Chapter 56: How to Poop in the Woods

Many hikers are uncomfortable pooping in the woods. But it’s really pretty simple. Just follow a few easy steps.

Here’s the most important information first.  Most of the stomach problems hikers have are not caused by giardia, but by not cleaning their hands after defecating or not cleaning their cookware properly.  If you take care of those two potential problems, you’ll increase your odds of a happier hike.

When you need to urinate in the woods, go at least 200 feet from the trail and water sources. To defecate also go over 200 feet from the trail and water, and dig a hole about 6 to 8 inches deep with a stick.  You don’t need to carry a hand trowel.  It’s extra weight and could become unsanitary.  If you use toilet paper instead of natural materials, make sure you use white, unscented paper.  It’s more biodegradable.  When you’re finished, place the paper in the hole, too.  Cover with soil, and if possible, place a rock or bark over the area to discourage animals from digging.

 Wash your hands with just a few drops of biodegradable soap.  There are several popular brands that can be used for hands, face, body, hair, clothing, dishes, or anything washable.  You can transfer some of the soap into a ¼ or ½-ounce container and have plenty, even if you’re hiking long distances between resupply points.  Some hikers also like to use antibacterial hand sanitizer.

If you use wet wipes, and it’s legal to build a fire, you can burn the wipes thoroughly in a hot fire.  If you can’t have a fire or don’t want one, you’ll have to carry out the wet wipes.  In some fragile and high-use areas, you may have to carry out your excrement. Be prepared with a lightweight double-bag system.