OUTDOORS

Biodegradable Toilet Paper: Leave No Trace

End of trail sign and toilet paper
Rita Warfield
Written by Rita Warfield

We all love going out and spending some time in the wilderness. There is something about disconnecting from our normal lives and disappearing into nature that brings peace and tranquility. For many of us we try to leave as much of our daily lives behind as we can. We bring less, use less and therefore worry about much less. However, there are some things that we just simply cannot live without. One of these things is toilet paper. Even the most experienced campers won’t leave home without it and most of us always keep a roll in our bags just in case.

But the toilet paper you use in your home really isn’t adequate for use out in nature. Much of it is made using chemicals or other processes that make it really durable and therefore it does not break down easily. It can either damage septic tanks or other facilities that you might find at campsites or it can litter and pollute the area where it is left.

To help combat this you can do two things. The first is to simply not use toilet paper, but this is not very realistic for both health and comfort reasons. The other option is to use biodegradable toilet paper, which is toilet paper specially made to break down easily so as to minimize its environmental impact.

toilet paper on ground and a red shovel

This is something really ever camper should consider doing since it complies nicely with the idea of Leave No Trace. We will go into this a little further as well as go over some of the different options on the market so that you can get an idea as to what might be the best one for you.

7 principles of “Leave No Trace”

To be able to fully enjoy nature and all its beauty, it is important to protect it and preserve it. This means paying close attention to the impact you have on your surroundings when you go to spend some time in the wilderness.

In order to know that your impact on the environment is as minimal as possible, you can follow the Leave No Trace principles, which are 7 different guidelines to help you protect the wilderness you are in so that you and others can continue to enjoy it. Using products like biodegradable toilet paper can help you comply with more than one of these principles, but let’s go over all of them so that we are clear.

Toilet paper on a wooden stick

#1 Plan ahead and prepare

This is an essential part of any camping adventure, but it is particularly important for trying to minimize your environmental impact. Things to consider before heading out are the rules and special regulations for the area you are going to. There might be bans on certain products or on certain places where you can go. Knowing this before you go will help you disturb the setting as little as possible.

It is also a good idea to bring a map and study it so that you are sure where you are going. This way you won’t need to mark trails and you will not spend time walking through areas multiple times. You should also prepackage food and bring any other supplies with you that you might need, which includes things like biodegradable toilet paper.

#2 Travel and camp on durable surfaces

The important thing to remember here is that good campsites are found and not made. Stay away from delicate areas such as lakes and rivers and if you are traveling with a group try to spread out where you make camp to prevent having too much of an impact on surrounding surfaces and wildlife.

Stay on trails and use established campsites wherever possible. Once you spend the night and pack up the place where you were should look exactly the same as it did when you arrived. This may seem like common sense but making it happen requires some thought and planning.

#3 Dispose of waste properly

This is the principle that is most applicable to our look at biodegradable toilet paper. Human waste should be buried in 6-8 inch catholes and you should learn to “pack out” all of your garbage. A good way to do this is to bring large sealable plastic bags with you.

Stick and a cathole

This way you can safely and cleanly store your garbage as you accumulate it and then dispose of it when you are out of the wilderness. Biodegradable toilet paper can come in handy for this because in most cases you won’t have to worry about packing it out, which can be unpleasant, to say the least.

#4 Leave what you find

As you explore the great outdoors you will likely be tempted to pick things up and take them back home with you. Even small things like rocks that seem like they wouldn’t be missed need to be left where they are. This applies even more to plants and any historical artifacts you might find.

You can take all the pictures you want, but outside of that, you should leave everything as you find it. Avoid building structures or moving anything to help you build campsites. Biodegradable toilet paper can also help you comply with this requirement since you won’t need to use anything in nature in its place.

#5 Minimize campfire impacts

Humans are the main cause of forest fires as many people do not follow the proper steps for setting up a campfire. It is important to adhere to any restrictions or regulations in the area; periods of dry weather and high winds can turn a small campfire into a major problem very quickly.

Make sure to keep your campfires small by using only small branches that can be easily broken with your hands and stick to using existing fire pits or campfire rings. If you are unsure if campfires are permitted in the area where you will be camping, you can always call the local authorities and ask. Sometimes restrictions can change from day to day or even of the course of a few hours so make sure you know what is allowed and what is not.

#6 Respect wildlife

This goes without saying, but when you are out in the wilderness you are in someone else’s home. The animals that live there depend on everything that is around you. Protect the environment to not destroy their home and if you encounter some wildlife it is important to act responsibly.

Do not feed animals if you see them and make sure to keep your food protected by storing it in airtight containers. Once an animal learns it can get food from people it becomes dependent and this change in behavior puts it in serious danger. Imagine that you are a guest in someone else’s house and act accordingly.

#7 Be considerate of other visitors

It is likely that while you are in the wilderness you will encounter other people who are there to enjoy nature just like you are doing. Help them out whenever possible but also avoid congregating in large groups. Don’t make too much noise and try as best you can to protect others’ experience in nature. Everyone in the wilderness wants to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors so have respect for this and be courteous.

