How To Go To The Bathroom In The Wild

If you weren’t an avid camper growing up, and you’re fairly new to spending an extended amount of time out in the wild, it’s likely that you don’t know how to go to go to the bathroom “correctly.”

You might think, “how hard could going to the bathroom really be?” If wild animals go anywhere they want to, then you can too, right? Wrong. There are actually some very good reasons for disposing of your feces correctly.

Why Bury It?


Burying your excrement is the most frequently used methods used by campers and hikers that are in locations that don’t have permanent facilities. When you bury your feces 6 to 8 inches in the organic soil and before you hit the mineral soil, it is more easily broken down because the organisms that decompose it live there.

Common Courtesy

It is always best to bury it in a hole and cover it so that the smell and flies don’t accumulate. This is especially important if you are at a campsite or off a hiking trail of a popular spot. There are several million people that go backpacking every year, and even if your particular trail seems remote, odds are there are a lot more people who frequent it than you think. No one wants to accidentally step in feces that are uncovered or see someone’s used toilet paper scrunch just hanging out by the trail. It definitely takes away from the fresh, clean air experience.

Avoid Disease

One thing you should always do is make sure that you are far away from a water source when you go. If you leave your excrement uncovered, the odds are higher for giardia and even hepatitis to get into the water source, when heavy rains occur, and infect other passersby.

Different Methods Of Disposing Of Feces

Cat Holes

Burying your feces is the most popular methods of getting rid of your excrement out in the wild. This is a simple and fast way of covering your tracks. Here are the steps:

  1. Go to a secluded area off the main trail and at least 200 feet from a water source (or about 75 steps).
  2. Remove topsoil and set to the side.
  3. Dig a hole about 6 to 8 inches deep, leaving the removed dirt to the side.
  4. Do your business in the hole.
  5. Bury the feces (and decomposable toilet paper, if you have it) with the previously removed dirt and cover with the topsoil.
  6. Insert a stick into the covered hole to warn other campers and hikers not to go there.


Another method, similar to digging a cat hole, is to dig a latrine. Latrines are great when you have a big group of people who will be camping in one spot for an extended amount of time. This way you won’t have to dig a hole each time and have the site littered with small holes. For this method, you can follow these steps:

  1. Follow steps 1-2 above.
  2. Dig a hole about 6-8 inches deep and up to a few feet long. Set the fill dirt to the side.
  3. Do your business in the hole.
  4. Sprinkle a handful or two of dirt on your excrement to keep the smell down and the flies away.
  5. At the end of the camping trip, fill the trench with the remaining soil, cover with the topsoil, and mark with an inserted stick.

When Digging Isn’t An Option

So digging a hole and going in it seems easy enough, but what if you are hiking on a glacier or a mountainside that is solid rock? The digging method is not helpful at all in these circumstances. Just try digging into a glacier. It is not fun.

So what do you do? The only option, that follows the Leave No Trace guidelines, is to store it and carry it to the next place you can dispose of it. That may sound gross and smelly, But there are ways to reduce the nastiness.

First off, have individual bags for each time you need to go. You don’t want to have to open and close a bag holding feces several times. Place these feces and your toilet paper or wipes in the bag together and seal it, then place it in a larger sealable bag. You always want to double bag your feces, just in case.

Many people find that they like to cover their larger sealable bag that holds all the small individual bags with duct tape so they don’t have to look at the contents. You’ll want to store this bag away from your other equipment and food in your backpack. You may even want to attach it to the outside of your backpack, to reduce the smell in your pack.

Items To Bring

Going to the bathroom outside is definitely not a luxurious experience, but you can bring along some items to make it not so terrible:

  • Always bring hand sanitizer. It is so easy to use and effective. If you don’t have hand sanitizer, then wash your hands with soap and water. Wilderness dumping can be messy business, and you don’t want to travel without something to disinfect.
  • Wipes or toilet paper make going to the bathroom outside much cleaner for yourself. If you are burying your feces, bring toilet paper. If you are packing out, you might as well bring wipes to make sure you feel extra fresh. If you want to be super eco friendly, you can use a leaf, but be careful for poison ivy or other irritating plants.
  • Though you can dig a hole with a stick, it is very convenient to have a small, lightweight trowel to help with this task.
  • Bags are an essential part of carrying your feces out in the most clean and efficient way possible. Make sure you bring more than you think you will need, in case you go more frequently than you think you will.

What are some hygiene items you won’t go camping without?

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