How Do I Go to the Bathroom in the Woods?
You’re on the hiking trail enjoying your hike when it suddenly hits you: you have to go to the bathroom. Like, right now. There’s no way you’re making it back to the trailhead in time. And now you’re left wondering how to go to the bathroom in the woods.
Don’t worry. It happens to everyone. With a little bit of knowledge and a little bit of planning beforehand, you won’t have any problems going to the bathroom in the woods. Then you can continue with the rest of your hike in comfort.
Check out these tips on how to pee (and poop!) in the woods so you’re always prepared if the urge strikes.
Related: Hiking for Beginners- Everything You Need to Know
How to Go to the Bathroom in the Woods
Bears do it in the woods. So do deer and rabbits. So why can’t humans squat and go wherever and whenever they please?
It’s simply a matter of numbers. In 2019, it’s estimated that around 49.69 million people went hiking in the U.S. If every single one of these people used the bathroom in the woods wherever they felt like, we’d be dealing with some nasty bacteria all over the place.
There are four main objectives you should follow when you go to the bathroom in the woods:
- Avoid polluting water sources.
- Minimize contact with animals.
- Minimize spreading disease.
- Maximize the speed of decomposition.
As you’re planning your next hiking trip, it’s important to find out if there are any regulations on human waste where you’re going. Some heavily visited areas and high-elevation spots require you to pack out your solid waste.
If you know you’re not visiting an area with these requirements, then you can use these tips to use the bathroom when hiking.
Related: 5 Trail Etiquette Rules You Never Want to Break
How to Pee in the Woods
Admittedly, men tend to have an easier time peeing in the woods than women. But everyone can use these tips to be more comfortable when peeing on a hike.
- Find a spot that’s well away from the trail for privacy. You also want to make sure you’re at least 200 feet (about 70 steps) from the trail, water sources, and campsites.
- If you’re squatting to pee, look for an area that will absorb quickly, such as pine needles. This will help reduce the splash.
- Try to find a spot where the ground slopes down and make sure you stand uphill so the pee runs away from you.
- Make sure your boot laces, pants, backpack straps, etc. are out of the way.
- If the weather is cold or rainy, or you’re in an area with little vegetation for privacy, a pee funnel let’s you pee standing up. Make sure you practice using it at home first so you’re comfortable with it. If possible, rinse it out when you’re done, and bring an extra plastic bag you can use to carry it home.
- Even if you don’t think you’re going to have to use the bathroom on the trail, you should always carry some biodegradable toilet paper in a small plastic bag. Then you can dispose of it in the toilet when you get home.
- Don’t forget to use some hand sanitizer when you’re done to keep your hands clean!
How to Poop in the Woods
Pooping in the woods is a bit trickier because you need a few more supplies to take care of your business. However, once you have what you need and you know the proper technique to follow, you’ll find it easier to poo in the woods.
What You Need to Bring
In addition to hand sanitizer and biodegradable toilet paper, you’ll want to make sure you also have the following items:
- Sealable plastic bag: You need a plastic bag to pack out any items you use to go to the bathroom.
- Human waste disposal bags: If you’re hiking in an area that requires people to pack out their solid waste, you’ll need to bring some human waste disposal bags. Even though they’re supposed to be leakproof, I recommend placing them in another plastic bag just to be safe.
- Camp trowel: Although you can use a stick to a dig hole, a camp trowel makes this job MUCH easier.
Finding the Right Spot to Go to the Bathroom in the Woods
- Once again, you’ll need to find a spot that’s at least 200 feet from the trail, campsites, and water sources.
- If possible, try to find a place that has loose soil in a sunny location. Both of these conditions will help the waste decompose faster.
- Use your camp trowel to make a hole that’s about 4 inches wide and 6 to 8 inches deep.
Cleaning Up After Yourself
- If you don’t have any toilet paper, you can use natural items, such as leaves, moss, smooth stones, or a snowball to wipe off. Just be completely confident what you’re using isn’t poisonous. Also, make sure whatever you’re using is close at hand before you start using the bathroom.
- You can place biodegradable toilet paper in your hole if you’re absolutely sure it’s an acceptable practice where you’re hiking. However, it’s always better for the environment if you pack it out.
- Cover your hole with the original dirt and completely fill it in. Tamp the dirt down with your foot. Remember to keep Leave No Trace principles in mind and cover the area with leaves and branches so it looks similar to how you found it.
- Always, always, ALWAYS use sanitizer on your hands after you poop in the woods. Rub vigorously and make sure you get in between your fingers.
How to Use the Bathroom in the Woods
If using the bathroom in the woods concerns you more than preventing blisters on a hike, you can now rest easy. Thanks to these helpful tips, you know how to go the bathroom in the woods the right way.
By following these tips, you’ll be more comfortable on your hike and, most importantly, you’ll be preserving the great outdoors that we all love so much.
More Useful Hiking Tips
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