Ever wondered how to poop in the potty when there ain’t no potty? Wonder no more.
Here’s your complete guide to pooping outside during your outdoor adventures.
- How to poop outside while hiking and backpacking.
- How do rock climbers do it?
- What about on a rafting trip?
Get the answers to all those questions and more in this complete guide to pooping outdoors. If you’re squeamish, you better not keep reading ‘cause we’re gonna dive headfirst into this topic.
Let’s start with a few of the basics.
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Outdoor Pooping 101
Here are a few wilderpoo basics that’ll help your doo-doo duties to be more…let’s say “satisfying” (and follow Leave No Trace, or LNT, principles).
Why It’s Important to Do It Right
So if animals poop outdoors anywhere they want, why should us humans do it any differently?
- Humans tend to poop in concentrated areas. Animals have the entire great outdoors as their bathroom. Most of us humans stick to within a couple hundred feet of established roads and trails.
- Poop adds up. On average, humans produce about a pound of poop a day. So imagine a stretch of well-traveled hiking trail that’s frequented by a thousand overnight hikers per summer. There could potentially be hundreds of pounds of poop lurking near the trail.
A researcher calculated that climbers on Mt. Denali have deposited up to 215,000 lbs of poop onto the Kahiltna Glacier over the last several decades.
- Human poo is one of the reasons you need to filter your water. Yup, human feces is a major contributor to nasty stuff like giardia and other pathogens getting into wilderness water sources.
- Finding someone else’s poo puts a damper on your outdoor enjoyment. “Wow, did you see that view? My favorite part was the random turd and pile of wet wipes next to that rock.” ….said no one ever.
Choose the Right Location
The right location will depend a lot on what outdoor activity you’re in the middle of when the urge hits you. But in general, here’s how to choose the right location to make your deposit.
- Stay about 70 paces (200 feet) away from any water sources.
- Stay the same distance from trails, roads, campsites, Walmarts, and other places humans may be.
- Don’t go in the same place twice.
- If you’re not required to carry it out, dig a cathole that’s about 6 inches deep. Cover it over when you’re done.
Make a Poop Kit
If you’ve got a pre-prepared poop kit, it’s easier to grab it and go when needed.
- Lightweight trowel for digging your cathole
- Biodegradable toilet paper
- Hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes
- WAG bag (WAG = Waste Alleviation and Gelling). Use this if you need to pack out your poo.
- Wet wipes. Just remember NOT to throw these in the cathole since they take a long time to break down. It’s best to pack them out.
PRO POOPER TIP! – Pack your poop kit in an easy-to-access place. That way if the urge hits you, you won’t have to dig to the bottom of your backpack to grab your pooping gear.
4 Popular Pooping Positions
If you’re outside and don’t have access to a camping porta potty, here are the 4 most popular pooping positions guaranteed by expert outdoor poopers.
- The Squat: Take a wide stance and squat down with your forearms resting on your knees.
- The Throne: Squat down with your back against a tree for support.
- The Tripod: The opposite of The Throne. Squat while holding the tree in front of you for support.
- The Assist: Sit down on a log, rock, or stump with your backside hanging over the edge.
Need more details? Check out my article How to Poop in the Woods.
3 Options for Pooping Outside
When it comes to pooping outside, you’ve got 3 basic options.
Portable toilets come in all shapes and sizes — portable camping toilets, composting toilets, and cassette toilets.
Some, like the Luggable Loo are little more than a bucket with a toilet seat. Others like the Thetford Porta Potti have sealed waste tanks and a flushing bowl to make pooping outside a little more civilized.
- Gives you a place to sit that feels more like a normal toilet
- Even simple designs make it easier to catch your waste in a WAG bag
- Nicer models feel almost like a real toilet
- Too big to carry hiking
- You still have to find a place to dispose of the waste
A WAG bag or a Waste Alleviation and Gelling bag gives you a secure place to deposit and transport your waste.
It could be as simple as a plastic “doggy bag”. However, most prefer something a little more secure, like the RESTOP-2 Leak Proof Waste Bag Kit. WAG bag kits like these come with a secure bag and gelling agent that helps gel liquids and break down waste. Some even come with TP and wipes!
- Sanitary and easy to discard
- More secure than just using a regular plastic bag
- Kits that come with TP and wipes are super convenient
- Takes up a bit more space than plastic doggy bags or ziploc bags
- You still have to get the poop in the bag
The cat hole gives you a semi-safe place to make a deposit. Make sure it’s at least 6 inches deep and it’s less likely animals will disturb it or rain will wash it into the waterways.
However, if you’re in the desert, you can make it a little shallower — the hot sun will penetrate the soil and help it break down faster.
- No need to mess with a WAG bag.
- More sanitary than having to handle and pack out your own waste
- Even if you miss the hole, just push everything in and bury it
- Not allowed everywhere
- In rocky or frozen soil it can be tough to dig a hole
Ok, so now that you got the basics of pooping outside, let’s take a quick look at a few specific outdoor activities and how they’ll likely affect your outdoor pooping experience.
How to Poop Outside When You’re…
Some are pretty easy to figure out. Others, like rock climbing, require more “skill”.
What’s Involved: You’ll have to head off-trail or away from camp to find your spot. Head at least 70 paces away from the trail or waterways.
IMPORTANT! – Be careful if you’re hiking in dense forests and thick underbrush — a surprising amount of hikers get lost when they can’t find their way back to the trail after taking a dump.
Pro Pooper Tips:
- Make a poop kit and when you’re packing your backpack, place it where it’s easy to get to.
