How to Poop In the Woods, Part One

Pooping in the wilds is a big concern for many first time backpackers. Generally speaking, it’s quite simple! When hiking in Yellowstone (one of our more common backpacking trips) – or in most any wild place for that matter – you begin by finding a well-drained location at least 100 feet from water (preferably further) and away from camp or trail. On Big Wild treks, the guide carries a digging tool, and you simply dig a small hole about 6 – 8 inches deep at the selected location. Once the hole is dug, set the tool aside; you are done with it! Now, lighten your load into the hole and deposit your paper there, too. Then take a stick or a rock (not the digging tool!) and cover your work with the topsoil you piled up when you dug the hole. Make certain that the hole and its contents are completely covered by a good couple inches of dirt. And finally, grab a handful of pine needles or small twigs or other natural detritus and finish the reclamation by completely naturalizing the site. Make it look like you were never there. That’s it, no muss, no fuss. Do not ever simply poop on the ground and cover it with a rock. The beauty of burial is that in most environments, fungal and microbial activity in the topsoil will quickly decompose your waste and paper. That’s why we utilize these 6 – 8 inch deep ‘cat-holes’ for human waste disposal. They work!

A couple of other thoughts. Some of our first time clients worry about the personal sanitation aspect of pooping in the woods. I find it interesting that many folks think nothing of utilizing a public facility in town while worrying about dirt in wild nature. But natural soil is way more sanitary than any public ‘rest room’ (we don’t go there to rest, now, do we?). Nonetheless, sanitation is important and of course we want you to wash up with water after you reclaim the project site. And also, please utilize the hand sanitizer that’s included on your Big Wild Adventures Clothing/Personal Backpacking Gear List. Next blog, I’ll finish this stimulating topic by discussing a few situations specific to some backpacking routes in which wild pooping requires some variations from the typical cat-hole method described above.

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