SierraRios: Toilet, Bathing, & Chores on trips


For bathing, the river and side streams (or hot springs) are often warm enough to use on the trip. You also can bath directly in the river using biodegradable soap. Sometimes we may also have a solar shower, which may be preferable as the soap goes into the dirt and decomposes there instead of in the river. We may be able to heat water on the fire for bathing as well. Please wash and bath with a minimal amount of soap/shampoo and try not to leave foamy residues for others in the camp to find.

Toilet: Urinating should be done directly into the river or away from camp and out of sight of others. We will generally be bringing a toilet, but it will be set over an excavated latrine hole away from the camp and protected from view. No paddle visible by toilet path indicates it is occupied; an upright paddle indicates it is not [carry the paddle to the toilet and use to toss a little sand in the pit when done]. TP and a TP bag will be by the latrine. TP should be placed in the bag for later burning. A handwash station will be nearby. Always wash your hands after bathroom use. The latrine will be covered with sand/dirt in the morning before we take off on the river.

Alternatively, you may also find your own place away from camp above the high-water line, dig a hole 4-6” deep, and cover your feces. Take the shovel for this. Put a stick in the spot so others know not to dig there. Carry your TP back and put in the TP trash bag or burn it at the spot and bury the ashes with the feces.

SANITATION:  We will take precautions to make sure all water, food, and plates/bowls/utensils provided on the trip are free of microbes so you should not have to worry about it being the cause of traveler's diarrhea.  We generally follow the NPS Sanitation Guidelines on SierraRios trips.  We will sanitize drinking water with filtration and bleach, sanitize all food contact surfaces, require sanitation of hands at the handwash stations, sanitize vegetables that are eaten raw, and sanitize tables and other surfaces.  We will discard potentially harmful cooked food that has been sitting out for extended periods.  The trip leader (or a designee) will be in charge of making sure the proper amounts of hypochlorite (bleach) are added to:

Drinking water supplies1-2 drops bleach/liter; let stand 30+ min; the amount depends on quality/clarity of the water

Hand wash water in buckets (to 100 ppm): ~1.5 mL per liter; or 6 mL per gallon; possibly more for silty water; a syringe will be available for measurement; for a normal 4 gallon bucket of water, we add 24 mL of bleach

Dish sanitizing water SEE HERE (to 100 ppm: ~1.5 mL per liter or 6 mL per gallon); possibly more for silty water; note 5 mL = 1 teaspoon: for a normal 4 gallon tub of water, we add 24 mL of bleach

In some cases we may not have a handwash station set up at lunch.  In such instances, we will have alcohol sanitization gel, which should be applied to your hands before handling food/etc.  

Also please note that you should always try to minimize your contact with foods that may be consumed by others. In particular, with chips/trail mix, DO NOT REACH YOUR HAND INTO THE BAG.  Rather, pour out the quantity that you want - into your hand - and leave the rest untouched for the next person to pour.

SierraRios trips have general participants who are not expected to do any camp chores aside from washing their own plate/bowl/utensils, but also other "helper guides" who do more of the work before, after and during the trip. Chores and camp duties among guides and helpers include loading/unloading rafts, camp set-up, food preparation, washing dishes, fire duties, burning trash, and groover set-up/take-down. We generally have a rotating schedule among workers. Duties can be swapped with others, as long as someone is there and you end up contributing your fair share in the end. All workers are expected to help load/unload the rafts each day and rig/de-rig at the start/end of the trip. Camp chores will be designated to individuals on a "Chore List". Two or three individuals will be assigned to help the main guide with food preparation and two others assigned to wash dishes each morning and evening.

On extended trips, we often have the same set of guides/helpers taking over certain duties for several days at a time. This makes it easy to know who's on call for a certain chore, minimizes training efforts, and provides full days of "relax" time for folks (i.e., days with no chores). On many trips we will have blocks of 3 days for a person to do the same chore. If you are a helper and have no preference for chores, let the organizer know a few things about you in order to assign appropriate duties:

-Do you really enjoy preparing food or specific things like pancakes?
-Are you more of a night-owl or a morning person?
-Do you have pyromaniac tendencies?
-Are you willing to set-up/deal with a groover station?
-Do you prefer to wash dishes?

Chore list:
Food prep: Breakfast-lunch (2 total + planner)
Dishes morning: (2 total)

Food prep: Dinner (3 total + planner)

Dishes evening: (2 total)
Groover set-up/take-down (1 person/day; 4-day blocks)
Fire, water, and trash burn (1 person/day)

Food prep:
This duty involves helping the food planner prepare the meals (see TRIP FOOD). If you like cooking and are knowlegable of it, this might be a good duty for you, as sometimes you'll have to fill in some preparation details. The duty involves shopping for the food (i.e., acting as a gopher to get the foods that will be used/consumed from the rafts), washing/slicing/chopping vegetables, cooking such foods, presenting the food, serving it, and then putting away items not used. Everyone handling food must wash their hands before doing so with soap and use hand sanitizer. Use liberally if you think your hands are dirty again.

