Digging a cathole.
Adventure

How to Poop in the Woods: A Four-Step Process

At some point on your hike, you’re going to have to poop.

Every hiker has at least one poop story (I’ve got a few of my own), so knowing how to dispose of human waste properly (the third principle of the seven Leave No Trace principles) is a crucial piece of knowledge for all hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.

The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) recently posted a four-step guide on how to poop in the woods. It goes a little like this.

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

There are rules about where you can do your business. It can vary slightly from forest to forest, but the general guideline is 200 feet from the trail, campsites, and water sources. So it’s best to not wait until the last possible moment when nature comes knocking at the back door.

2. Have a Proper “Poop Kit”

You’re going to need some gear to do this right. At the very least you should have:

  • Ziploc bag with toilet paper.
  • Empty Ziploc bag for packing out used toilet paper (it won’t be empty for long)
  • Trowel for digging a cathole
  • Hand sanitizer
A broken poop shovel.
Even a broken trowel can still dig a hole.

3. Don’t: Drop & Cover

Don’t just do your business and drop a rock on it. You never know who’s going to come along and move that rock. No one wants that.

4. Do: Dig a Cathole

Dig the hole, 6 to 8 inches deep, do your business, stir it up good (with a stick), then backfill it with dirt. And don’t forget to pack out that toilet paper.

A cathole 6 to 8 inches deep.
How to did a proper cathole. Image: Leave No Trace.

 

For more details about how to poop in the woods, read the PCTA’s Basic skill: Pooping in four steps.

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Header image: Flickr user bentleywg CC:BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

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