For many years camping has been a means to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature. Some of us go camping to revitalize our relationships and others consider it a tradition that’s passed on down from generation to generation. Camping is a way for us to explore nature, improve our health, and develop life skills.

Unfortunately with the growing number of campers and boondockers there is also an increasing amount of trash that is produced. In order to keep our lands clean and accessible to future generations we need to properly dispose of our trash. Campground or boondocking etiquette should always be utilized.

‘Pack it in. Pack it out’ is key when it comes to backcountry travel. This common saying simply means that nothing should be left behind. Boondocking or camping areas should be left cleaner than how you found them.

This simple guide should be used to educate fellow boondockers and campers on the ways to properly dispose of trash and waste.

Prepare Before You Go

Before you set off on your trip it’s highly recommended to plan and prepare. Removing wrappers and tags from food and gear can eliminate a good deal of waste. Using your creativity when it comes to food storage can be very beneficial in the long run.

Emptying food from wrappers or containers into freezer bags can greatly reduce waste and freezer bags can be re-used for trash and scraps afterwards. Another great idea is to pack all ingredients for a meal into a sealed container or bag to eliminate excess waste.

Food Scraps

The food that we bring will not all be used or eaten. Sometimes food is accidentally dropped and other times you get too full and decide not to finish it all. There may even be shells or skins leftover from specific foods. Food scraps that are left over should be properly disposed of. Some think that it’s thoughtful to leave food behind for animals but that can disrupt their natural habitat and some may even get sick since it’s not a part of their usual diet.

Food scraps should be placed in sealed containers or bags. While food scraps are biodegradable, it takes a long time for them to break down so they shouldn’t be left behind. Pack out all your food scraps until you reach a dumpster or proper disposal area.

Organic food scraps are great for composting as well. If you know someone that allows the dropping off of composting material then that could be a way to dispose of your food scraps too. A simple online search with your phone could help you locate dumpsters and/or composting drop-off areas.

Toothpaste

Spitting toothpaste out on the ground may seem like a harmless act but it can attract animals and insects. Toothpaste isn’t meant to be ingested and could potentially lead to unpleasant situations. You should brush your teeth away from campsites, trails, and water sources. It should be disposed of with your food scraps or other trash in sealed containers or bags.

Wrappers and Containers

It’s best to prepare food items before you head out on your trip to minimize the amount of wrappers and containers you bring with you. Never throw plastic, glass, or foil into a campfire because they do not break down and can cause hazards for future campers and boondockers. Any wrappers or containers that you have leftover should be placed in sealable bags or containers. Freezer bags are great for this purpose because they’re flexible and are less likely to rip or tear.

Paper and Cardboard

Most of us campers and boondockers make fires to keep warm and to cook our food. Luckily, most paper and cardboard products can be disposed of by burning them. Certain products that contain ink or plastic coatings probably aren’t best to burn but all other paper and cardboard materials should be safe to dispose of in the fire.

Human Waste

It’s very important to dispose of human waste properly to protect water sources and other people. If you are at a campground then you may not have to worry so much about bodily waste because some of them have restrooms and RV dump stations.

If your vehicle has a black water tank then you should properly dispose of your waste at designated dump stations. It is never ok to dump your waste into or near any body of water or human activity! You can also check if the dump station has a dumpster for trash removal (some do for your convenience).

Urine is generally considered to be sterile so in most cases it is okay to urinate on the ground away from any water sources, campsites, or trails. Keep in mind that wildlife can be attracted to urine so it’s not recommended to stay in that area after you do your business.

If you have to go “Number Two” then you can either go in a 6 inch dug hole and bury it or you can dispose of it in a plastic bag just like you would with a dog’s feces. An easy way to relieve yourself is “the bucket system”. Simply place a trash bag inside a bucket and use cat litter, sawdust, or wood chips to cover your “business”. Please use a tight fitting lid to keep malodorous fumes at bay. If you plan on burying your waste then make sure you do so away from any campsites, water sources, or areas of human activity.

Remember to properly dispose of your wipes or toilet paper material. Most wipes and toilet paper isn’t biodegradable so dispose of it with the rest of your food scraps or trash. The same goes for feminine hygiene products.

Grey Water

Grey water is considered water leftover from your shower, bathroom sink, kitchen sink, or other sources not going down the toilet. Although it may seem safe to dump grey water wherever it is actually best practice to dispose of it properly. In most cases it is okay to dump grey water in open, public BLM spaces used for dispersed camping but it could be illegal in other areas so make sure you check your local laws and regulations.

RV dump stations are the most common places to dispose of grey water. These can generally be found at RV parks across the nation. Certain parks have designated areas for grey water dumping as well.

Since grey water can contain organic and inorganic particles it’s best to use a filter to separate the particles from the water. The leftover particles can then be disposed of with your food scraps or other trash.

If you have to dump your grey water on the ground make sure that you do it away from trails, campsites, or areas where there is human activity. Keep in mind that your dishwater could contain grease or harmful chemicals from soap and other cleaners. This could be harmful to wildlife, trees, plants, and water sources in the area.

Where Can I Dispose of my Trash?

Depending on where you are you may not have access to landfills or large dumpsters. If you have smaller amounts of trash then it’s normally okay to dispose of it at gas stations or stores but please go in and purchase something to show respect for their efforts of placing trash cans around.

You can easily find places to dispose of your trash by using your phone to search for landfills, parks, RV dump stations, or other disposal sites.

Always make sure you leave nature better than you found it. Leave no trace! Preparing before you head out camping or boondocking can greatly minimize the impact you have on the natural environment.
If you notice trash somewhere, always be sure to pick it up and properly dispose of it if you have room.

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