Col­umn: Mary-Ann Ochota

Trail (UK) - - CONTENTS -

Is wild camp hy­giene at rock bot­tom?

It’s a glo­ri­ous day in the

Peak Dis­trict. Hazy, sweaty, sat­is­fy­ing. We’ve just toiled up Ja­cob’s Lad­der and we plop down at the side of the path to take a breather. I shrug off my ruck­sack and lean back. Ah, bliss. But then, a smell. A hor­rid smell. That tangy, dis­tinc­tive pub­lic-toi­let-that-some­one-didn’t-flush smell. I look to my right and about two inches from where my ruck­sack rests is a small rock on top of a pile of pink toi­let paper and what was clearly the con­tents of some­one’s bowel. Right. Next. To. The. Path. Right next to my ruck­sack. Right next to me.

I leap up, grab my bag and stag­ger back­wards. I feel soiled, even though I didn’t touch the mess. Even now, on the other side of the path I can feel the stink in my nos­trils and can see the pink paper and the streaks of… well. Enough said. Maybe they were caught short. But so short that they couldn’t even get away from the path? But did have the time and in­cli­na­tion to find the An­drex? And then didn’t have enough time to stick around and deal with their de­posit?! Pfft.

I thought Poo-Gate was an ex­cep­tion, an aber­ra­tion. But then at a re­cent lec­ture on hill­walk­ing first aid, the speaker – a mem­ber of the lo­cal moun­tain res­cue team and a GP – cau­tioned us against ever drink­ing hill­side wa­ter that hasn’t been fil­tered or treated, es­pe­cially from those ‘un­spoilt’ Lake­land tarns. Why? Be­cause so many peo­ple don’t deal with their waste prop­erly that gi­a­r­dia­sis is now en­demic. That’s the bac­te­rial in­fec­tion that can give you painful, stinky di­ar­rhoea for a week or more. How do you get it? The NHS web­site cuts to the chase – “you can be­come in­fected if small bits of poo from an in­fected per­son get in your mouth.”

Most peo­ple act re­spon­si­bly. They carry a small bag stashed in their ruck­sack con­tain­ing loo roll, hand sani­tiser and, cru­cially, a trowel to bury their waste. My trowel is plas­tic, from Home­base and cost £1.50. No, you might not be plan­ning on need­ing a dump – but if you do, for the sake of a cou­ple of hun­dred grams and for the sake of your fel­low hill­walk­ers, please be pre­pared. Move at least 50m from paths and wa­ter cour­ses. Dig a hole at least six inches deep, and wide enough that you’re not go­ing to miss. Do your busi­ness in the hole, then back­fill it, care­ful to keep your trowel out of the waste – the trowel is for the clean soil, not for shov­el­ling your Num­ber 2.

If you’re with a group of new­bies, kids or your fam­ily, brief them in ad­vance. Maybe agree on a toi­let­ing lo­ca­tion and if you’re wild camp­ing, you could even pre-dig holes that evening, ready for the morn­ing. If you’re shar­ing a toi­let bag, put it some­where that every­one can reach dis­creetly, with­out feel­ing em­bar­rassed. And if you’re some­where rocky or frozen, make al­ter­na­tive plans to carry your waste out with you. Yes, hu­man waste is or­ganic and will biode­grade. But be­fore that – un­less it’s buried prop­erly – small bits of poo could get in some­one’s mouth. Which is def­i­nitely not okay.

“I feel soiled, even though I didn’t touch the mess”

Dig a hole, peo­ple – you know it makes sense.

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