I can't believe it has taken me this long to finally write a post about pooping in the woods!
This is actually one of my favorite topics to teach to new backpackers! Seriously, though.
Because it is also my number one biggest pet peeve when hikers use the bathroom all willy nilly in the woods, wherever and however they want to, without any consideration to anyone else or the environment.
Since I've become a Leave No Trace trainer, I've talked to more people about pooping and peeing in the woods than most probably do their whole lives!
And I feel like I've heard it all -
"My horse poops on the trail, so... so can I! It's natural"
"Oh I just hold it. I held it in for five days once."
"My wipes are biodegradable, so it's ok to leave them on the ground."
These are actual things I've heard hikers try to tell me!
So just to clear some things up, in case you can relate to any of those - horse poop *is* natural and can be found and left out in nature, it is also relatively low in harmful bacteria and breaks down fairly quickly.
Human poop is very very high in all sorts of harmful bacteria (not regularly found in nature) and doesn't break down that quickly if not dealt with properly.
Please please please never hold it in! Ok maybe if you know you'll be near a bathroom within a half or hour or so, then you might hold it in and I wouldn't judge you. But you can do some serious damage (even die) from holding poop in for too long! And by too long I mean several days or longer. Seriously. Please don't do it, take care of yourself out there.
Ok, biodegradable wipes - don't just disappear. It could take years for them to 'biodegrade.' And they definitely aren't natural or something that would be found in nature. A lot of them have some sort of scent to them and would be dug up by animals long before they biodegrade, which isn't good for the animals to be eating them, or for other hikers to see your dug up, used wet wipes. Please pack them out in a ziploc baggie with other trash.
Alright, I think we're ready. In the video below I'll show you how to dig a proper cat hole. I decided to keep it playing in real time, instead of speeding it up like a lot fandangled videos on the internet these days, because I wanted to reiterate how quick of a process this can be. It literally takes less than five minutes to dig a cat hole (and watch this video) Less than five minutes!
So please be sure to practice Leave No Trace when pooping in the woods and help us prevent the spread of illness and disease in our water sources and public lands.
- Choose a spot with a great view! May as well enjoy yourself, right?
- Hold on to a sturdy tree or large log while squatting, to take some of the pressure off your legs. Keyword being sturdy.
- Allow your body to fully sink into the squat, this is actually how our bodies were designed to poop and helps us fully empty everything out of there. You know those weird holes in the ground that every other country calls a public bathroom? They're not crazy, they're practical.
- If you're with kids, or just a kid at heart, create a 5-star rating system to make it more fun and easy to talk about and do. You get one star off the bat just for pooping in a hole. One for a great view. One for spotting wildlife. One for consistency. And one for wipe-ability.
Check out these other great hiking how-to posts:
- How To Pick A Good Campsite
- How To Plan Ahead And Prepare (Leave No Trace Style)
- How To Have Your Period On The Trail
Please do let me know if you have any questions about pooping in the woods in the comments below!
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I'll cover everything you need to know so you and your hiking partners can enjoy the trail responsibly without leaving harmful, human impacts behind.
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