- Digging a hole with sticks is not as easy as it sounds. Bring a lightweight backpacking trowel instead.
What’s Involved: Similar to hiking, except you might have more freedom to bring a portable toilet. Maybe the campground’s pit toilets are super gross or you’re boondocking where there are no toilets.
So depending on how you’re camping, you may need to find a spot 70 paces away from the campsite (if you’re going to bury it). Your other option is to use a portable toilet and/or WAG bag and find a private place to do it closer to camp. In this case, a pop-up privacy tent is super useful.
Pro Pooper Tips:
- If you’re camping with a group and burying your waste, make sure everybody uses a different spot each time. If needed, place a stick in the ground next to your cathole so the next person doesn’t use the same spot.
- Check out my article with the best options for portable camping toilets.
What’s Involved: Big wall climbs can take several days. Climbers use haul bags and sleep in hammocks or portaledges. And that means at some point they’re gonna have to poop.
As fun as it may seem to some…do not just poop off the side of the cliff. 😲🤣
Use a wag bag or poop tube. A poop tube is a large water bottle, PVC tube, or another container with a lid. Poop in a ziploc bag, WAG bag, or doggy bag and place it in the tube.
Here’s how to make your own poop tube.
Pro Pooper Tips:
- Do your business on your portaledge or a rock ledge. You’ll have a stable place to squat just like if you were on flat ground.
- Since you’re tied off to the wall, you can lean back against your ropes for a modified Tripod position.
See it in action…
What’s Involved: Few things seem to get your bowels moving like a run. Your insides start bouncing and jiggling and well…you know what happens next.
For shorter runs (<10 miles), the best thing is just to go to the bathroom before you head out on your run. But for long-distance running, chances are at some point you’ll need to take care of business. If you’re running in urban areas, that’s usually not a big problem — just make a pit stop at the closest convenience store or park.
But if you’re running in a remote area, you’ll have to take care of business the same way as when you’re hiking.
Pro Pooper Tips:
- If you’re a morning runner, a tall glass of water and a cup of coffee seem to get things moving so you can go before your run. Drink it and start warming up. Usually in 5-10 minutes, you’ll be ready to head to the bathroom.
- Don’t ignore even the smallest bit of gastrointestinal distress before a run. Running will only make it worse.
- Make a compact running poop kit you can slip in your running belt or pack.
What’s Involved: Most heavily trafficked rivers, like the Colorado River running through the Grand Canyon, require all human waste to be packed out.
So if you’re on a guided rafting tour, expect to use a portable toilet affectionately called The Groover. Your guide will set it up when you make camp in the evening. But if you’re out on the water or making a pit stop during the day, then WAG bag it is!
Pro Pooper Tips:
- Pee either goes in the river or in the pee bucket. Don’t pee on the ground around camp. In a dry environment like the Grand Canyon, eventually the whole canyon would smell like pee.
- If you’re on a guided trip, get used to the fact that you’ll be sharing a portable toilet with a group of other people.
- Portable toilets on rocky ground are less than stable. Be careful when shifting your weight.
- Hunker down and enjoy the canyon view while pooping on the Groover.
Kayaking, Canoeing, and Paddleboarding
What’s Involved: A lot will depend on where you’re paddleboarding, canoeing, or kayak camping. If you’re in a remote area where you can easily hike 70 paces from the water’s edge and local regulations allow it, bury it in a cathole. Everywhere else, including emergencies out on the water…WAG bag it.
Pro Pooper Tips:
- Since waterways often travel through urban areas, check out the area ahead of time to identify any real bathrooms where you could make a pit stop.
- If you’re WAG bagging your poo, long boating trips can lead to quite a pack of WAG bags. Another option is to make a poo tube, similar to what climbers use.
What’s Involved: Pooping while biking is similar to running. If you’re in a remote area where it’s permitted, you can do a cathole. Just keep in mind that getting 70 paces away from the trail/road might be challenging if you don’t want to leave your bike by itself. In any other area, follow Leave No Trace protocols and WAG bag it out.
Fortunately, biking doesn’t get things moving as much as running, so if you start to feel the urge, you have a little more time to find a place to stop.
Pro Pooping Tips:
- A pristinely clean bum is a must for long trips, so add wet wipes to your biking poop kit. If you don’t wipe really well, all that time sitting on a skinny bike seat with foreign material still on your backside will lead to saddle sores.
- NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH…Pro racers who don’t stop for anything but the apocalypse will just do it in their pants.
Skiing or Snowboarding
What’s Involved: Pooping outside on the slopes has some unique challenges. For example, if there are more than a few inches of snow on the ground, it’s gonna be hard to dig a cathole.
And no…digging a hole in the snow doesn’t count as a cat hole. Snow melts in the spring, poop does not.
So that means…WAG bag it is!
Pro Pooping Tips:
- Stay away from tree wells when trying to find a place to poop. The last thing you want to do is fall into one with your pants around your ankles.
- Get into a comfortable and stable position where you won’t start sliding downhill mid-dump.
Yes, You Can Actually Enjoy Pooping Outside
Pooping outdoors isn’t really that bad. And when everything goes right, it’s surprisingly satisfying — especially when you find a spot with a view!
Just remember to…
- Make a poop kit
- Find the right spot
- Follow local rules
- And enjoy this part of your outdoor adventures!
Don’t miss my other outdoor articles about…
- Leaving no trace while kayak camping
- The best kid’s hiking boots
- Guide to camping in a yurt
- Simple backpacking recipes
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