When Nature Calls: Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Pooping in the Woods

Originally posted on The Trek on November 15th, 2016

It’s not the most comfortable of topics to discuss, unless you’re like me and have no shame on the matter, but it is something we shall all do numerous times throughout the day. To some, when nature calls it’s quite, well, “natural” to do in the woods, while others might find it a bit discomforting. The urge often occurs at the most inconvenient of times as well. There are right ways to go about it, wrong ways, and unusual ways.

Step One: Location, Location, Location

Obviously when there’s pressure to do number two you may have limited time to choose the perfect locale. There are a few rules you must follow though, for hygiene and common courtesy purposes.

  • DO NOT poop on the trail or near campsites – No matter how strong the urge, for the love of God! No one wants to accidentally step in your dookie while they are on auto pilot on the trail. DON’T DO IT! Also…
  • DO NOT poop near water sources – Yeah, yeah I know plenty of animals already have, but there’s no reason to increase the potential spread of disease with your business. Make sure you’re at least 200 feet (~ 60 meters) away from all water sources, trails, and campsites.
  • Avoid getting lost in the woods – It’s easier than you think to get disoriented if the forest is thick enough. You might misjudge how far you’ve wandered from the trail, especially after dark. If this worries you, let another hiker know where you’re headed to be your lookout and take a torch if it’s dark out.
Unless there’s word along the trail of a missing hiker, don’t gawk around the woods if you see a pack on the trail (privacy please!)
  • Other Precautions – It’s ideal to be out of sight from others and not to sit in a patch of poison ivy. Fun times. Avoid spots with a lot of roots, rocks, reggae and hard soil when possible lest your digging be more difficult. Find level ground. The last thing you want to do is fall backwards in your own mess unless you want to acquire a less than pleasant trail name and some serious clean up.

Step Two: Catholes & Techniques

If the ground is too cold to dig, try lifting a rock instead.
  • What’s a Cathole? – A cathole is a hole in the ground that, you guessed it, you poop in! You can dig it with various objects (trowel, stick, rock, hand) in the proper location as discussed and it should be 6-8 inches (~15-20 cm) deep. Yes, you still should make one when it’s snowing out. Scatter your catholes if you’re in one place for a long period of time and there’s no privy.
  • Techniques – Pardon my mediocre drawings. I was originally going to model for this segment, but after thinking it through I didn’t really want everyone reading to visualize me taking a dump. Obviously you’ll pull your pants down before actually taking a poo unlike my drawings (unless you enjoy that sort of thing).
The Traditional Squat – my go-to, but requires strong leg muscles and good balance or else you might fall in your funk
The Stripper aka The Tree Hugger – Use a tree for support and make it rain!
The Dangle – Use the assistance of a stump/log/boulder and dangle that fanny off the side of it
The Marylander – Get in “crab” position and let er go, hon!
The Thinker – Have deep thoughts while doing your business, just be sure that your one foot is out of harm’s way
The Knee-slapper – This is best done with your rear facing downhill and most of your weight directed to your knees

Step Three: Clean up

  • Bad booty aim? – That’s okay, use a stick or a rock. DO NOT use your trowl! Remember that it will be returning to your pack and seriously! Gross!
  • Fill it in, Pack it out – Make sure you fill in your hole and pack out any baby wipes if you used them (they don’t easily break down). If you’re using toilet paper, it’s probably safe to bury it with your poo although this is debatable amongst hikers. Otherwise, pack out TP and baby wipes. There are also other options aside from toilet paper.
TP, Nature’s TP, Stick, or Rock (Yes, some people use the latter believe it or not)
  • Hand sanitizer –  It’s recommended to keep yourself and everyone else you’re around, healthy. The last thing a person wants to deal with on the trail is Giardia.
  • DO NOT throw your toilet paper in the woods – It doesn’t matter whether you did a number one or two. There is nothing more disgusting than seeing TP tossed around the woods like confetti during a New Year’s celebration.
You pooped, there’s nothing to celebrate.
  • DO NOT burn TP. – Obviously this is a fire hazard as TP cinders can fly around in poo-fire tornado of fury.

Privy/Pit Toilet Etiquette:

Privies/Pit Toilets ARE NOT TRASH CANS! –  It’s unbelievable how many people throw trash in them. DON’T DO IT! To make it clear, baby wipes, all feminine hygiene products, diapers, and other trash do not go in privies! These items don’t decompose and if you throw them in there, some poor volunteer (that’s right, someone who likely isn’t even paid to do it!) will have to fish that stuff out of the piles and piles of poop that has accumulated there day after day. Not cool.

For the ladies with concerns of the female variety, go here. If you have any other pointers, suggestions, and such, please feel free to post your feedback below! Thanks for reading!

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