Few things can jeopardise expeditions as much as illness – especially avoidable illness. Poor camp and food hygiene can stop an adventure in its tracks and may, in very remote circumstances, be life-threatening. So when setting up a camp it might be helpful to have in mind the following five principles.
Packing in and packing out
If travelling in the wilderness and keeping it pristine you should consider packing all the stuff you may need into the outback and also packing it back out again. In some national parks there is a fine if you don’t carry out all your human waste. In other circumstances, burying your human waste may be an option – but this can build up dramatically in popular areas. Sometimes burning your toilet paper may be an option (if fires are allowed) but you should certainly pack out all your other rubbish. The compound impact of visitors leaving human waste and detritus in pristine areas should not be underestimated – not only because of visual pollution or environmental damage but as a serious health issue. For instance most giardia cases are as a result of contamination of water courses with human faeces over time – so much so it is becoming a real issue in some of the more remote but increasingly popular wilderness routes. Consider the use of Restop, Go Anywhere (formerly WAG Bag) or Biffy Bag systems if you are serious about this issue.
Isolating and separating
When you have set up camp ensure that key elements that can cause contamination are isolated from each other and are kep separated – this includes human waste, rubbish, water and food.
Minimising cross contamination
By promoting self awareness of simple actions can create an effect re-inforcement against cross-contamination so it makes sense to wash hands after going to the toilet, wash hands before eating, not washing your hands (after the toilet) in the food preparation area, not drying your hands on the cloth that dries the dishes, not using drinking water vessel to wash your hands after going to the toilet and so on.
Establishing specific areas
When setting up camp take extra thought in where you will be putting various ‘stations’ – make sure they are situated in ways that they don’t pollute each other or encourage cross-contamination – so designate where people can wash, where people can collect drinking water, where people should go to the toilet, where people can clean themselves and where dirty water can be disposed of. There is no point collecting drinking water from downstream of where someone is washing themselves!
Establishing habit forming routines
Agreeing with camp residents certain protocols such as washing hands when moving between ‘stations’ of eating, food preparation, washing up and toilet.