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Wag Bag Toilet System (long and scatological)

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A reprise of a previous post that included no photographs. Friends are planning a Green River trip and, instead of renting a heavy diamond plate groover, are interested in carrying an efficient, permit-acceptable wag bag toilet system. For folks who have never used a wag bag system, here goes.

The all-important Wag Bag itself consists of a tall bucket liner bag and a smaller, thicker double zip-locked outer storage bag. That tall bag lines the bucket for waste collection and stays lining the bucket until time to pack up, when it gets sealed inside the thick double zip-lock outer bag.

Inside the bucket liner bag is some powder or gel that solidifies waste and kinda hides the odor. Or maybe the peculiar odor of that gel overpowers everything else; it is almost impossible to get that deodorizer smell out of a plastic bucket. Foxyotter, thanks again for the K.O.E tip, another use for that stuff.

An opened wag bag; they come compactly folded, as thick as a small padded envelope.

P4120004 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Urological hint, do not urinate in wag bags. The recommendation on desert paddles, and coastal/tidal venues, is to urinate directly into the river/bay. I use the pee bottle from the vestibule and empty that into the river, especially on sites where getting from camp to the river is a hike and, hey, look, I still have some beer left.

On group trips we have typically used one wag bag per day. Each morning before we leave camp the inner liner bag is twisted closed and placed inside the double zip locked bag, and that outer bag is then placed inside the smaller screw top bucket for canoe transport. On solo trips, where I may base camp for a few days, a single wag bag will last much longer

Wag bags are widely available.

https://www.rei.com/product/823665/reliance-double-doodie-waste-bags-with-bio-gel

https://www.walmart.com/ip/Ozark-Trail-Double-Doodie-Bags/14550463

The rest of the wag bag bucket system consists of a decently tall, in this case a comfy 14” high, plastic bucket. I replaced the wire bail with a rope and toggle for easier in-canoe storage and carry.

P4120005 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

All that is missing, at least for my un-groovered morning constitutional comfort, is a toilet seat to snap atop the 5 gallon bucket. Gimme some LNT take care of business in comfort anywhere, without imprinting groover lines on my gluteus maximus.

We originally used an old home-toilet seat with a bucket rim groove routed out; that solution was free, but had no lid and weighed 3 ½ lbs. We first used that with a bottomless bucket over a cat hole on trips when my sons were potty training; I’m ok with them peeing in the yard like dad, but had to draw the line somewhere, so we’ve been using some version of that system for 30 years.

P4120009 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Much better, a lighter plastic (1lb 3oz), lidded seat designed for wag bag bucket use. Even with the seat lid lowered I still use a trash bag around the bucket if it looks like rain.

P4120012 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Those snap-on plastic seats are also readily available.

https://www.walmart.com/ip/Emergenc...rvival-Tote-able-Toilet-Seat-and-Lid/47770738

For that matter so are folding plastic wag-bag seat platforms.

https://www.walmart.com/ip/Ozark-Trail-Portable-14-5-Folding-Camp-Toilet/515835105

Eh, no thanks, I’d rather have the all-in-one nestled bucket system, whether group or solo.

One important note about marrying the seat and the bucket. The manufactured plastic seats do not fit on every bucket. Properly affixed the plastic seat actually snaps in place, so you don’t tumble off sideways while swatting a fly. Trust me, the seat needs to be secured unwobble slippable to the bucket rim. Don’t ask.

So you kinda have to buy the lid first, and then wander around with it in hand at Home Depot, testing to find the right bucket J.

The rest of the system consists of a smaller 2 ½ gallon bucket with a gasketed, screw top lid. That smaller bucket is for transporting the accumulated filled wag bags. Western river shuttle services understandably prefer that used wag bags be placed in a hard sided, well sealed container.

P4120014 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

I line the wag bag bucket with a regular garbage bag. More multiplicity than just belt & suspenders; bag in bag in bag in a bucket. I could safely play kick-the-can with that receptacle, and when I dispose of the storage bucket contents I can just grab a single, easily dumpster tossed garbage bag*

Again, on the smaller storage bucket, bail removed for easier storage. That smaller used-wag-bag bucket nestles inside the tall toilet seat bucket. Volume-wise the 2 ½ gallon screw top bucket held wag bagged deposits from a group of 5 for a week. Barely held, I was glad to have the TOILET marked dry bag along, and did resort to using it once towards the end of a multi-week trip.

P4120017 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Because the screw top bucket is 5” shorter than the tall seat bucket there is a handy void at the bottom of the nestle. Handy because that bottom isn’t left as an unfilled void, it holds a small dry bag containing the supply of wag bags, toilet paper, Purell, and bleach powder.

P4120020 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

What the hell, toss a slender volume of reading material in that morning ablutions dry bag as well. Book club discussion over breakfast perhaps. (I had forgotten that quickie poetry read was packed in there with the spare wag bags and TP)

P4120021 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

That in-bucket dry bag can, if necessary, serve as a repository for used wag bags. Permit regulations require that it be labeled “TOILET”. No doubt the shuttle guys don’t want to accidentally crush that bag, creating an excrement explosion on the ride back. I’m all for that precaution; my gear is on that jetboat too.