Why buy biodegradable toilet paper?

Having and using biodegradable toilet paper is a great way to help you comply with some of the key components of Leave No Trace. By using these products you are making it easier to dispose of your waste and you don’t need to rely on what you find in nature. Also, most traditional toilet paper that we use in our homes is a disaster for septic systems.

It is made from paper pulp and this involves a chemical process that makes the paper more durable but also makes it nearly impossible to break down. If you use regular toilet paper and then deposit it in a backcountry septic system or worse bury it in the ground, you are littering and could do serious damage to the surrounding environment.

box of biodegradable toilet papaer

To avoid this and to protect the outdoors so that you and others can use it, it is a good idea to carry in your bag and use products like biodegradable toilet paper. One thing you could do if you cannot find this type of product is to rely on the cheap toilet paper that you probably wouldn’t buy for your home. This usually has fewer chemicals than typical products and therefore breaks down easier.

It is usually rougher and less comfortable but has a smaller environmental impact. However, the best thing to do still is to use products that are specifically designed to break down easily and have little to no environmental impact.

What to look for

At first glance, it might seem that all biodegradable toilet paper is the same, but this is really not true. They do all serve the same purpose and tend to be quite similar, but there are some distinguishing features that you should keep in mind to make sure that you are not sacrificing too much in order to avoid any damage you might do to the environment while you are in the wilderness. Let’s go over some of these things before we take a look at some of the specific products on the market.

Single ply or 2 ply

The decision about ply really comes down to comfort and value. Single ply paper will be a little rougher and perhaps not as durable, but it will also likely be cheaper. Because of this, it is easy to think that it is a better value because it will often look like you are getting more for less.

hand holding a sheet of toilet paper

However, the thinner material means you will use more of it and it might not last as long. This is very much a personal preference and it might be a good idea to go for whatever is most similar to what you use at home.

Sheets per roll

The number of sheets per roll will likely depend on whether or not the paper is single or 2 ply. Really the main thing to think about here is how long will the roll last and how many rolls might you need to bring with you. If you are going out on a long trip it might be a better idea to go for a thinner paper that has more sheets per roll so that you do not need to worry about carrying around multiple rolls in your bag.

They may be light, but they take up space and it is probably better you use that space in your pack for more important things like clothes or other gear. If you are just going out for a short trip, having fewer sheets might not be so important and you can go for something thicker and more comfortable to use.

Rolls per package

This comes down to the value you are getting. Toilet paper is generally speaking not expensive, but since this biodegradable toilet paper is considered somewhat of a specialty product, it can cost a little more than perhaps what you are expecting to pay.

You will want to take a look at how many rolls come in each package and how many sheets are on each roll to determine if you are getting a decent value or if you are being ripped off by some version of “green marketing.” We will try to touch on this in the individual product reviews, but as you scan the market this is something to keep in mind.

What’s on the market

Now that we have had the chance to go over the significant role that something as simple as toilet paper can play in your preservation of nature, let’s take a look at what is available on the market so that you can make sure you are picking up something that will meet your needs and that is also a good value.

Coghlan’s Toilet Paper – Package of 2

Weight: 1.5 oz COG Toilet Paper

Dimensions:  4 3/8 x 4 ½ inches

Ply: Single

Sheets per roll: 140

Rolls per package: 2

Price: $8.14

Description: The interesting thing about Coghlan’s Toilet Paper is the size of the. It is about equal to that of a paper towel roll, which should allow you to get more out of each roll, which increases the value of this product. Another good thing about this particular toilet paper is that that the roll is coreless. This makes it far less bulky and it also makes it easier to shove it into your bag.

It will take up less space and this makes it possible to carry more with you. It is, however, a bit pricey. You might not be used to paying $8 for two rolls of toilet paper. Some of the other options are a little less expensive and that might be better for you. However, all in all, this is a nice product that will satisfy your needs while also helping you comply with Leave No Trace principles.

 Check the price on Amazon

Stansport Bio-Degradable Toilet Tissue

Weight: 3.2 oz stansport toilet paper

Dimensions: 5-1/2 x 4 inches

Ply: Single

Sheets per roll: 99

Rolls per package: 2

Price: $8.79

Description: There are two things that jump out about Stansport  Toilet Tissue, the size and the price. The sheets on this roll are a bit larger than your typical roll, which means that the 99 sheets you get per roll should last you a decent amount of time. There are two rolls in each package so a package will be plenty for anyone heading out on short to medium length trips.

However, this comes with its price. At almost $9 a package this product can barely be called a value. If you are heading out with a family or a similar sized group it might be a good idea to look for something a little less expensive before you find yourself spending $20 on toilet paper alone.

It is worth it to pay a little extra for this type of product since it helps you protect the environment you are traveling to, but unless you are going alone it might be a good idea to look for something that will do a little less damage to the wallet.

