So You Gotta Poop in The Woods, Here’s How It’s Done

Alright, peo­ple come on, it’s com­plete­ly nat­ur­al, it’s a healthy habit. Part of camp­ing is the occa­sion­al relief of all that freeze-dried straw­ber­ries and trail sala­mi. There’s no need to be a wild ani­mal about it, or even shy away from the sub­ject of prop­er dis­pos­al, so here for you today are some things to keep in mind the next time you need to poop in the woods.

female athlete squatting in the woods

Know The Protocol

The prop­er dis­pos­al of feces on the trail is a bit of a process. With­out some gen­er­al guide­lines you risk leav­ing behind a befouled camp­site and of attract­ing crea­tures. Often times, they’re hun­gry enough to explore even the nas­ti­est of foods. Find a nice seclud­ed spot at least 200 feet away from any trails, water sources, or camp­sites. Try to find a spot far enough away that no one is going to acci­den­tal­ly find your buried treasure.

Once your spot is secured,  dig a cathole with a back­pack­ing trow­el, shov­el, or your hands. This hole should be no less than 6 inch­es deep by 4 inch­es wide. Once the hole is dug, do your busi­ness, and wipe with a nat­ur­al mate­r­i­al (leaves, pine-cone, flat rock). When all is said and done, bury your com­post and wash your hands. Con­grat­u­la­tions, you are now a true outdoorsman/woman.

Why the Fuss?

One of the worst things to encounter on a trail is improp­er­ly dis­posed of human waste. Tak­ing care of your busi­ness is good camp­ing kar­ma for the rest of your jour­neys. Improp­er­ly dis­posed human waste is a prod­uct of many unnat­ur­al, syn­thet­ic, and processed inputs (Ramen noo­dles, Snick­ers bars, Fun­yuns, etc.).

As appalling and unap­pe­tiz­ing as the out­put may seem to a human’s palate, oth­er crea­tures may not feel the same way. They may be attract­ed to any scent you may leave sit­ting around near your camp­site. Not only does this put wildlife in dan­ger, but it can also endan­ger you as well.

Run­ning on a backed-up engine is a great way to stall out halfway through your trip. Reg­u­lar­i­ty is also a good way to deter­mine hydra­tion needs and over­all health. If every­thing is oper­at­ing smooth­ly, then keep at it. If things are get­ting backed up or going about with a lot of fuss, then re-eval­u­ate your eat­ing habits–maybe drink some more water. Once your load is light­ened, you will be aston­ished of the light­ness above your feet, and by keep­ing con­stant (and not con­sti­pat­ed) you’ll be able to go for the long haul.

Know Before You Go

The “cathole” method described above is the most com­mon default method to poop in the woods. With that said, it does­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly apply to every camp­site. Areas with a strict pack-it-in, pack-it-out reg­u­la­tions, or areas where dig­ging a hole isn’t an option (deserts, glac­i­ers, etc.), oth­er meth­ods may need to be applied. Do your research before you go, pack the nec­es­sary equip­ment, and feel good to know you’re free to go when you need.