P4120018 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

With a half dozen virgin wag bags and a roll of toilet paper in the dry bag at the bottom the entire system nestles together like this. The day-zero empty inner bucket doesn’t quite nestle completely; it will a few days into a trip when unused wag bag and TP volume is reduced from the dry bag.

P4120022 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

In camp tuck the seat/lid under your arm and, grab the nestled-bucket toilet system in one hand and seek out a scenic spot. And, in canoe or shuttle transport, there are multiple layers of puncture or leakage protection; liner bag, wag and double zip locked outer bag, wag filled bucket sleeved inside another bucket. I’m confident everything would stay dry and uncontaminating even in a yard sale.

I tend to dislike regulations, but I can live with pack out your waste rules in heavily occupied, permit required sites that otherwise would become a cesspool. And even some places where a portable/peresonal toilet is not required but merely a convenience, sanitary or otherwise. The crapper at one of my favorite coastal sites is a mile walk from my preferred campsite; I’m not making that hike up and back both before and minutes after my morning coffee. And god forbid sudden urgency calls.

Thoroughly “tested and evaluated” on sites all around the country. On lake or coastal waters wee speck of island sites. On all-rock or impenetrable soil sites. On any primitive desert camping site, where nothing biodegrades very fast, whether pack-it-out is required or not.

Even at free/cheap primitive BLM or Nat’l Forest car camper sites. On long travel truck trips, where I don’t know what to expect along the way, I often pack the nestled toilet buckets and some wag bags, just in case. It doesn’t take up much truck storage space and has, so to speak, has saved or at least comforted my ass a few times.

The group “tradition” on some western river trips is for the community toilet to be placed somewhere with a scenic vista, often scenic both for the user and other members of the group viewing the constitutional visits. That may be an issue for the shy or easily embarrassed; they’ll get over it soon enough; if ya gotta go, ya gotta go.

A fragrant field of desert flowers in bloom will do nicely (pre-plastic seat/lid improvement)

P4281926 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Or back in the weeds with a good view. It was windy as hell; the rocks on top are insurance to prevent the toilet bucket from blowing over.

P5061994 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Or sometimes less scenic. And less private. We needed to squeeze a half dozen hypothermic folks onto an already crowded site, so we ended up with a two-holer bathroom amidst the canoes; our bucket and their heavy, diamond plate rental. Eh, which would you rather fit in your canoe?

P5112035 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

If you want to get comfortable around strangers quickly, sit down beside them and drop a load. I so wished I had a newspaper to offer, “You want the sports section?

I’ve also seen paddlers store used wag bags in a length of wide PVC pipe with a screw cap. Especially folks in kayaks with storage space limitations. But in a canoe I like the convenience of the nestled, all-in-one, easy carry buckets.

*Used wag bags can simply go in a dumpster, you know, just like used diapers. Even the shuttle outfitter (Texs) was ok with using their dumpster after a trip long multi-party trip. I did ask first each time. I didn’t inquire about that dumpster behind a Burger King, but did look for cameras.

An odoriferous note on wag bag use and storage. With four layers of protection, garbage bag, inner and outer zip lock bag and screw top bucket, the bucket system is damn near odor free in transport. Diamond plate rentals, depending on the condition of the gasket seal, sometimes not so much.

Sprinkling a little beach powder atop each fresh deposit helps too. That may be the reason it is easy to find bleach powder at grocery stores near western river put ins; when I asked in Moab they led me to it, when I had asked at my home grocery they just looked at me funny.
 
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Yes The scenic view. One fella had a pair of checkered pants. It was hard to miss him on the river. One day he sat on the device on the sandbar perusing nature as we floated by.. I said " good to see ya!"
 
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We all deal with human waste disposal in one way or another when in the field. It isn't difficult but it impacts both you and others and is worth planning for.

I was invited on a 14 day river trip during which we used a toilet system similar to the system Mike described. At the start of the trip members were assigned a group task. My task for the duration of the trip was to retrieve, set up, break down and stow the toilet system. I had never used the system before but the instructions were simple and clear. I recall an anxious moment the first time I broke down the system and packed it up. There were 13 members on the trip, it took place in February with cold morning temperatures and the toilet was one of the last items placed in the raft so that members could use it before donning their dry suits and such before getting on the river. In order to conserve space it is necessary to squeeze the air out of the plastic bag before sealing it closed. The first cold morning that I squeezed the plastic bag I felt the warm mushy texture and assumed that my fingers had punctured the plastic bag when they had not.
 
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Mike, Thanks for writing this up. Never had to anything like this. But think that these kind of measures should be implemented on some of the rivers here in Texas. There are becoming more and more people traveling down them. Not sure how much a defined area can take before it becomes a problem. Seems to be a pretty easy process.
 
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I’ve never had to pack it out. A colleague preferred a bucket in the cargo trailer. I’d rather take the shovel for a walk. A very helpful post for a crappy topic!
 

