It's all about Leaving No Trace - LNT
We practice LNT in all our backcountry activities. It's not just about poop and being clan and polite. There's a whole mode of operation to adopt. If you haven't heard of them, here's some refresher links:
The Leave No Trace organization
I don’t know about you, but I really wonder just how much actual data went into the usual cathole recommendations. It's ABSOLUTELY TRUE that we need to bury our poop in the outdoors. But, are we being told to dig a hole 6” to 8” deep just to be sure we make one 4” to 5” deep? Or does the hole really need to be that deep? Maybe there's a fudge factor built in to accommodate, er, shape and structure? And, leaving aside heavily used areas, is there anything really wrong with the turn-over-a-rock latrine style? (Actually, YES.) So many questions looking for good, sound, definitive, unbiased answers…
Cilimburg, A., Monz C. & Kehoe, S. 1997. Wildland recreation and human waste: A review of problems, practices and concerns. Unpublished manuscript, National Outdoor Leadership School, Lander, WY. 31pp.
Searching for Toilet Paper info:Here’s something pretty definitive: TP under a rock does NOT degrade well. Burial in dirt is very preferred (but maybe not too deeply).
Here’s a fun article about using leaves and stuff as toilet paper.
What about coprophagic animals - ones that eat poop? (Besides eeeeeeeew!) Lots of statements like, “Since animals will often dig up cat holes and scatter the toilet paper...” with no studies cited. Yes, we all know that animals of some kind can accost cat-holes but WHAT animals and WHY and especially HOW OFTEN? Is it too much to ask see a study or two that directly and rigorously address these questions?.
Composting - The Humanure Handbook
Smearing? Who ever thought this was a good idea?
Ells, Michael D., Lee, Kathryn J. 2000. The fate of feces and fecal microorganisms in human waste deposited on snow and smeared on rocks in the alpine environment. National Outdoor Leadership School, National Park Service, Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, Ferris State University. 54p.