I do a lot of hiking trips that involve driving for an hour or two to the trailhead in the predawn hours. I'm a morning pooper, so I need to poop during the drive. Before COVID, I would usually plan a stop along the way at a Starbucks, get coffee, and use their bathroom. Then if necessary I'd also use a bathroom at the trailhead. Right now, during COVID, these bathrooms are all closed, so my new normal is that I pull over somewhere in the countryside, poop, collect my poop using one of my dog's poop bags, and bring it with me to a town or trailhead where I can dispose of it.

Sometimes this was stinking up my car, even though the bag was tied shut, so I tried putting the poop bag inside a large plastic (PETE) can that some nuts came in, and sealing it with the screw-on lid. Even then, there have been times when the smell seeped out within 30 minutes. Sometimes the smell has been like sour milk, sometimes like sulfur or eggs.

If I want to make this work better, what should I be focusing on? Is ~0.5 mm of PETE likely to be permeable to the smelly volatile compounds involved? Or is the issue more likely to be that there's a poor seal at the screw threads? Would I be better off trying something like the glass jars with clamping lids that people use for their coffee? A tupperware-style container with an o-ring seal? What kind of material should I be looking for in a gasket or o-ring?

(The other option I've tried successfully is to clamp the poop bag under a windshield wiper, so it's outside. But I'm worried this would, uh, catastrophically fail if I then drove at freeway speeds.)

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    $\begingroup$ Wow, three downvotes and a close vote, none of them with any explanation whatsoever. Are people just that offended by the subject matter? This is just a question about permeability of plastics to organic chemicals. Please think before having this type of knee-jerk reaction of hostility. $\endgroup$ – Ben Crowell Dec 12 '20 at 19:12
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, Chemistry SE is one of the least welcoming communities I've seen. They downvote/close everything that moves. What doesn't move - they push and then downvote/close. $\endgroup$ – Stanislav Bashkyrtsev Dec 12 '20 at 20:03
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    $\begingroup$ I am against this down voting phenomenon which is only observed here in chem. The problem is chemistry gets a lot of lazy homework or medical questions. On the other hand, many good genuine and innocent questions get a habitual down vote by some stubborn offenders. I rarely down vote but this question because it was too vividly described with unsolicited details. It could have been asked in better and formal terms. $\endgroup$ – M. Farooq Dec 12 '20 at 20:40
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    $\begingroup$ I chose the "opinion based" option on VTC, largely because Professor Crowell has not provided us with details about the composition of the feces in question, which certainly is required information to begin to address this question. Also, it's not focused: there are at least 5 sub-questions contained herein. Finally, the superfluous information concerning the morning stooling and unfortunate closure of the nearby Starbucks detract from the question. $\endgroup$ – Todd Minehardt Dec 12 '20 at 22:05
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    $\begingroup$ @ToddMinehardt, opinion-based question would be "which producer of goggles do you like the most" - there're no correct answers to such questions. If a question is missing details - you can ask for them. The question doesn't become invalid simply because you need more details to answer it (moreover some people are asking for extra details which aren't actually needed for answers, I see this all the time. This isn't specific to ChemSE though). As for "not focused" - that's when a post contains multiple unrelated questions. The question above is perfectly focused on one problem. $\endgroup$ – Stanislav Bashkyrtsev Dec 12 '20 at 23:45

The problem likely is not (so much) the plastic material of your container, either solid, or bag.*) Assuming there is no contamination on the outer side of the container, most likely the smells are noticed because of closing the container by either knot or lid is not tight enough.

After some search on sibling sites LifehacksSE and OutdoorsSE I learned hikers found multiple solutions to this problem (example). Assuming you stay on ground and don't climb, a) a poop tube may be suitable for you. In this tube, you carry the waste with you until you find back to a place connected to a waste management / waste water facility.

enter image description here

(credit, source describes both construction and use)

Step #3 of this guide includes an important clue how to reduce the smell. To quote:

«Before you go out camping, hiking, or climbing, preload the airtight bags with 2-3 small scoops of kitty litter or powder detergent to remove moisture. This will also keep obnoxious odors from leaking out of your poop tube.»

b) The idea to catch liquids and thus smell in a bag filled partially with some of (advanced?) cat litter is commercialized elsewhere, too (example).

Maybe this avenue is working well enough that additional sealing of the lid by an O-rings of suitable diameter and material (viton is a material resistant to many chemicals, but I don't dismantle a vacuum deposition to check this field of application) is not necessary.

*) Although permeabilities of liquids and gases across plastics may be determined experimentally.


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