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More on Answering Nature's Call (When You're Out Enjoying Nature) (10/04)

In July, we advised hikers against urinating in any of the privies along the Long Trail or adjoining trails. We said that hikers should use the woods to pee and “should never leave tissues or toilet paper behind. Bring plastic sandwich bags with you and either carry out paper and sanitary products or burn them in a hot fire at approved fire pits.”

Burlington Section member Pete Saile pointed out two possible sources of confusion:

First, the sentence might suggest that hikers should burn plastic sandwich bags. Don’t! As Pete noted, “it is common knowledge that the burning of plastics releases dioxins into the atmosphere.” For the same reason, hikers should never burn disposable diapers or tampon applicators if there’s any plastic in them.

Second, it’s true that there are approved fire pits at many shelters and tenting areas. Unfortunately, not everyone uses these pits well. If you feel you have to burn something, make sure every single scrap is burned. Pete is a shelter adopter, and many times he’s retrieved plastic, glass, bottle caps and paper that weren’t fully burned and were left in the fire pit. Leaving garbage behind in a fire pit is exactly the same as leaving garbage around anywhere else. (Pete also reminded us that some shelters are designated "No Fire" areas. Hikers can enjoy evening campfires at the many shelters that do have fire pits but should never burn anything in areas without an official pit.)

So – yes, there are fire pits, and yes, hikers can use them. But the best use of the pits is to have a nice, cozy wood fire at the end of a day of hiking. As for garbage and waste, it’s always best to pack out everything that came with you into the woods.