Talking Sh*t: Don’t Ride into the Backcountry Without This Poop Kit

Human waste is full of bacteria and viruses that can take years to decompose. This kit is designed to make backcountry bathroom breaks better.
Photos courtesy of PACT unless otherwise noted.

Let’s talk about poo. If you are reading this publication, you are “outdoorsy.” If you are outdoorsy you may have noticed a profusion of poop across the landscape over the past decade, but certainly over these last 2.5 pandemic years. Behind that rock, tree, log — even in a bog, one now finds the ubiquitous toilet paper flower. Of course it is always someone else — I would never do that, and surely friend, neither would you. But it’s kind of like traffic, right? Where’d all this damned traffic come from?? *Ahem* You ARE traffic. 

Everybody poops. Nobody wants to talk about it. But you’re in luck. This writer has the sense of humor of an eight-year-old adolescent boy so this assignment brings me great joy (I may not be able to stop the rhymes/puns/flat bad jokes. Sorry.) On a recent press trip to grind gravel in Gunnison County, Colorado, sponsored by the Gunnison-Crested Butte (a.k.a. Crusty Butt—ha!) Tourism and Prosperity Partnership (TAPP), we were invited to a mixer at the ICE Lab at Western Colorado University, a business incubator/accelerator and co-working space. A handful of startup companies in the outdoor and recreation space showed off their products ranging from local wine and spirits, a startlingly good instant coffee (First Ascent Coffee), and She Fly pants with a zippered crotch for the ladies to more easily pee (hmm, I’m sensing a theme here…). 

But the product that most intrigued me was the portable bathroom kit by PACT. In her two-minute pitch, Heidi Schum told us what we already knew — that the number of Americans accessing the outdoors during 2019 and 2020 had increased by orders of magnitude. As we also know, many public restrooms were closed due to the pandemic, but that didn’t stop people from coming — or from “going.” She then implored us to think about the real and widespread impacts of all that excrement. 

While we pondered that nugget, she gave us a demonstration (of the kit—Jeez!). A small round cylinder approximately ½ inch by ½ inch magically turned into a strong, sturdy wipe 9 by 9 inches with the application of a small amount of water. In another packet were even smaller tablets of mycelium that go in the hole with the wipe and the “product.” The mycelium, — a common fungus that is all around us, — goes to work on the moist wipe first, promoting even more mycelium that then goes to work on the poo, breaking the whole mess down 10 times faster than would otherwise happen. 

PACT co-founder Jake Thomas told me that they launched in 2020 in response to this crap crisis. 

“Researchers and land managers are finding bacteria and viruses are not decomposing when poop does,” said Thomas. “More and more, it is getting into waterways, threatening wildlife, and increasingly posing public health risks.”

And this defecation desecration is a prominent factor in the uptick in public access restrictions being seen across the country. 

“Here just outside of Crested Butte, Washington Gulch dispersed camping has just changed to paid permitted sites. The popular four-pass loop in the Maroon Bells Wilderness is now permit-only. These are tough decisions for land managers. What can consumers/users do to make those decisions less necessary?” asked Thomas. Sounds like the answer is pretty simple. Keep your shit together. 

The PACT packet is a sleek, easy to use, easy to understand kit that has a lightweight aluminum shovel with a handy marker showing you where six-inches deep is (deeper than you think!), the compressed wipes, the mycelium tablets, and hand sanitizer for the final step. Thomas said that ease of use is of the utmost importance. 

“It’s a hurdle for people new to enjoying the outdoors — they’ll drive miles to find a bathroom versus pooping in the woods.” And the folks at PACT want you and others to go outdoors. PACT reminds us that there are still locations where you’ll need to pack it out versus burying, even with this great new system. Above treeline is certainly one of those places, and the standard rules regarding how far from a stream or waterway still very much apply (200ft please!). I used the kit on our Gunnison gravel trip and it was one of those “where has this been all my outdoor life?” kind of moments. 

Named “Best Backpacking Accessory” in Outside Magazine’s 2022 Gear Guide, the (kind of expensive) $50 kit is currently available from the PACT website, at select outdoor retailers on Colorado’s Western Slope, online at Moosejaw, and will be available at REI come Spring 2023. Seriously though, when you gotta go, give this a go. It’ll surely be your #1 for #2.