For breakfast duty, 1-2 early-bird folk need to rise at dawn and get everything started: clear off the table(s), get the main breakfast box out, start the fire, prepare coffee and tea. Depending on what is planned, there is additional prep. Sometimes fruits need to be peeled/sliced, cereals placed out, water boiled and oatmeal made, or pancakes/eggs/bacon/sausage/hash browns cooked. Usually the meals requiring more prep time will be reserved for layover days or more relaxing days. After prep, the food needs to be put away.

For lunch duty, work starts in the morning and is assumed by the breakfast crew. Items to be consumed at lunch need to be gathered and placed in the lunch box. Sometimes foods need to be prepared ahead of time: rice or couscous may need to be cooked, pasta salad prepared, etc. At lunch, there is additional set-up and prep work: sometimes a worker will need to slice tomatoes, cheese and lettuce for sandwiches. Often we'll have make-your-own sandwiches so lunch duty involves minimal effort. Since breakfast and/or lunch duty is sometimes minimal and the two overlap somewhat, the same folks on breakfast prep will be responsible for lunch prep; doing both count as 1 full chore.

For dinner duty, you'll be following the instructions of the master chef/food planner. An example of food prep duty would be a pasta meal: after getting the components from the rafts, someone will be assigned to appetizers (e.g. garlic bread would need to be sliced/partitioned, buttered/salted/garliced up, then grilled and served), another to salad (slice/prepare vegetables in a big bowl, place out dressings, bowls & utensils), another to boiling water for the pasta and heating the marinara sauce, while some of the same folks will slice and cook the veggies & meats that will go along with it. Items not used (like an extra pasta bag) should be put back in the food box it came from.

Water filtration:
Usually the trip leader is responsible for assuring safe drinking water on the trip. This requires collecting water from clear side streams or springs, filtering that water (usually with a Katadyn Expedition filter with 100 um ceramic unit), and disinfecting with 1 drop of bleach per gallon. Other water disinfection methods may be used as well. Sometimes finer Sawyer gravity filter units may be used. For spring water known to be free of microbes, we may only treat the water with bleach. For small groups, we may use a small Katadyn Hiker filter or Katadyn gravity filter. In rare cases we may have to use alum to settle silt from water to allow filtration and sanitization.

This duty usually involves several things. First water for washing the dishes must be gathered - preferably from clear side-streams, but if the river is running fairly clear, river water can be used. If the washer prefers, some water can be heated in a a metal bucket placed over the fire. The washing station usually consists of three tubs of water:

Washing tub: warm water with detergent
First rinse tub: warm or cool water ,
Sterilization tub: cool water with a little bleach (appx. a capful or 3-5 mL in a 2 gallon tub)

Washers need to gather all dishes to be washed, remove chunks of food (put either on the fire, in the trash, or throw into the river), scrub the dishes with detergent water, then pass through the rinse and sterilization solutions before placing on a table to drain/dry. There will be washing gloves to protect hands (if desired). Usually one person scrubs while the other passes through the rinses and puts out to dry. Be careful if it is potentially windy to secure the dishes somewhere that they won't blow away or accumulate sand. At the end, washers in the evening should dispose of the used water in the river and refill the tubs for the morning crew.

This duty involves selecting and setting up the toilet+hand wash station for the camp, maintaining it, and packing it up in the morning (always make a "Last call for the groover!"). SierraRios trips are on rivers with few other visitors, so often we will use the old method of a toilet seat over a hole in the ground or a latrine, preferably above the high water line of the river. After selecting the site, the hole or latrine is excavated. The toilet seat is placed on top of the hole and the TP bag, trash bag, wash station, and a paddle/shovel placed nearby (careful to protect the TP from potential dew and rain!). Folks can use either the toilet seat or the latrine (squatting).

Often it is convenient to place a tarp door to shield the toilet from view of others in the camp. Generally a paddle/shovel outside of the door indicates the latrine is unoccupied. The wash station should be placed outside of the latrine area. Each person using the latrine should cover their doo-doo with a little dirt/sand to minimize odor/flies. If getting full, the hole that the toilet seat was on needs to be covered up, a little stick placed in it, and the toilet seat placed over a new hole - this should be done by the person in charge of the duty. If anyone notices a need for such maintenence, or that it needs to be cleaned, please inform the groover person. The duty also involves taking down the groover in the morning: cleaning up trash (put all TP in trash bag), disinfecting the toilet with a bleach solution (use the leftover water from the handwash bucket), covering the latrine with sand/dirt, packing all items into their bags/boxes and carrying down to the raft and strapping on.

Fire and Trash:
This duty involves making and maintaining a fire (which is often assumed by anyone interested in doing so) but mainly gathering the burnable trash at the end of each evening and burning it. When doing so, it is usually a good idea to stoke up the fire well if there are wet items or food items to burn. A complete burn must be achieved. In the morning, the same person will be responsible for ridding the camp of ashes. We never leave ashes at commonly used camps. Ashes need to be deposited in the river for dispersal.

Rob Raker and Chris Weigand doing dishes on the Usumacinta. Usually the tubs will all be rectagular tupperware.

Boris Trgovcich prepares and serves a pit-roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, and roasted vegetables for a New Year's Day meal on the Usumacinta.