A First-Timer's Guide: How to Poop in the Woods
TMI alert. We’re talking about poop here.
You clicked on it. I know you’re curious.
Going to the bathroom should be simple, even in nature. Here’s how to do it without hesitation or confusion.
Stop suffering in silence until you make it back home. I’ve learned the hard way.
Step 1: Take a walk
When its time to go, go far.
One, you need privacy to fully relax. Two, you never want to relieve yourself within 200 steps of a water source, so be mindful of what direction you head in.
Stick to the trail for a while and once you think you’ve walked far enough, keep going for good measure. Also, if you realize someone else is missing before you depart for your stroll, ask around to make sure they aren’t out on the same mission as you.
Step 2: Get you some “natty wipes”
As you search for the perfect spot to squat (lol), scan the ground for natty wipes.
What are natty wipes? Let’s think about it for a second. SO, natty stands for natural or nature.
That’s right. I’m talking about the earthly treasures at your feet.
A handful of leaves may be the first natural wipe that comes to mind—but ever since I accidentally wiped with poison ivy in my back yard when I was nine, I avoid them.
They’re unreliable. Especially crunchy leaves on the ground. Those are guaranteed to crumble into disaster.
Enter—rocks and sticks. Sounds painful, right? It doesn’t have to be.
If using a stick:
Stay crouched down in your squatting position. Turn the stick vertical. Start at the bottom and swipe…like a credit card. A couple of sticks will do.
Best kind of stick: a small limb from an Aspen tree branch. That white, smooth bark is gold.
If using a rock:
My other natty wipe of choice is a smooth, rounded river rock. Smooth is key. I’m sure you can guess why.
Same thing here. Stay perched. Wipe like normal. Repeat with another rock.
Sure, you can always carry along actual toilet paper, but to leave less impact and adhere closer to Leave No Trace, I choose to avoid the hassle of packing it out.
Also, who wants to be miles deep in the woods and realize you left your all-natural, expensive “biodegradable” toilet paper in the car?
Not this girl!
Step 3: Start digging
Do you just throw your natty wipes down a hill when you’re done? Absolutely not.
After you find your spot and your sticks (or rocks—never leaves), its time to dig a hole.
You may feel like an animal when you go to the bathroom in the woods. So, if you’re going to be an animal, be a cat.
ALWAYS dig a cat hole before you go. Six to eight inches deep. No one wants to step in your surface poop. Not even a bear.
When you finish, throw your natty wipes in there too and cover it back up. If using toilet paper, put it in a Ziploc bag to pack out.
Animals dig that stuff up even if you bury it.
Also, a cat hole helps your feces decompose faster. Dig one with your hands, nearby sticks, or carry a pocket-sized shovel. A tiny shovel is great because you can tuck it in your pocket or bag and no one will know you’re not just on a pee break.
Step 4: Enjoy the scenery
Your bowels can take you to some beautiful places. Take advantage of these moments.
If you’re on a trip with a bunch of people, this may be your only time alone. Even if you’re traveling with one friend or a significant other—your stroll to find that perfect fallen tree to hide behind is serious me-time.
No joke, I keep a mental note of the prettiest, most memorable places I’ve gone to the bathroom in.
A mountain ridge in Ouray, Colorado is in the top three, for sure.
So, do your business and remind yourself where you are. Look around. Take it all in. I would say breathe in that fresh air, buuuut on this particular occasion… Let’s skip that one.
Pull your pants up. Return as a refreshed, lighter you.
Step 5: BE EMPOWERED
Before I learned how to go to the bathroom outside, I just suffered. Yep. I held it in.
Imagine living on coffee, Clif bars and oatmeal—FOR DAYS. This feeling can ruin your trip. Actually no. It will ruin your trip.
Bloated with sharp intestinal pain, I was way too embarrassed to speak up. I wondered how the heck everyone else managed. Was I the only one suffering here?!
Well, not anymore.
Driving down Blue Ridge Parkway and it’s “happening”? No rest stop or gas station in sight?
Pull over with confidence. Follow steps 1-4…and boom. THASSSS IT.
It’s so easy, I’m mind blown at how hard this was for me in the past. I’m liberated. I’m FREE.
Of course, more ideal practices than the cat hole are out there.
For example, packing out your business in one of Cleanwaste’s GO Anywhere bags. That’s the closest you can get to follow the Leave No Trace principles (which all nature lovers should strive for), especially when above tree-line or in an arid desert environment.
But for the first-time pooper, digging a cat-hole is a good start.
Just remember: 200 feet from water, dig a 6-8 inch cat hole, and use your natty wipes.
Lastly, educate yourself about human waste rules before you visit a new place. You’d be surprised at what’s on and off-limits.
I hope that you too feel liberated next time you’re outdoors and get the urge. Your intestines will thank you.
Have fun out there. Don’t get constipated, people.