The Lord set the standard for how to poop when outside. Deuteronomy 23: 12-13 says,
“You shall also have a place outside the camp and go out there, 13 and you shall have a spade among your tools, and it shall be when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and shall turn to cover up your excrement.”
Everybody poops! When going on an adventure outside, people will have to perform daily functions like going to the bathroom. The majority of folks do this well in the frontcountry, but in the backcountry the standard for going to the bathroom, especially going “number two”, is very low. Yet, if everyone will have to go poop when in the backcountry, why shouldn’t we talk about how to do it and how to do it well? Today’s blog will be bringing “number two” into a number one priority.
In Deuteronomy the nation of Israel may not have known the poor health effects of having their waste above ground, but the Lord protected them from disease, smell, and even the sight of their own excrement by having them bury it. Today we know that human waste can spread germs like norovirus, shigella, E. coli, etc. when it reaches water, we know that it can create unlivable spaces due to smell, and that it looks pretty gross. When in the backcountry, we follow Leave No Trace ethics to avoid these ill side effects knowing that it is better for each human that comes after you, and better for the environment in which you go the bathroom in.
The following are the steps to have a good poop in the woods while performing Leave No Trace ethics:
- Here at SROM we call our spade or “tool” Stanley. So when folks have to go poop, they can just say they have to go Stanley. It is important to take action right away when you know you have to go Stanley. The backcountry requires more prep time to prepare for a peaceful poop, so when you have the urge- find your friend Stanley.
- Take a poo kit with Stanley. My poo kit consists of the following: a ziplock bag with colored duct tape on the outside to hide my used wipes, hand sanitizer, a whistle (in case of emergencies), and wet wipes (I believe they work much better than toilet paper). Depending on if you’re in bear country, bring bear spray with you as wel
- As soon as you have all your poo goodies, start heading out of camp. We suggest a five minute walk in one direction. Head away from your camp, others camps, water (including snow), and trails. Try to be at least 100 yards from camps and trails and 200 yards away from water (1 step = 2 feet). The goal is to be in a secluded spot where you won’t feel rushed, pressured, or interrupted.
- Now that you have found “your spot” it is time to start digging. Set your things aside and get Stanley. With Stanley, start creating a circle (6 inch diameter). Once the circle is shaped, begin to dig out the dirt forming a nice pile beside your hole. The hole should be 6 to 8 inches inches deep.
**Please note: how wide and how deep your hole is depends on your average poop size. You do NOT want an overflow. So, know your poops and plan your hole accordingly so that you can cover it with a thick layer of dirt.**
- Relief is coming! Your hole has been made! Set Stanley aside and get your wiping materials ready. I use wet wipes torn in half and use the folding method (not the crinkle method). Position yourself so the poop will land IN the hole. Positions vary! You can squat over it, squat and have a hand behind you to steady you (tripod position), or, if close to a big tree or rock, you can even lean your back on them to support yourself. It comes down to what feels best for you.
- Relieve yourself.
- After relieving yourself, use a wet wipe to clean yourself. After using the wet wipe, put it in your ziplock bag covered with duct tape (or whatever you use to carry your used wipes out with). Do NOT leave toilet paper or wet wipes in the hole. If you use natural wet wipes (leaves, soft sticks, etc.) you can leave them in the hole. Please be careful when using natural wipes. You do not want to wipe with poison ivy or some other irritating plant…
- After wiping and putting your wipes in a bag to carry out, sanitize your hands. Make sure no poop has escaped or landed around the hole. If poop is out of the hole, use a small stick to put the poop in the hole and then add the poopy stick to the hole. Anything that has poop on it needs to go INTO the hole. Please, oh please, do NOT use Stanley to move or touch poop. Stanley is your friend, don’t let him get poopy.
- After all poop is in the hole, use Stanley to push the dirt back into the hole and over the poop. Do your best to camouflage it to make it look as natural as you found it.
- Pick up your items and enjoy the (lighter) stroll back to camp. Don’t forget to wash your hands back at camp with soap and water. Hand sanitizer isn’t good enough.
- Double use. I always use ½ a wet wipe to clean my face before bed. Then, the wet wipes that I have cleaned my face with, I can use after I Stanley. This way I can get double use out of my wet wipes.
- Central location. Once at camp, have a central location for Stanley. This means that Stanley has a spot to “live” at camp so if anybody needs to go, they know exactly where to get and return Stanley.
- Make it normal. For some folks talking about poop and having to create their own cathole will be freaky. I sometimes create a “grading system” for poops so students are thinking more about how “good” their poop was opposed to being freaked out that they are pooping in a hole in the woods. My grading system is as follows:
- One = I’m not sure that pooping experience could have gotten much worse.
- Two = Good enough. Got the job done.
- Three = Had a good poop and a good view.
- Four = Good poop, good view, and even saw an animal.
- Five = Good poop, good view, saw an animal, and made eye contact with an animal.
- Six = Good poop, good view, saw an animal, and made eye contact with an animal while they were pooping!
- Seven = Beyond words.
- Remember the “D’s”.
- Desire– Need to go. Don’t wait until you’re desperate!
- Devices– Stanley, wiping utensils, and/or poo kit
- Distance/Directions– Distance from camp/H20/trails is ~5 minute walk
- Do the Doo-ty!
- Disinfect– Use hand sanitizer or wash hands with soap and water
- Discuss– scale of 1 to 7 (as shown above)
- Care. This may seem like a lot of work and hassle for a bathroom break, but if everyone were to poop above ground when they went outdoors imagine what that would do to the smell, sight, and overall experience of being in a wilderness area. Help and care for our natural world by using these steps to keep areas in nature clean, and know the protocols for other, more fragile environments.
We encourage you to go play in the outdoors and to enjoy every poop you have while on your adventures! May it go smoothly!