What to Do with Trash in the Outdoors (Camping and Hiking)

Asian people collecting litter with garbage bag at the national park,tourist pick up trash waste after camping in nature forest,tent and stream in background,caring for environment,ecology protection

When you’re enjoying time in the great outdoors, you may find yourself with trash to dispose of, and there usually aren’t as many trashcans nearby as when you’re indoors. It’s important that you dispose of your trash correctly to protect nature and leave the area nice for other people who want to enjoy it.

While camping or hiking, pack up all trash and food waste into sealable bags and dispose of it in the trail or campsite’s designated dumpster or trash cans. If the trail or campsite does not have a dumpster or trash can, bring the trash home and dispose of it at home or in a city dumpster.

You need to know how to take care of each kind of trash that you might end up with while you’re camping and where you can safely dispose of your garbage.

How to Pack Your Trash Up

You’re going to need to plan ahead when you’re going camping so that you can dispose of your trash properly. You will need to bring some sealable plastic bags to keep trash in. It may seem counterproductive to bring more trash, but sealable bags will be essential to keeping your trash from getting lost or eaten. Freezer bags work great for this.

You also might want to bring a larger garbage bag to keep all of your trash bags together if you’re going to use a lot of them. You will be less likely to lose some of the trash and accidentally leave it behind.

Where to Dispose of Your Trash

Many campsites will have trash cans in the campsite, though a lot of these will require you to empty the trash and bring it with you when you leave. Hiking trails will sometimes have trash cans, but for most, you need to pack up your trash and throw it away after. Hiking trails or campsites will often have a dumpster at the entrance or exit to throw garbage away when you are finished.

Some trails or campsites won’t have any trash cans or dumpsters at all. This means that you will need to pack up all your trash, take it with you, and then throw it away once you return to civilization. You can bring it home and throw it away in your municipal trash bin, or you can put it in a city dumpster. Just make sure that you take all of your trash with you and throw it away properly. Do not litter.

Wrappers and Plastic Containers

littered camping area

When you buy something at the store, chances are it will come in a wrapper or plastic packaging. This is a very common type of waste, and it is definitely not good for the environment if you leave it on the ground.

This type of packaging is not biodegradable, so it will not naturally decompose and become part of the soil. It will just hang around forever. Wrappers and plastic can also be dangerous because an animal may try to eat them, which can injure it or make it sick.

Make sure that you keep track of all of the wrappers and containers. Keep the trash all together in a sealable bag so that you bring it all and none will fall out or blow away. Hold onto your trash, keep it in one place, and throw it away when you get an opportunity.

Don’t ever burn your wrappers or plastic containers in a campfire. Burning plastic can release toxins into the air that are harmful to plants, animals, and people.

Try to limit the number of wrappers and plastic you will bring as much as you can. Take things out of the packaging before you leave on your camping trip. This will make it less likely that you lose a piece of garbage, and it will be less for you to keep track of.

Paper and Cardboard

You may end up with paper or cardboard waste as well as plastic. Some things you buy will come in cardboard boxes. This kind of waste needs to be taken care of as well.

Most cardboard and paper are biodegradable, but it takes a while to fully decompose. During that time, an animal might eat it and get injured or sick. Best case scenario, you’re leaving a bunch of garbage that can ruin someone else’s enjoyment of the trail or campsite. Some paper or cardboard is coated in chemicals that are also not good for the environment and not biodegradable.

Most of the time, you can burn paper or cardboard in a campfire. Many people will bring paper along on camping trips to start fires because it is great kindling. If you’re camping, you’ll more than likely end up building a fire, at which point you can burn your paper or cardboard waste.

Some cardboard or paper is coated in chemicals or wax that should not be burned. You will need to look into the type of materials that the cardboard or paper is made of so that you know whether or not it can be safely burned. Make sure that you plan ahead and figure out how you’re going to dispose of the garbage you bring.

If you can’t burn the cardboard or paper, or if you aren’t starting a fire at any point during your trip, pack up the garbage with the wrappers and plastic containers and throw it away in the designated areas.

Food Waste

Camping happy woman cook food fire tent nature

You may end up with some food waste while you are camping or hiking. It may be just food that you didn’t finish or garbage that came from the food, such as bones or shells.

Food waste is also usually biodegradable. However, it also takes a long time to decompose. Food scraps tend to attract animals, so if you leave them lying around where humans tend to stay or pass through, it will cause problems. Animals will also get sick if they eat something that is outside their normal diet.

