One question EVERY new backpacker has is about toileting. There is so much angst about pooping in the woods, even though humans have been doing it for billions of years. It’s the most natural thing in the world, but most of us grew up with indoor plumbing that included flush toilets that precluded the need to learn anything else.
The most important thing about defecating in the backcountry is making sure that you do not accidentally have more impact than necessary in the process.
Do this by taking these steps:
- Find a spot 200’ (about 70 adult steps) from any water source, 200’ from the trail, and 200’ from your campsite and kitchen. (Find a bush or tree branch from which to hang a brightly colored bandana as a marker to help you find your way back to the trail.)
- Dig a “cat hole”, 6” to 8” deep, and at least 6” wide.
- Squat and deposit your body waste ONLY in the cat hole.
- Bury the human waste by scraping the dirt you removed back into the cat hole.
- Place any used toilet paper, tampons, sanitary pads, wipes, or anything else you’ve used, in a zip lock plastic bag to pack out with you.
More questions? More angst? You’ll find more detailed information in my book, “How to Poop in the Woods, and other Backpacking Essentials for Women.”
You will no doubt meet other people in the backcountry who do not follow these practices. And at some point, unless you are very lucky, you will find a site where evidence of their less-than-pristine practices is apparent. Used toilet paper which an animal has dug up strung about the site… a fire ring with bits of used toilet paper that didn’t fully burn… a rock with wads of used toilet paper peeking out around the edges… Please, don’t be that camper.