How to poop in the woods

As we’re launching a new website and blog, we thought we’d bring back some of our favorite posts from the past:

Question of the Week- May 20, 2008
How do I poop in the woods?

I figure for every person who asks about toilets in the woods, there are probably 10 people who want to know, but don’t ask. I’ve tried to answer the questions I hear most often here. Hopefully you’ll find this helpful.

In general, relax. It’s really not a big deal. Seriously. People have been pooping in the woods far longer than we’ve been pooping into porcelin. Our goals, and yes we have pooping goals, are to maintain hygiene, minimize the impact on the environment, and find some privacy.

Are there toilets in the woods?
The answer is sometimes yes, sometimes no. When we are car camping there is almost always a toilet nearby. When we are backpacking there is almost always not a toilet nearby.
OK, so I am backpacking or hiking and I have to pee. What do I do?
That’s an easy one, so we’ll start there. Peeing in the woods is fairly simple. Walk away from camp and away from water sources. No peeing in the pool! You should be several hundred feet from water or camp when you are taking care of business. Find your spot where you’ll have some privacy and do your thing. Ladies, it’s much easier on level, flat ground. Oh, and if you think men have an unfair advantage, you can level the playing field a bit with either the Go Girl, or the pStyle, two devices that claim to allow women to pee standing up, and without using toilet paper. I’ve never used one, so I can’t vouch for it, but it seems interesting.

Once you’re done peeing, zip up, clean up with soap/water/hand sanitizer, and enjoy your day. If you use toilet paper when you pee, you’ll need to pack that out with you. We always bring ziplock bags so each person on a trip can carry their own used toilet paper discretely.

Carry my used toilet paper? Are you kidding me?
No, I am not kidding. It might seem like an unsavory task, but I can assure you it’s better to carry a ziplock bag of toilet paper than to stumble across someone else’s used toilet paper in the woods. Burning toilet paper is a definite no-no. It’s a huge fire risk, as toilet paper will float away as it burns. Setting the forest on fire with your toilet paper would suck. Burying toilet paper doesn’t work either, as critters always seem to find it.

OK, I’m down with the pee pee program, but what about poopy dooty?
Now we’re getting serious. Remember this- everyone poops. Bears, campers, and some church leaders do it in the woods. It’s not a big deal- once you get used to it.

You’ll need some gear. On Outdoor Adventure Club trips, we put together a little toilet kit for the group. In the kit we have a big ziplock bag with a roll of toilet paper, a ziplock bag filled with empty ziplock bags, a small shovel, and a small bottle of hand sanitizer.

When nature calls, you can grab the whole kit, which lets people know you are looking for some privacy. Remember here that everyone poops, it’s OK that people know you are pooping. I know you do it. March out of camp, the farther the better, and away from all water sources. You definitely want to find a level spot for this. I’ve seen people rolling down the hill with their shorts around their ankles! Find your spot, and grab the shovel. The shovel is for shoveling dirt, not poopy dooty!! Dig down until you are at least 6″, and ideally into mineral soil. Once you’ve dug your hole, squat and poop! Have your toilet paper handy when you go! Don’t let the used toilet paper blow away as you are finishing. When you are done wiping, put your used toilet paper in a small ziplock bag, which you’ll carry with you for the rest of the trip. I carry mine in the “secret pocket” in the lid of my pack. It’s a good spot. I only go in there for the ziplock. Hopefully your aim was true and you hit the target. If so, take the shovel and fill the hole with the dirt you removed, pat it all down, wash your hands well (we keep hand sanitizer in the kit), and enjoy the rest of your day. If you missed the hole, find a stick or bark to push everything in your hole. Do not use the shovel to move the poopy dooty! Other people are going to be using that shovel, you know.

Did I mention wash your hands? I know I did, but I’ll mention it again. More people get sick in the woods from potty hands than from giardia in the water.

That’s it! You’re ready to poop. If you need something to read while pooping, here’s a suggestion:

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