have never seen a wag bag. But I imagine that it would be biodigradable in the landfill over many many years. And as it biodigrades you are adding this same “poloution” to the enviroment. More to the point. I see a lot of legal requirement on this subject. I know you probably don’t have a “holding tank” on your kayak. But it is required on any boat with a head in my local waters. If all the time and money that went in to installing and maintaining these systems along with installing and maintaining pump out stations were spent on actual sewage treatment I think that we would all be better off. And often the cost and/or inconvience of the requirments causes the “offender” to just go underground instead of utilizing more comon sence solutions. The majority of water pollution comes from farm runoff or other industrial or even city facilities. And as I paddle is see tons of garbage in the water. I respect and even admire your concern and dedicaton. Please do not take this as any type of criticitizm. I just wonder if the same level of dedication along other avenues would be more effective overall. After all fish and animals and especially birds do not use these devices.

So What do you suggest we use?
You obviously aren’t a fan of any known human waste disposal system. What do you suggest people do when out in the wilderness? Or should we all just stay home and flush?