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Waste Disposal

Disposal of Human Waste and Food Remains

Bury these under a 4-inch soil cover out of the main camping area, and at least 100 feet from water. Shallow burial ensures rapid decomposition. If you have a lot of biodegradable waste, dig several cat holes to reduce the volume of waste in a given spot.

Do not scatter foodstuffs on the surface of the ground with the thought that animals will eat it. They surely will! And they’ll bring their friends, again and again, often becoming vicious if they haven’t gotten their fill.

Some campers cache their food in a tree to keep it out of reach of determined black bears. This is a good idea providing you don’t use the same tree as everyone else! Bears are creatures of habit; once fed at a certain spot, they’ll be back for more. And they’re very adept at getting food packs down from trees. If they can’t smell your food, they won’t get it. Just seal your food in plastic so there are no odors, then set it in the woods (or tree it, if you prefer), well out of the immediate campsite.

Remember, too, that through classical conditioning, animals learn to associate certain containers with the presence of food. How else can you explain why bears bite open clothes packs and tin cans (no odor here)? For this reason, you should keep traditional food containers outof- sight.

Fish remains should not be thrown into a lake or river under the guise that “fish or turtles will get ‘em.” Viscera breed bacteria (a health concern) that use up the oxygen for fish and aquatic life—the reason why you should always bury these products.

Note: Never throw biodegradables into outhouses or Forest Service box latrines. Bears will knock box latrines off their foundations to get at the food inside!

Cans, Foil, and Other Non-Biodegradables

You brought ‘em in, you pack ‘em out. Standard procedure is to... flatten (the tin cans) with a rock, then carry them home.


From the book Basic Illustrated Cooking in the Outdoors, by Cliff Jacobson. Copyright © 2008 by Cliff Jacobson. Used by permission of FalconGuides, a division of Globe Pequot Press. Visit

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