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.