Food waste should also be put into a sealed bag and thrown away with the rest of the trash. However, it is extra important that it is sealed tightly into a bag. You don’t want an animal to get into your trash when you aren’t looking. You may want to consider keeping the trash a little bit away from your campsite and high off the ground as you do with storing food. If an animal does come, you don’t want it coming right into your campsite. Just make sure not to forget about it and leave it there.

If you can, try to bring food that isn’t going to have much waste. If you don’t have to deal with food waste, it will be less likely that an animal will get into your trash. You also won’t have to keep track of as much garbage, and you will be that much less likely to accidentally leave it behind.


Though some people use camping as an excuse to skip taking care of their teeth, others like that step even more when camping because it makes them feel cleaner. If you do brush your teeth when camping, you’re also going to have to deal with the toothpaste that you use to clean your teeth.

You can’t just spit your toothpaste out into the bushes. The smell of toothpaste can attract animals to your campsite, which is never fun. It can also be bad for the plants nearby, it can get into a water source, or an animal can eat it and get sick.

When you’ve finished brushing your teeth, spit the toothpaste into a bag and throw it away with the rest of the trash. Make sure to get as much of the toothpaste into the bag as you can when rinsing out your toothbrush too. If a little bit of toothpaste gets on the ground, it’s not a big deal, but try to avoid spilling very much.

You can also get toothpaste that is safe to swallow. This means that you won’t have to worry about disposing of it properly, but you can instead just swallow it and be done with it.

Human Waste

Many campsites will have a bathroom, whether it has a real toilet that flushes or it is just a hole in the ground. These bathrooms may be shared with other campsites too. If your campsite has a bathroom, you won’t need to worry about this.

There are campsites that don’t have bathrooms, which means you’re going to need to plan ahead. Make sure that you go away from your campsite and other campsites to go to the bathroom. Urine and feces can attract animals, and it doesn’t smell good.

When you urinate, you just need to go somewhere that isn’t near a water source or a campsite. Urine doesn’t need to be buried or thrown away. Just be absolutely sure that it isn’t a problem if animals come to investigate the smell.

When you defecate, you are going to need to bury the feces. You should consider bringing a small shovel for this purpose if your campsite doesn’t have a bathroom. Bury the feces about 6 to 8 inches deep. Dig the hole first, squat over it, and bury the feces when you’re done.

If you can’t dig a hole, you’re going to need to pick up the feces in a plastic bag as you do with a dog. You’ll have to dispose of this with the rest of your trash. If you don’t want to have to do this, pick a campsite that has a bathroom.

These rules are the same for hiking. Get a little ways off the trail so that animals don’t come to the trail and other hikers can smell your urine or feces. Also, make sure to stay away from water sources. Again, you’ll need to bury or pack up feces when you’re done.

Don’t forget to bring toilet paper or wipes when you go to the bathroom outside. Some types of toilet paper can be buried in a hole with feces. However, be careful about how to dispose of the toilet paper. More than likely, you’re going to need to pack it into a bag and throw it away with everything else. Baby wipes should be treated the same way; a baby wipe may say it is biodegradable, but there are still often chemicals that make it dangerous to the environment.

Going to the bathroom out in nature is a hassle, so you probably want to avoid it as best you can. If you really need a campsite with a bathroom, make sure to check the website, brochure, etc. if there is a bathroom available. If you don’t want to go to the bathroom on your hike, make sure to go beforehand. Some trails will have a bathroom at the beginning or end of the hike, but just in case, you may want to go to the bathroom at home before you head out.

Women may also have to deal with tampons or pads while camping. The tampon and pad, as well as all of the packaging, are all going to need to be packed up and thrown away with the rest of the garbage; do not burn or bury them. Make sure that you gather the packaging, applicator, and tampon or pad, and don’t leave any of it out to be eaten by an animal. I would recommend avoiding going camping while on your period; it means not only more trash, but more stuff to bring in the first place.

This may seem like a lot of work, but it is very important to dispose of trash properly to protect the environment. Littering is very harmful to plants and animals. You also need to respect the comfort of your fellow campers. How would you like it if you came upon your campsite, only to see that it is covered in trash? Disposing of trash correctly is the best choice for everyone, so make sure that you are doing your best to deal with all the trash that you accumulate.

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