Learning to poop in the great outdoors is a rite of passage for all outdoor adventurers. But it can be intimidating! I hear pretty regularly from women that it is reason enough to keep some of us out of the backcountry altogether. Proper disposal of human waste is important to avoid pollution of water sources, minimize the spread of disease, maximize the rate of decomposition, and ewwww... to keep someone else from finding it!
In most cases, burying your poop correctly is most effective. In some places, such as narrow river canyons, solid human waste must be packed out. The specific land management agency can advise you of the rules for the area you are visiting.
Option #1: Wag Bags
There are several EPA-approved commercially produced pack-out systems. If using wag bags, these individually wrapped "toilets-to-go" include a spill proof bag for liquid and solid waste, toilet paper, and an antimicrobial wipe. You set the foil bag on the ground and take aim the best you can! You then simply lift the drawstring liner, slide it closed, tie the straps, tuck the liner inside the foil bag and zip the top. You are ready to pack it out! I generally tuck the foil bag inside my blue mesh bag and stuff it way in the bottom of my backpack, so I don't have to think about it. Hahahaha! Easy!
Option #2: Cat Holes
Choose an inconspicuous site untraveled by people. A hillside, or heavily thicketed area is ideal. Don't go to the same place twice. Deep, organic soil will speed decomposition. Maximum sunlight is ideal. Heat aids decomposition as well. If possible, choose an elevated site where water will not normally runoff during a storm.
Find a spot at least 200 ft from water, trails, or camp.
With a small shovel, dig a hole 6-8 inches deep and 4-6 inches wide.
Do your business.
Cover and disguise your cat hole with natural materials when finished.
What do I need for my Cat Holes?
a small shovel or garden trowel
white, non-scented toilet paper
wipes, if necessary
plastic resealable baggies for packing out toilet paper
Use plain white, non-perfumed toilet paper sparingly. If it can be thoroughly buried in organic soil, it can be buried in a cat hole. Placing used toilet paper in a plastic bag and packing it out as trash is the best way to Leave No Trace in a desert environment.
Place tampons in a plastic bag and pack them out! Don't bury them. They don't decompose quickly and animals may dig them up.
To my horror, I found tons of pictures online of people demonstrating squatting techniques in the woods. Hahahaha! Check 'em out if you need to, but I figured you could use your imagination. Two kinds of tree squatting will help to support your body and allow you to relax into your business. The first option is squatting with your back against the tree, facing away from it. You can also try squatting facing the tree with your arms wrapped around the trunk and your hands clasped behind it.
Sitting on a fallen tree, parallel to the ground also works if it is a smallish tree and you can scoot your backside far enough off the back without falling off.
Squatting off the back of a rock can work as well.
However you do it, you're going to have to get those quads fired up! Happy squatting!
Urine has little effect on vegetation or soil in the outdoors. Sometimes the salts in it can attract wildlife. Going on rocks, pine needles, and gravel is less likely to have this effect. So, pee away! Use natural vegetation, snow, etcetera for wiping if it is a safe option. If you use toilet paper, make sure you tuck your used toilet paper inside a zipped baggie and pack it out!
Kind of a cool concept, and an alternative to toilet paper or leaves...The Kula Pee Cloth is a reusable antimicrobial cloth that keeps your hands dry on one side while sopping moisture with the absorbent antimicrobial side. It is a silver ion-infused material that isn't irritating to skin and folds and snaps to your backpack when not in use. They're pretty magical! They come in an array of snazzy colors,
and you can buy them on Amazon or at sporting goods stores like REI.
Most of our backpack trips are Pack-it-in-pack-it-out destinations. We will each be required to carry wag bags for personal use. Rangers are permitted to check.
As users of the amazing recreational lands that surround us, we always want to leave a place better than we found it. One person does make a difference! Let's protect and enjoy our natural world together. Good luck, ladies! You've got this!