Glenn MacGrady

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I made one of these from Mike's previous instructions, not for a canoe trip but just for my van when I had a serious GI disease a few years ago.

I can vouch for this caution:

One important note about marrying the seat and the bucket. The manufactured plastic seats do not fit on every bucket. Properly affixed the plastic seat actually snaps in place, so you don’t tumble off sideways while swatting a fly.

So you kinda have to buy the lid first, and then wander around with it in hand at Home Depot, testing to find the right bucket J.

I bought the seat at Walmart but it didn't fit on any of Walmart's 5 gallon buckets. Too tight. I literally did walk around Home Depot with the toilet seat trying to fit it on different buckets, which it finally did.
 
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In addition to the wag bag bucket we, at the request of the females in the group, also take a bright yellow “sunshine” bucket for them to pee in. It is emptied into the river after breaking camp. This lets them avoid having to wade out into the river when it is cold or dark. Woodpuppy- the shovel technique fails badly in heavily used sites where the only places to dig a hole have been used multiple times by previous campers. One of my most vivid memories from an otherwise great trip down the West Branch of the Susquehanna River in PA 35 years ago, is just such a disgusting “dumping ground” next to our campsite. I was surprised at the “pee in the river” instructions when I moved out west but now think that this is far better than having the limited campsites smelling like outhouses. For solo trips a wag bag can be used without a bucket to sit on. The “pack everything out” mandate is essential to maintain the kind of environment we love to trip in.
 
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In addition to the wag bag bucket we, at the request of the females in the group, also take a bright yellow “sunshine” bucket for them to pee in. It is emptied into the river after breaking camp. This lets them avoid having to wade out into the river when it is cold or dark. Woodpuppy- the shovel technique fails badly in heavily used sites where the only places to dig a hole have been used multiple times by previous campers. One of my most vivid memories from an otherwise great trip down the West Branch of the Susquehanna River in PA 35 years ago, is just such a disgusting “dumping ground” next to our campsite. I was surprised at the “pee in the river” instructions when I moved out west but now think that this is far better than having the limited campsites smelling like outhouses. For solo trips a wag bag can be used without a bucket to sit on. The “pack everything out” mandate is essential to maintain the kind of environment we love to trip in.

I’ve not been to these places; my work sites are fairly expansive wildlife management areas. We pack out others’ trash when we find it but I’ve never run into another’s latrine. Except the old archery range property; some dirtbag employee was coming onto the property through a cable gate on the power line ROW to make deposits and left them topped with TP for all to see.
 
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“I’d rather take the shovel for a walk”

Often so would I. But in some places that is not an ethical option:

Where permit required. Nuff said

In dry desert environments, where an offering, buried or not, will last for years.

On rock or impenetrable soil, where a decent cat hole would require dynamite.

Similar to Halpc’s West Branch experience we were family paddling and camped on a small island. It was densely bushy, but there was a trail from camp leading back to an open alcove in the bush. An open alcove that was beyond disgusting with scads of toilet paper “flowers” and half buried excrement.

Had that alcove not been the unethical pooper it would have made a decent tent spot. At least it was visibly a no-no as a tent site; I really don’t want to bed down over a pile of excrement, buried or not.

Mike, Thanks for writing this up. Never had to anything like this. But think that these kind of measures should be implemented on some of the rivers here in Texas. There are becoming more and more people traveling down them. Not sure how much a defined area can take before it becomes a problem. Seems to be a pretty easy process

Agreed (or maybe just “Like”). Again:

“I tend to dislike regulations, but I can live with pack out your waste rules in heavily occupied, permit required sites that otherwise would become a cesspool. And even some places where a portable/personal toilet is not required but merely a convenience, sanitary or otherwise. The crapper at one of my favorite coastal sites is a mile walk from my preferred campsite; I’m not making that hike up and back both before and minutes after my morning coffee. And god forbid sudden urgency calls.”

I clean up sites while I am there, but kinda draw the line at wanting to pick up toilet paper flowers or excavate centimeter deep cat holes left everydamnwhere. For ease of home travel proximity I camp at a lot of established sites, and there are places I simply will not go anymore.

I might prefer, on heavily visited permited sites, that no one have to deal with my waste. Not have to construct and occasionally move a thunderbox, not erect some plastic port-a-john, and pump it out on schedule. And I’ve seen thunder boxes on island sites or narrow peninsulas that were awfully close to the water’s edge.

If that involves some simple and easy pack-your-shit-out strategy, especially on a downriver or no-portage trip, so be it. It’s not that hard.

I realize that without those thunderbox or porta-john “conveniences” even more sites could become cesspools, but perhaps, over time, packing out your poo might become a more routine part LNT ethic.

The complication is that any regulation would require enforcement and oversight. “Quick, pull your pants up, it’s the poop police!”

In places where carrying a toilet is required I’ve never been checked. And in places where a portable toilet is required gear I have not found many TP flowers or barely covered cat holes, so that regulation can work if it becomes accepted practice.
 
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