Poop in the wild: A definitive guide

By Doug Williams
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Poop in the wild: A definitive guide

Doug Williams
 
 
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One of life’s most natural occurrences is, for most people, a daily visit to the toilet.

Sitting on your porcelain throne, in a clean and sweet-smelling bathroom, is a vastly different experience to facing mother earth and her sometimes unfriendly inhabitants.

Once you head off the beaten track, where there is no convenient outhouse to visit, the entire process becomes a little more fraught.

Anyone that goes hiking, adventure biking, or traveling into wilderness areas will know that pooping in the wild is one of the things that you will have to face at some stage or another.

Instead, work out how to do it before you start out on your hike or off-road adventure, thereby avoiding the struggle of coming to terms with it out in the wild!

Have to pee

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? – David Goehring – CC BY 2.0
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? – David Goehring – CC BY 2.0

Urinating does not carry the same degree of angst for people as having to poo does. For men, it is a simple matter of finding a convenient hiding place and doing what comes naturally.

For ladies, it is a somewhat more complicated business. However, there are now many appliances that can be bought that can make it a much simpler process.

Some ladies may find that squatting down leads to all kinds of mess on their feet so purchasing a female urination device makes a great deal of sense.

These devices will enable a lady to urinate whilst standing up, and most of them are packaged in discrete packs that are easily carried in a backpack. Remember to pack a small spray bottle of hand sanitizer as well.

Salts in your urine

Remember that whilst your urine is sterile it does carry various salts that can be attractive to animals. If you pee on bushes, you could find animals such as deer and goats destroying the vegetation to get to the salts.

If you are in an alpine area or an area with sensitive vegetation, try to pee on rocks so that the vegetation is not damaged by animals seeking the salts.

Wilderness Toilets

Toilet in the wild
Toilet in the wild

If you are traveling by 4X4 and you have space, there are a number of products available on the market that will make this entire experience relatively painless.

Almost all of them use WAG Bags to collect the waste. These biodegradable bags contain a powder that will break the waste down. T

he entire bag is biodegradable and can be disposed of in any waste bin. But don’t ever be tempted to bury the bag in the wilderness; it should be carried out with you and disposed of responsibly.

Hiking or Adventure Motorcycles

If you are hiking or riding a motorcycle, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to carry a portable loo, and thus you are left with only one option: borrow an idea from your feline friends and dig a hole.

Etiquette around a ‘cat hole’

Anyone that has hiked a popular trail knows how difficult it can be to answer the call of nature at a popular resting spot and find behind every tree and boulder an unpleasant mess left behind by other folks. Do not add to the mess; make sure you do it right.

Tell someone in your party where you are going. Again, not the kind of thing you would normally do, but for your own safety make sure someone knows you are going off on your own.

If you are in an area where there are likely to be predators, then take a friend with you to keep watch while you do your business, and if it is after dark always take a friend with you, and don’t forget your torch.

Choose the spot for your hole with care. Do not to poop within 200 feet (around 70-80 paces for an adult) of any natural water source; after all, would you want to drink someone else’s sewerage?

After making sure that you are a fair distance from water, look around for a convenient tree, boulder or log. If there is one, then dig your hole in a convenient spot.

Dig a hole no deeper than 6 inches. The bacteria that will cause the decomposition of the waste live in the top 6 inches of the ground. Carefully deposit your offering in the hole. Then take a stick and carefully stir up the contents of the hole with a little of the surrounding soil.

Cover the contents with the soil you originally removed. Take the stick and press it into the middle of the hole to warn others that this spot is used.

Toilet Paper

Don’t destroy the environment
Don’t destroy the environment

This is a very contentious issue, and everyone has a story of toilet paper flowers adorning the branches of bushes along their favorite trails. Toilet paper should never be buried as it is invariably dug up and is then blown around by the wind.

There are several schools of thought around the use of toilet paper, and many experienced wilderness adventurers will substitute a smooth rock, a stick, snow or anything else they can find as a substitute for those few soft sheets of paper.

If that does not appeal then, you must make a plan to deal with the paper.

Many people will carry the paper out with them in zip lock bags. Place a few teaspoons of baking soda or powdered bleach into smallish Ziploc bags and then place the used paper into the bag, zip it closed and place it in a bigger bag.

Another option is to place the used paper into a small brown paper bag and zip that into a larger plastic bag. At night, the brown bags, with their odoriferous contents, can be burned on your campfire.

Setting fire to the toilet paper in the hole is not a good idea, especially if it is blowing. The risks of starting a brush fire are high, and no one will thank you for that.

But if you have no other means of disposing of the paper, then this may be your only option.

A novel suggestion is to make a small portable bidet. Take a small spray tube, and fill it with water and a few drops of gentle soap.

After doing your business, spray the area and wash gently with one hand. Repeat the spray until you are clean. Use a little of the remaining water to wash your hand. Sanitize with hand sanitizer.

Hiking away from natural woodland areas

Toilet in the desert
Toilet in the desert

Deserts

If you are hiking in the desert, burying your poo will not help as it will not decompose as the bacteria required are missing. In these areas, it is better to poo onto a flat rock and then use a stick to spread it out across the face of the rock.

The desert sun will desiccate it very quickly, killing any bacteria, and the wind will disperse what is left.

Snow

Never poo in the snow and leave it there! It will be a nasty surprise for someone when the snow melts or if this is permanent snow it will never go away!

If you are on a glacier, you can try to find a crevasse and use that; otherwise, the only option you have is to take it out with you. Packing a few WAG-type bags will make the entire process a great deal easier to manage.

These bags are available online, or many trails have them for sale. Buy some and take them with you.

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