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Simple DIY Mini Toilet Paper (WAG) Bags

Technically speaking, a WAG bag is designed to collect human excrement (poop) and allow you to pack it out. In some locations, a WAG bag is required, such as on Mount Rainier or in many desert canyons. But for many backcountry areas, burying poop is still the approved method—but what about the toilet paper (TP)?

I learned several years ago that even if I’m not required to pack out my poop in a particular location, packing out used toilet paper makes a huge difference in the backcountry. In some popular places I’ve visited, used TP litters the ground, which is not only unsightly, but unsanitary as well (who wants to make camp near an open human septic field?).

Burying used TP is not always effective, and burning it is not recommended. And where I live in the American Southwest, the hot and dry climate mummifies even “biodegradable” TP, making it last for years. When I don’t have access to natural TP, my solution has been to create “mini” WAG bags, designed specifically for safely and sanitarily disposing of used TP in the backcountry. Packing out used TP is excellent LNT etiquette.

A single-use mini-WAG consists of two (2) zip-top sandwich bags and four (4) to six (6) squares of TP, depending on your personal taste. Turn one sandwich bag inside out and place it, and the (folded) TP, into the second sandwich bag. Turning the first bag inside-out is a time-saving tip so it is ready to go out of the bag.

In practice, use the inside-out sandwich bag as a “glove” to cover your hand to retrieve the used TP. Carefully grab the TP and turn the sandwich bag right-side-out and zip it closed, enclosing the used TP inside. Place this bag inside the second sandwich bag to double bag it. This sealed bag can join the rest of your trash to be packed out.

Always wash your hands and use a little hand sanitizer to finish!

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Former Trail Ambassador Derek Hansen is the author and illustrator of The Ultimate Hang: An Illustrated Guide to Hammock Camping. He lives with his family in Flagstaff, Arizona. 

11 Responses to Simple DIY Mini Toilet Paper (WAG) Bags

  1. Ava October 10, 2014 at 7:15 am #

    I’ve been using ziplock style sandwich bags to put my used TP since the early 90’s. I learned this from the San Diego Sierra Club. I’ve always wondered why other people didn’t do that also.

  2. Jim Schifrrns October 10, 2014 at 8:03 am #

    Why is burning not recommended? Not recommended by who? Granted there are conditions where it wouldn’t be safe but burning effectively removes all trace and by its very nature sanitary.

    • Carlos Abellanosa July 5, 2015 at 2:31 pm #

      Hi Jim, burning the TP were in mind of anyone; but a) in certain places fire is forbiden, there is a risk to uncontrol the fire, b) it is not easy to burn a compressed ball of TP, and an extremely c) you produce a no natural smoke. The time I did it I realiced it takes long time (on a hike you know your mates are waiting for you and thats quite uncomfortable, indeed if they smell the smoke…) and I was not able to burn it completely. I found there is no problem to carry almost the same thing (but dirty) I was carring before (clean). Best

  3. john brokx October 10, 2014 at 9:59 am #

    I buy the dark brown colored dog-poop bags that you can get at Petsmart. You just pick up toilet paper like you do dog poop, tie-off the top of the bag and stick it in your garbage bag. Because it is opaque you can’t see the offending toilet paper inside. It’s a much more pleasant experience that way.

  4. GummiBear October 10, 2014 at 10:27 am #

    I do the same thing as john. I just put the dog poop bags in my bigger bag. I always have dog poop bags cause I usually hike with my dog and he doesn’t always poop in appropriate 200′ off trail areas so I sometimes end up picking it up and packing it out too.

  5. Jarrett October 12, 2014 at 3:12 pm #

    If I am legally able too, burn bans and all, I will burn my TP in my cat hole. If this is not an option I collect it a doggie bag, I always bring them for my dog, and then put the doggie bag in a larger zip lock bag. Also, you don’t need to turn your bag inside out to grab TP, just wipe and drop the TP in a zip lock or doggie bag and be done with it.

  6. Bruce July 1, 2015 at 9:44 am #

    An alternative to the second zip lock bag is to use an old coffee bag. It has it’s own deodorizer, is strong, easy to open and seal closed, is not see through, and can contain several days of used TP. A larger coffee bag (> 1#) works well for WAG LNT bags too.

  7. Adam Dale Kilpatrick September 3, 2015 at 8:08 pm #

    In Australia its easy to buy very lightweight nappy bags. They tie safely at the top and are excellent. Much lighter, much less material per poop, less environmental impact, some of them are relatively biodegradable too…I shudder looking at the rather heavy weight zip locks mentioned. You could use nappy bags quite successfully. TP is pretty dry, once used it doesn’t flow. So tie top bags are fine. If you are worried, put all your individual poop bags inside one larger zip bag, or something like a silnylon drysack-just wash it quickly by hand at the end of the trip, use again.

  8. Mattox September 4, 2015 at 1:32 pm #

    We just finished the Colorado trail. We bagged out used wipes for the whole trip. It will be our only method for now on. It makes me feel good about leave no trace.

  9. Christy September 5, 2015 at 9:10 pm #

    Here’s a thought. Cover your hand with the inside out sandwich bag while wiping, then you might not have to wash up afterwards.

  10. KW September 8, 2015 at 3:49 pm #

    Why would you toss your used paper on the ground, just to pick it back up with the bag?

    I stand by a system of using primarily natural materials, then a single square of TP for final cleanup if necessary, and dropping that square in your ‘dirty’ bag. One snack size ziploc would be plenty for a month long trip- I can’t fathom why anyone would carry around a whole pile of bags and make a bunch of extra plastic trash for no reason.

    And leaving your paper behind is illegal everywhere in the country- it is littering and is on par with leaving your bar wrappers or any other trash.

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