Pooping in the Woods

Content “borrowed” from: GossamerGear

Ever wondered how to poop in the woods while hiking? Everybody poops, and everybody who enjoys the backcountry has probably heard talk about how to poop in the woods. There are many good reasons why this is such a popular topic– pooping without a toilet is something most people in the developed world find uncomfortable at best, and when done incorrectly, it can leave unpleasant and toxic piles near campsites or trails.

Nobody (except Leejay Abucayan, for obvious reasons) wants to see a human poo sitting on the side of the trail, nor would they want invisible poo particles leeching into a pristine stream where they may need to get their drinking water. With that in mind, the proper etiquette for Leave No Trace pooping is one of the most important things you can learn before hitting the trail.

The Cathole Technique

A cathole is the most widely accepted method of backcountry human waste disposal outside of a toilet — dig a hole, poop in it, cover it. The advantages are:

  1. They are easy to dig in most areas.
  2. They are easy to disguise after use.
  3. They are private.
  4. They disperse the waste rather than concentrate it (which enhances decomposition).
  5. It is usually easy to select an out-of-the-way location where you can be certain no one is going to casually encounter the cathole.

Selecting a Cathole Site

  1. Select a cathole site far from water sources, trail, or camping sites. 200 feet (approximately 70 adult paces) is the recommended range.
  2. Select an inconspicuous site untraveled by people. Examples of cathole sites include thick undergrowth, near downed timber, or on gentle hillsides.
  3. If camping with a group or if camping in the same place for more than one night, disperse the catholes over a wide area; don’t go to the same place twice.
  4. Try to find a site with deep organic soil. This contains organisms which will help decompose the feces. (Organic soil is usually dark and rich in color.) The desert does not have as much organic soil as a forested area.
  5. If possible, locate your cathole where it will receive maximum sunlight. The heat from the sun will aid decomposition.
  6. Choose an elevated site where water would not normally collect during runoff or rain storms. The idea here is to keep the feces out of water. Over time, the decomposing feces will percolate into the soil before reaching water sources.

Digging a Cathole

  1. A small trowel is the perfect tool for digging a cathole. If you don’t have a trowel, you can use a stick, a flat rock, a hiking pole, or a tent peg as a digging implement, but it will probably take you longer. A trowel will be more efficient and ensure you make a proper cathole. They are inexpensive and some are extremely light.
  2. Dig the hole 6-8 inches deep and 4-6 inches in diameter. In a hot desert, human waste does not biodegrade easily because there is little organic soil to help break it down. In the desert, the cathole should be only 4-6 inches deep. This will allow the heat and sun to hasten the decay process.

Topping Off the Cathole

When finished, the cathole should be topped off with the rest of the original dirt and disguised with native materials.

Published by KP