Check the price on Amazon

Coleman Camper’s Toilet Paper

Weight: 2.4 oz. Coleman camping toilet paper

Dimensions: 4.9 x 4.7 inches

Ply: 2 ply

Sheets per roll: 65

Rolls per package: 3

Price: $5.67

Description: The nice thing about Coleman Camper’s Toilet Paper is its soft 2 ply sheets. Often times these types of products sacrifice this type of comfort in order to be lighter or in order to break down easier, but with this paper from Coleman it will be like being in the comfort of your own home.

The thicker paper does mean that there are fewer sheets per roll, but this shouldn’t be a big deal because you will likely use less and each roll will last as long as any other roll. Another thing that makes this product stand out is that it comes with three rolls per package and costs less than $6.

This is a nice value, especially when comparing it with other products on this list. Whether you are heading out alone or in a group this product is a fine option in terms of price and quality.

Check the price on Amazon

Thetford 20804 RV/Marine Toilet Tissue, Single Ply

Weight: 3.2 oz tethford toilet paper

Dimensions: 4.25 x 6 inches

Ply: Single

Sheets per roll: 350

Rolls per package: 4

Price: $4.98

Description: This is far one of the better value products on this list. With four rolls in a package and 35o sheets on each roll, one package is all you need for the whole family. Thetford RV/Marine Toilet Tissue was made for people using RVs and boats so it was designed with the intention of being used by lots of people.

This means, though, that each roll is rather large and therefore it might not be the best thing for solo hikers that are looking to shove something small into their bags. What most stands out, though, is the value you get. For half the price you pay for some of the other products on this list you get much more than double the product. You sacrifice a little quality in that this is only a single ply tissue, but if this is not important to you it is very unlikely this product will disappoint.

Check the price on Amazon

Septic Tank Safe Toilet Tissue

Weight: 5.6 oz Septic tank safe toilet paper

Dimensions: 4.5 x 4.2 inches

Ply: 2

Sheets per roll: 500

Rolls per package: 4

Price: $10.95

Description: Septic Tank Safe Toilet Tissue is yet another great value option. What is particularly nice about this option is that each roll comes with 500 sheets per roll and the sheets are 2 ply. This means you can expect each roll to last significantly longer than any other traditional roll might, which certainly makes it justifiable spending the $11.

One downside could be that because the rolls are so big and are made from 2 ply sheets, each roll is big and bulky and relatively “heavy” compared to most of the other options. Heavy still only means about a half a pound so this shouldn’t be a real problem, but bulk is an issue. It could be hard to get two rolls into a backpack or a small suitcase and still have room for other necessities.

Check the price on Amazon

Coleman  Biodegradable Camp Toilet Paper 4 Pack

Weight: 2.8 oz Coleman Company Biodegradable Camp Toilet Paper

Dimensions: 4 x 4 inches

Ply: Single

Sheets per roll: 350 sheets

Rolls per package: 4

Price: $4.11

Description: At first glance this looks like a great option and in large part it is. Coleman Toilet Paper features 4 rolls of 350 single ply sheets in each pack. Each role is still no more than 3 ounces and they are small enough to be shoved into small spaces in your bag.

For these reasons combined with the mild price tag, this is a great option for nearly all. However, the one thing to look out for would be the thickness of this paper. It is technically listed as single ply, but in order to get more sheets onto a roll without taking up too much space, it looks as though they use a thinner paper to make this happen.

This causes you to go through the product much faster and in some cases can end up making a bigger mess (think of the times you grab your roll of toilet paper to dry your hands or to wipe up a spill—this thin paper would be practically useless). Being aware of this can avoid some unnecessary frustration, but in general, this is a fine product that will more than serve the purpose it was designed for.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrapping it up

Toilet paper may seem like a rather silly or unimportant topic, but this is only because we take for granted how essential it is. One or two rolls are part of the list of absolute necessities for any hiker or camper and any hiker or camper interested in preserving the wilderness they enjoy will want to use biodegradable toilet paper.

It falls nicely in line with the 7 principles of Leave No Trace and allows you to not have to sacrifice a home comfort or the well-being of the environment. If you’re not prepared to live without this convenience, it’s pretty important you pick up something that can be used in an environmentally safe way.

Women holding toilet paper under her arm

Do you have any experience with any of these products? Any suggestions for fellow campers so that they get the best deal? Let us know whatever it is you’ve experienced so we can all learn more about what is best for us.

Hopefully, the information provided here has helped demonstrate how little steps can have a big impact on environmental preservation. Taking small steps like changing the type of toilet paper we use can go a long way to preserving and protecting the wilderness that we all enjoy and want to continue to enjoy for as long as we can.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rita Warfield
Rita Warfield

Fully passionate about the outdoors and totally committed to a life of exploration and learning, Rita is the perfect guide when it comes to choosing the right gear for your adventures. She gathered years of practical experience in testing her survival skills and knowledge in a wide range of difficult situations but she is also a passionate mountain climber. Even more, Rita loves hunting, she knows her way around a weapon, and she doesn’t back off in a difficult situation.

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