Making the transition from car camping to wilderness camping and backpacking leaves the question about bathrooms… Believe it or not you are going to have to go in the woods, you are going to have to dig a hole and bury it and maybe even pack it out… Let’s dive umm.. head first into this semi-taboo subject.
Most privies are gross. We all hate using them but when they are available please use them… They place them in areas of high traffic to keep the area clean, if they are used it works!
Urinating in the woods is pretty self explanatory. You just need to pick a spot at least 200 feet from any trail, camp, or body of water such as lakes and streams. Women have it a bit harder than the guys here. Avoiding pee in the boots can be a challenge. but practice makes perfect. I hear the shower is a great place to practice.
Defecating has a little more art to it, where to lean, how to prop… First you should have a bathroom kit packed with wiping material (I like paper towels and wet ones), hand sanitizer, all packed in a heavy-duty zip-lock bag with some extras thrown in. Some like to bring along a trowel. They make small and light trowels just for this purpose. A stick or flat rock will do the trick, but require a little more effort.
The five steps to sh*t in the woods
- Dig a hole about 8 inches deep and 8 inches wide (“cat-hole”) 200-300 feet from any trail, camp, or water source. Pick somewhere with a view, it could be the nicest bathroom you ever use.
- Squat over your hole, there are many squat methods so choose wisely (see below).
- Hope your aim is good, if not make sure to move your waste to into the hole.
- Wipe and bag in one of your extra baggies. Even though paper biodegrades it is still uncool to bury.
- Cover your waste with dirt and place a rock or downed log atop to keep curious animals out and SANITIZE your hands for gods sake!
Note: if you are above the tree line and/or there is no good place to bury pack out that poop! Extra zip-locks are handy…
It’s as easy as that! For more info on the art of pooping in the woods check out “How to Shit in the Woods” by Kathleen Meyer
Methods for Pooping in the Woods
The Full Squat. Surprisingly easy. Discovered by girls (and Asians) long ago; shunned by the white man. No stamina required in the legs because you’re already all the way down. Actually leaves plenty of clearance between droppings and dropped pants. May require (minimal) practice to maintain balance.
The Half Squat. A futile farce to keep far from feces. Makes the quads burn. Takes ripped quads to maintain. Maybe degrades gracefully into the Full Squat. Maybe.
The Overbite. Mental comfort of being in a familiar physical position. Must invest time searching for that perfect log or rock (preferably with a view). Risk of tumbling backward if improperly sized object used.
The Middleman. Similar to the Overbite. Eliminates risk of falling over backward, but must find two objects adequately spaced. A well balanced option, though butt-cheek contact with foriegn surfaces appears necessary.
Lean Cuisine. A nice compromise between the Overbite and Middleman. Uses the cheek-lean technique on a single object, eliminating both tumble risk and two-object requirement. May be slightly more difficult to maintain over long periods than the parent methods.
The Whomping Willow. Similar to the Half Squat, but offloads the legs with some additional support. Must find a a tree with appropriately low and flexible branches. Risk of falling into the pile if the branch lacks adequate strength. If you’ve found the right tree, there should already be a hole for you.