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Old 06-10-2014   #1
Castle Rock, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Jul 2013
Posts: 321
seeking the truth on wag bags

I hesitate to start this, but MB is likely to be the only place where people have direct experience.

I own a 20mm rocketbox based eco-safe toilet system I have used for close to 20 years. It does its thing, and generally pretty well. It is, however, heavy, and when you do a sanitary job with the seat, involves two rocket boxes, that must be hauled, and strapped, and stored, and dumped, etc. I have thought that one of these little wag bag systems might be a lighter, lower profile alternative.

Enter the BLM. On pretty much every river info site I look at, the BLM seems to look dimly on that option. I know day trippers that swear they can take theirs anywhere, dispose of the poo easily, and that it's all blessed by the feds. My reading is that is not so.

So with what is probably naive optimism, I seek the prevailing wisdom on packing a load, particularly with the new baggy type systems.

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Old 06-10-2014   #2
Ashland, Oregon
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BLM on Rogue River allows them, as long as you put used Wag Bags into a hard sided, waterproof, gasket lid container.

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Old 06-10-2014   #3
cataraftgirl's Avatar
Sandy, Utah
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Originally Posted by daveb1 View Post
BLM on Rogue River allows them, as long as you put used Wag Bags into a hard sided, waterproof, gasket lid container.
I have heard similar on the Main Salmon, but this was second hand info, so can't confirm. I used them on a recent 4 day Southfork Snake trip for the first time. My feelings on them are mixed. I think they are great for short trips, but I doubt I'd use them on a weeklong trip. They do an ok job with odor control, but not great. They don't pack down very small. We were a group of 4, 2 adults and 2 kids. We used a new bag each day. Since I was the one who wanted to try them out, I was on groover duty each day. Getting one days worth of "stuff" tightly compacted and into the large sturdy zip lock bag wasn't easy. I'd almost go with two bags per day, and more depending on group size. That would get pricey and take up a lot of room in whatever container you are transporting them in. You definitely want the used bags in a sturdy container. On the positive side, it was nice to put them in the dumpster at the takeout, instead of playing the 4 inch RV dump station game. I will use them for short trips, with a small group, and no scat machine.
"We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love....and then we return home."
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Old 06-10-2014   #4
laterwagged's Avatar
Portland, Oregon
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Join Date: Sep 2011
Posts: 247
Something that often gets left out of this conversation:

Wag bags do two things that I don't find optimal.

1. They basically encourage the use of the portable waste system to handle urine, which can increase the volume of waste you are packing by a huge factor. Particularly if you have a lot of ladies on your trip as they seem to tend to have a harder time...shall we say....differentiating their waste processes. Leaving your pee in the wilderness isn't optimal, but as a water scientist I know that the "solution to pollution is dilution" is a mantra for good reason. Pee is a very small impact - and in most cases a reasonable trade-off for allowing use in sensitive areas.

2. Wag bags are meant to enter the landfill, whereas your current ecosafe system puts the waste "where it belongs" in the wastewater system where it can be treated. yes I know there are other bad things in the landfill...but adding to the problem is not a solution. Again, my background in the water sciences informs this opinion. Poo is a biohazard, and having it enter the groundwater in a landfill when there is another solution that avoids this completely seems....foolish.

I own ecosafe, and recently used the cleanwaste system (Wag bags). It was convenient, but I also note that we packed out a lot more waste than we would have with the ecosafe system for the same group.

Also, you have to put the used bags somewhere, I assume many folks use a gamma seal bucket or similar - but the bucket (or whatever) combined with the cleanwaste toilet system itself will not be much of a space savings on a boat. The cleanwaste toilet is pretty well made, but certainly isn't going to take the abuse that a rocket box will...
but can you see its opposition | comes a-rising up sometimes | that it's dreadful and position | comes blacking in my mind | ....and then I see a darkness
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Old 06-10-2014   #5
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BZN, Montana
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You aren't supposed to pee in the wag bags. I used them in my kayak without the stand and it worked alright. If carrying a rocket box was an option I would easily do that instead.
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Old 06-10-2014   #6
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1975
Join Date: Oct 2007
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sweet, another buzz poo thread...

fwiw, I've used them on 3 person or less ~week long fishing type trips on MFS, Hells Canyon, Selway, ect without issue from rangers or use. Just call/email the rangers and ask for the bottom line if it is legal or not before any permit trip. If it's not a permit trip, I wouldn't even ask. You are packing it out and it's legit. Now if you show up with one 5 gallon gamma lid bucket, 15 people and 100 wag bags this will probably play out abit different with a ranger from my impressions for obvious reasons.

With these small groups, we don't even share a poo bag. Everybody gets enough for the week. One poop, one bag. No starring at someone else's last nights taco bell damage. People on my small trips like it anyway. Less gross, no fuss or muss. Dump it in the hotel dumpster at the end of the trip. Done. Fuck it. Next.
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Old 06-10-2014   #7
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Bayfield, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2007
Join Date: May 2014
Posts: 15
I actually prefer them. You aren't hovering over 25 stinky loads stewin' on a hot day... More like 4 or five. The odor control is a huge factor. They take up about the same amount of space. As for the cost, Walmart sells thicker bags with more capacity and better zippers for 1/3 of the price. Just look for them in the camping section.
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Old 06-10-2014   #8
Outdoor Recreation
Silt, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 34
It is highly recommended to pack out all solid human and pet waste from the river corridor along BLM public lands.

Please set up an approved portable toilet as soon as practical upon arriving at the campsite. The toilet system should be adequate for the size of the group and the length of the trip. Using approved toilets and bags will reduce the risk of spills if in a leak-proof, animal-proof, hard-sided container with a screw-on or ratchet-locking lid.

Approved Portable Toilet Definition: Any non-biodegradable, durable container designed to receive and hold human waste in any container position without leaking, equipped with a dumping system that allows the container to be emptied into a stander receiving or dump system designed for that purpose (such as a SCAT machine or recreational vehicle dump station) in a sanitary manner, without spills, seepage, or human exposure to human waste or any approved biodegradable landfill-approved bag system designed for landfill disposal (such as a “WAG” bag).

Please call the BLM - Colorado River Valley Field Office at (970) 876-9000 if you have any additional questions. Thank you.
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Old 06-10-2014   #9
Andy H.'s Avatar
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
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Originally Posted by upshitscreek View Post
sweet, another buzz poo thread...
considering your user name..., well, oh, never mind, just forget it....
Nothing in the world is more yielding and gentle than water. Yet it has no equal for conquering the resistant and tough. The flexible can overcome the unbending; the soft can overcome the hard. - Lao Tse
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Old 06-10-2014   #10
Moab, Utah
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 41
In Westwater Canyon, the 'Daily' section of the Colorado River as well as along the lower Dolores (Gateway to Dewey Bridge) and Labyrinth Canyon of the Green River 'Wag bags' are a viable option. It is critical to note that once the bag is used they must be contained within a washable, re-usable, leak proof container (not a dry bag).

Previous posts make good points about the odor control and landfill reality that should be considered when choosing which type of containment system to use: a 'bag' type system versus a rocket box type system. I encourage you to consider the group size and the length of the trip when rigging for your future river trips.

Jennifer Jones
Outdoor Recreation Planner Moab BLM
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