Hadley & I just returned from an excellent trip to the Pacific Northwest. One rainy day Hadley, our friend Robin & I decided to paddle around Lake Union in Seattle and then through the locks to Puget Sound. We were dressed for the weather and felt warm and cozy in our kayaks even though the rain was soaking the outsides of our paddling jackets. A few hours into the paddle the warm tea we were drinking decided it was no longer happy in our bodies and we received a "Nature Call."
As a kayak instructor I tell my students "If nature calls, answer!" I used to teach anatomy and physiology at the University level. One of the lessons I learned in my studies was not to fight nature. Nature calls are a reality of kayaking. Rather than focus on the physiology of nature calls I want to discuss the environmental concerns of our nature calls.
I am not an expert on environmental impact. I try to keep up on the latest information so I can pass the information along to my students. The Leave No Trace (LNT) program is an excellent resource that provides guidelines for those of us who frequent the outdoors. LNT has many different booklets, each focusing on a different activity. There is even one available for Sea Kayaking. The Leave No Trace Program acknowledges it is impossible to leave "no trace." However, we can all try to minimize the impact by following the recommended guidelines.
Since the majority of us who sea kayak do so near shorelines it is highly likely that we take care of our nature calls on land. If this is the case, then the guidelines for camping will most likely apply. If you cannot get to land then you need to take care of business while on the water. See "Answering Natures Call" for practical tips on how to take care of natures business when on the water.
As for the LNT guidelines I will quote directly from the LNT Sea Kayaking booklet.
"Ocean Disposal Although ocean disposal has been suggested in the past, it is no longer recommended for disposing of human waste. While anecdotal information has suggested that the ocean environment readily breaks down human feces and related pathogens, there is no concrete biological research backing the practice of ocean disposal. Furthermore, in many popular paddling regions depositing human waste in near shore waters is a violation of state laws."
"Urine Urine is not typically a health concern. However, in rainy environments, urine attracts wildlife with salt-deficient diets. Animals in these areas sometimes defoliate plants to consume the salt in the urine, so urinate on rocks or bare ground below the high tide line when possible."
The LNT Sea Kayaking book contains 30 pages of useful information to help us as sea kayakers in minimizing our impact when kayaking and/or kayak camping. I highly recommend you visit the Leave No Trace website (www.LNT.org) for more information.
In the last month I was introduced to a number of products that make it easier for us to minimize our impact and answer nature's call. We were so impressed with the products we decided to carry them at the USK store in the kayaker needs section. There is a pouch that is user friendly for females and males that instantly turns urine into a gel that can be disposed of in the standard landfill. Since the liquid gels it doesn't spill. The gelled substance is also odorless. There are also products available that perform a similar function for solid human waste.
As a male I feel I have easier options than a female when I have to urinate. However, there are a number of products on the market that level the playing field. My wife Hadley has just field tested the urine bags mentioned above and gives it two thumbs up. She also tried a Female Urinary Device (FUD) while sitting in her kayak and on the back deck of her kayak and it allowed her to use a plastic bottle due to the six inch tube coming out of the FUD. The FUD can also be used with the urine bags for a no spill option.
Those of us who paddle on fresh water lakes or rivers have even a greater responsibility to the environment. We should all take the time to catch up on the latest information available. The LNT program is a good start.
How you wish to treat the environment in which you paddle is up to you. I believe we all have a responsibility to the long-range health and welfare of our paddling and camping environments. Advances in technology now provide us with options that move us away from the belief that the ocean is a giant toilet bowl. Thank you in advance for your consideration.
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