Alright, it’s time to get down to business behind the bushes. You have your toilet paper in hand, a happy whistle, and lots of time in front of you to go as slow as you want. Wait a second though. You need a guide to show you How to Poop Cleanly and Hygienically Outdoors in the Woods.
Let’s get started.
Before We Get Going, Keep ‘Leave No Trace’ in Mind
You are going to poop in nature. If everyone in the US did so every day, we would have an environmental crisis on our hands, but we don’t because we take proper care of our waste. You need to do the same. It is up to you to be responsible.
You want to use as little toilet paper as possible. Toilet paper is not meant to be outdoors. It is unnatural.
If you see something natural like a leaf, smooth stone, branch, or even a snowball you know is not poisonous, then use it. You can then help smooth the decomposition process. Be sure to follow all the instructions in this guide, so you aren’t leaving a big mess in the woods.
If you dig your hole too shallow, then animals can rummage up your poop and the rain might wash it away into the drinking water of a stream or lake. Be thoughtful.
Step 1 – Get the Proper Gear
You are going to need a handful of key items.
Hand Sanitizer – this Item is a Must Have
If you want to stay hygienic, then it is necessary. If you wipe and forget to clean your hands afterwards, then you can infect your food and you could get sick. You do not want that to happen. Cleanliness is next to health.
Biodegradable Non-Scented Toilet Paper – Another Essential Piece of Gear
You should always carry this along with you. I cannot tell you how many times I have been caught off guard by a surprise poop. You never know when you might have to heed nature’s call. The fastest I have ever run in my life was because of a surprise poop. Don’t be like me. Take the toilet paper with you.
Non-Scented Biodegradable Soap is Essential
Hand sanitizer works well. If you have no space for anything else, then by all means only bring it along with you. Biodegradable hand soap goes a long way though. You can scrub your hands and let the soap sit there for a minute or two and you will be able to take care of everything well.
These are helpful because many will come with instructions on how to take care of business outdoors. If you do want to touch your poop, then a trowel can take care of all of that for you. You do not have to lay a finger in your mess. You can also dig a deeper, wider hole with one.
Sealable Plastic Bag, Only if the Rules Require It
This is the only optional item. You need to check the rules for the area you are camping or backpacking in. Around Mount Whitney for example, you need to bring a WAG bag. They help to keep streams and lakes free of feces. When you go to the bathroom, you will, more than likely, dig a hole and then do your business, not going in a bag.
If you want to guarantee only a minimal environmental impact, then a bag is essential.
Step 2: Choose Your Method
I have found when I need to go to the bathroom outdoors I have to really go. You can kind of induce the process at home, but not in the woods. It is a bit scary, so you only go when you absolutely have to. Anyway though, not all your options are the same. You have three choices available to you.
The Squat – My Go to Choice
This is really healthy for your intestinal tract. When I was fossil hunting in Kenya and nature surprised me on our searches, popping a squat was more enjoyable. You can sit on the ground and do your business, but it was not my thing. Squatting feels better. It is pretty easy to get used to this method.
I haven’t tried this one, but it is worth consideration. If you want to put as much distance between you and the ground, then this is an option to consider. Make sure you hang on the whole time though. You do not want to lose your grip mid wipe and then fall into your hole.
The Butt Hang – Definitely Not My First Choice
You need a log for this one. You sit on the log like a regular toilet except your excrement falls down the side. Again, it is not my go to choice. If you are just getting into pooping outdoors, then the butt hang can help to smooth your transition.
Step 3: Find an Appropriate Spot and Do Your Business
Go somewhere private and away from everything. You need to be 200 feet (70 steps) away from a trail, water source, or campsite. This prevents contamination.
Like anytime you go to the bathroom, your number one priority should be privacy. Going to the bathroom is a delicate matter. Put plenty of distance between you and other people. It sucks to surprise someone and then make eye contact with them.
At the same time though, you need to ensure you do not get lost if you head off trail. Many people have gotten lost and never found in the outdoors because they wanted privacy. They then could not find the trail. You give up a certain amount of privacy when going to the loo outdoors.
Most people (unless they are really weird) will respect your privacy. If they accidentally see you, they will turn away.
Your best bet is loose, rich, sunny soil. This choice aids in the decomposition process. The sun helps to break down your feces. Sometimes this kind of soil is hard to find. That is alright. You have to work with what you have.
Once you have found your spot away from everyone else, dig a hole 4 inches (10 cm) wide and 6 – 8 inches (15 – 20 cm) deep. This gives plenty of depth for your poop to decompose and leave as little impact as possible. You do not want it to wash away in a storm into a river or lake. No one wants to see a surprise log float up on them.
When you start, use as little toilet paper as possible. Use natural objects if you can. The more natural everything is, the more likely you will follow ‘Leave No Trace’ to a ‘T.’ Toilet paper is not meant to be used in nature, but they have made exceptions. You can also pack up your toilet after you are done.
After you have finished your business, grab a stick, stir your poop in with the dirt, and cover with rocks. This helps to speed up and spread the decomposition process. In doing so, you leave less of an environmental impact. If you leave the rocks on top in a circular formation, it gives a warning to any passersby you swing by later. They will probably not want to go where you have been.
Congratulations! You’re all done.
My Top 5 Tips to Stay Clean and Hygeinic
1. Always Use Hand Sanitizer After Each Trip to Nature’s Bathroom.
I used to be against hand sanitizer, not anymore though. It is really easy to use. You can use it much more readily than soap and water. With just a quick squirt and a little hand rubbing, you can be off and on your way in no time flat. If you do not like soaping and washing up, then hand sanitizer will save you a lot of time.
2. If Washing, Soaping, and Drying Your Hands, Designate a Particular Towel.
Towels can get dirty. They are not exceptional. If you often forget to clean and wash them (like me :)!), then you need to keep a careful eye on your towel.
3. Baby Wipes are Not Just for Babies.
For your last wipe, use a baby wipe. Most people do not do this until they get into the shower where they use soap. Trust me on this one. It will change your life. As a side note, if you accidentally wipe with a poisonous leaf or branch unknowingly, then a baby wipe will help a little. With a baby wipe, remember to pack it out. They are not meant to be thrown away like trash to the wind.
4. Thoroughly Wash Your Hands Once a Day.
Hand sanitizer works wonders, but soap and water are tried and true. If you use soap, make sure it is biodegradable and unscented. You can really grind into the grime and grunge of the day with soap and water. You need to do so at least once a day to ensure you are as clean as a chrome car.
5. Pack Out What You Pack In.
Most places will be fine to let you go off the trail. To really ensure you have little environmental impact, then you need to go in a bag. It is the price you pay to be environmentally friendly, but that is what needs to be done. The world population gets bigger and bigger every day and we all need to be more mindful of our actions.
Are You Looking for Some Boots?
You should now be all set to go. You know how to stay clean. It is essential to say the least. Get ready for your next camping or backpacking trip.
If you are looking for some high quality boots, then I have got you covered. In a previous article, The Best Men’s Lightweight Waterproof Hiking Boots of 2019, I wrote all about the best of the best. (I update these types of posts on an annual basis.) You will be sure to find what you are looking for. Check it out!