Pooping Outdoors – how to do so responsibly

Nobody really likes to talk about it, but everybody does it on a regular basis! Everybody poops! (Haha, this just remindes me of this book*..)
So I guess if you are camping or day hiking often you have had the situation that you needed to poop outdoors.

Pooping and peeing outdoors can be necessary, but doing so responsibly is very important and not as hard if you just follow a few rules to leave not trace.

Nobody is perfect, I get that a lot of people don’t think about their impact when peeing or pooping outdoors, because they just don’t know about the issues.

When I was younger and didn’t know anything about the leave no trace principles, and didn’t know about littering and how long our soft and bleached paper hankies can take to break down (I mean hey, they even survive a trip in the washing mashine), I did leave paper hankies in the woods after peeing on a walk too.

But now I know better, and thats why I like to share how you can pee and poop responsible when enjoying the Outdoors.

Leave No Trace

I don’t know how many times I’ve been on trail and have seen remains of human waste. If you are outdoors often too, you might have seen stuff like this too.
Freshly used toilet paper or tissues is often one of the most littered item around parking places, picknick areas or tentsites while trying to set up the tent.

I have seen old toilet paper that got dug up by animals and dragged all over the trail. The other day hiking along teh coast, I saw a used feminine napkin and wrapper right on trail and a couple weeks ago there was a filled baby diaper in the wild. Through the pandemic a lot of public toilets were closed, so the toilet litter got even more….

Experiences like this not only spoil the outdoor experience for those who find these remains, but they’re also very unsanitary. Stepping in Dog Poop is awful already, and no one wants to step in, hike around or sleep next to human poop either.

If you need to poop or pee outdoors, the irresponsibly handling of your poop or used toiletpaper is unacceptable and violates the Leave No Trace principles.

Leave No Trace Principles:

  1. Plan ahead and prepare
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  3. Dispose of waste properly
  4. Leave what you find
  5. Minimize campfire impacts
  6. Respect wildlife
  7. Be considerate of other visitors

(Visit the Leave No Trace website for more informations)

So because human remains is waste, we will talk about number 3 in this post: Dispose of waste properly.

Let´s see why you need to and how you can poop outdoors responsibly.

Wet wipes and other trash close around a parking spot
Pit Toilet in Estonia

Why is Responsible Outdoor Pooping so important?

There are many reasons why responsible outdoor pooping is important.

The most important reason is, the risk to contaminate drinking water and fish life. Viruses and bacteria found in human poop can lead to salmonella, giardia, gastro intestinal diseases or hepatitis.

Other important reasons are to protect wild life. Not buring you poop deep enough can spread diseases as wild animals could dig it up and can attract wild animals to the camp.

How to Responsibly Poop Outdoors

  1. Prepare and pack your Poop Kit: (plastic bag and a zip lock bag for the used tp, a trowel*, hand sanitizer, toilet paper)
  2. Select a spot at least 200 steps away from any water source
  3. Find a spot where other people don`t walk by
  4. Dig a cat hole (6-8inches/20cm deep, 4-6 inches/15cm wide)
  5. Relax, squat and Poop into the hole
  6. Bury your poop (only the poop) in the hole when done.
  7. Pack the use toiletpaper into the plastic bag and then into the zip lock bag to keep it smell free (leave the paper on the floor, then pick it up with the plastic bag, like you would pick up dog poop). Put this zip lock bag somewhere in a pocket in your backpack where you don’t ever put food or other gear.
  8. Pack out any unnatural waste: toilet paper, wet wipes, feminine products.
  9. Wash your hands with soap 200 steps away from any water source NOT in the water directly or use sanitizer (pack used wet wipes into the ziplock)

Dont's of pooping outdoors:

  1. Don’t poop close to any sort of wild water: rivers, lakes, streams, ocean
  2. Never leave your poop unburied.
  3. Don’t poop on a trail or close to a trail.
  4. Don’t bury wet wipes, tp or feminine products. They won’t break down and do have a scent so most probably an animal will dig it up.
  5. Don’t poop near tentsites.
  6. Don’t throw any other things than toilet paper into a pit toilet.
  7. Don’t ignore pit toilets, backcountry privys, or any other toilets available. Use them, even if they might be stinky.
  8. Peeing Outdoors: no need to bury but please don’t leave any paper behind. Pack out your used toiletpaper/wipes or get an reusable and washable pee cloth*
Always stay away at least 200 feet from open water if you wash with soap or poop in the outdoors

But the wipes are Biodegradable!?

Theoretically maybe…but practically?

Biodegradable wet wipes shouldn’t get buried or left behind in the woods.

Even if the packaging says they are biodegradable, it doesn’t mean they will actually break down laying around in the woods.
They need perfect conditions (heat, micro organisms, etc) to eventually break down. These conditions are only given in special facilities. But these (compost facilities eg.) don’t allow human waste. And most of them don’t allow any biodegradable plastic etc…
So wet wipes always need to get disposed of in the trash bin.

So called flushable/biodegradable Wet Wipes shouldn’t get flushed down the toilet either. Even if it says: flushable. They will clog the sewers eventually and can cause huge problems.

If you need some more sensitive stuff for your bum, get yourself a travel bum gun. I have this one “Happy Po*” from a german brand. But(t) no worries if you can’t get this one where you live, you will find a travel bum gun online easily.

Spread the word....

While more and more people are experiencing the outdoors it is becoming more and more important to share these kind of topics to keep our outdoors healthy and beautiful.

During the last years I have seen a rise in the amounts of toiletpaper and hankies left behind. This is not only really nasty, because now we know about the diseases we could spread so it is now unacceptable to leave anything behind.

I know I know, many people don’t like to hear anything about pooping, don’t want to talk about poop and I don’t know if reading about poop is any better for you, but since it is a normal and healthy human function, there is nothing to apologize for.

Only thing I am asking is when pooping or peeing outdoors is, do it responsibly and share these informations with your friends. Best thing about the Internet-Age? You can just send a link to this post if you are uncomfortable talking about this 😉

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