When I headed out to Sea Rim State Park, for my latest in Texas Highways, I knew I would need a WAG bag for the privy. After all, the floating campsite sits on the edge of the marsh, with a sort of chimney where you’ll find a toilet seat tucked away, ready for whatever sort of luggable loo you prefer to use. In turn, WAG if you don’t already now, is an acronym for “waste eliminating gel,” and it helps solidify excrement so it can be easily zipped into a heavy gauge, mostly odor-free plastic bag. Over the past few years, the bags have become a crucial tool for backcountry adventure types who want to take their Leave No Trace (leave no waste?) program to the next level.
Here’s a pretty good breakdown on the topic from my colleagues at Adventure Journal: Burying your poop is out, Bagging it is in (not my work). That said, when this opinion posted on the pubs Facebook page, many readers just about lost their shit, so to speak, at the suggestion they should carry it out. Yet, pathogens in our poop can include Rotavirus, Norwalk Agent virus, Typhoid fever, Cholera, Hepatitis A, a variety of worms, E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella and Vibrio.
So, let me say, after 20 years crisscrossing the country in the search of backcountry fun and adventure, spending time in Texas state parks, some of the finest national parks, running rivers and doing my best to get lost, the topic has become something of an obsession. I’ve literally seen where people have used remote campfire rings as their own personal toilet, and just last month I was standing on the South Rim of the Chisos Mountain in Big Bend and was distracted by fluttering strips of toilet paper like ugly little pennants waving in the breeze. And when the park rangers at Sea Rim asked, I was ready with my WAG bags close at hand.
The bottom line, in a word, is we can do better. Just as we ought to pick up dog feces in the park — something sadly many of my neighbors fail to do, despite the proximity of the dog runs to the playgrounds — and we can make sure to clean up our own stuff, or at least make sure to carry the TP out. Some surfaces, like the rocks and sand of the desert are harder to dig than the forest floor, so a spade comes in handy if you really can’t handle the idea of packing out your crap. That last part is really just so easy, if you are already carrying toilet tissue to add a little ziplock to your pack, and even if you don’t want to grab a WAG, at least you can take your personal “poo tickets” back to the trailhead for proper disposal.
Because, lord knows, with outdoor recreation booming worldwide, we all need to do our part.