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When Nature Calls in Nature: How to Poop in the Woods

When Nature Calls in Nature: How to Poop in the Woods

Toilets…we talk about them a lot here because they are a huge part of the rving and camping experience, but what if there is no toilet at all? If you spend enough time exploring, you’ll eventually receive an unfortunate and unexpected call from nature. Knowing how to poop in the woods is a skill that can be useful during these situations.

We want to help you make the most of your adventures and be comfortable. That’s why taking a number two in the woods is our number one priority. 

Today, we’re sharing all you need to know about how to poop in the woods.

Let’s get started!

Field Sanitation: How To Poop In The Woods
A bit goofy but it covers the basics!

The legalities of pooping in the woods depend on several factors, primarily the location. If you’re defecating in your neighbor’s backyard, there’s a solid chance you’ll be in legal trouble. However, pooping in nature is standard practice for those in remote backcountry environments.

Take the time to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations specific to the region. If you have no choice, following Leave No Trace practices is always best. Properly disposing of your waste can help you stay on the right side of the law. Trust us; you don’t want a messy situation on your hands–in more ways than one.

There are hiking locations where you are not allowed to leave any waste, however, and you will be required to pack out even human waste. One great example is the narrows in Zion national park.

Woman in forest with poop emoji

What Are the Rules for Pooping in the Woods?

Rules and regulations for whether you can poop in the woods typically depend on the location of the woods. It’s best to learn any rules specific to the wilderness area you’ll be exploring before heading out for an adventure.

One of the most standard rules in these situations revolves around choosing an appropriate location. You should pick a spot at least 200 feet from water sources, trails, and campsites. This helps avoid contaminating the water source or disturbing others.

Additionally, it would be best to use a shovel to dig a hole to bury your waste. The hole should be about six to eight inches deep and four to six inches wide. This helps ensure animals don’t find the waste and dig it up.

Some state and national parks have stringent rules regarding how to dispose of human waste. They may require you to use bags to pack out all of your waste. Again, it’s up to you to know the regulations specific to where you’re exploring.

How Do You Wipe After Pooping in the Woods?

Wiping after pooping in the woods can be challenging if you don’t prepare. You can use various natural materials to clean your bum. Some people use smooth stones, leaves, or other natural materials. However, you want to use non-poisonous leaves or plants that won’t cause skin irritation.

If you come prepared, wiping in the woods can be as easy and comfortable as in a standard bathroom. You can use toilet paper, but we recommend using biodegradable and unscented toilet paper. This helps reduce any potential impact on the environment or the wildlife that calls it home.

You should only leave toilet paper in the woods if you bury it. If this is your plan, you should leave as little behind as possible. This helps ensure that it decomposes quickly. If you cannot bury it, place it in a plastic bag and take it to dispose of it properly.

Woman going to the bathroom in the woods
When you gotta go, you gotta go, even while camping.

Options for Pooping in the Woods

You have a couple of options for pooping in the woods. Whatever you choose is up to you, but you must do it properly to be a good steward of the great outdoors. Let’s take a look!

Pack It in, Pack It out

One option when you poop in the woods is the pack it in, pack it out option. This is a usual method, especially in areas with river canyons. This helps ensure that the waste doesn’t contaminate the water. It’s the least impactful on the environment as it involves taking as much of your waste and toilet paper with you as possible. 

This follows Leave No Trace principles, encouraging outdoor enthusiasts to minimize their environmental impact. It involves taking as much waste as possible with you during your adventures. This helps protect the land and animals that live in the area.

If you use this method, you’ll want to ensure you have waste bags and a plan for storing the waste. Like a dog owner, you will need to pick up and bag your waste. Having an air-tight container to store the used bags is an excellent idea.

Narrows canyon zion no place to poop
This canyon can be a multi-day hike, but very little place to poop on land, so its pack in pack out

Dig a Hole

Many outdoor enthusiasts will dig a hole, or a “cathole,” where they plan to use the restroom. This hole should be approximately six to eight inches deep and four to six inches wide. Carrying a trowel can help make this task more manageable, but it depends on the type of surface where you’re exploring.

Do your business into the hole and then use the trowel to fill it in. Just ensure you avoid touching the waste with your trowel. Once it’s covered, place leaves, dirt, and sticks over it to help further cover up the scent to prevent animals from finding it.

If we use this method, we carry plastic, air-tight bags to store used toilet paper. We don’t want to risk an animal digging it up and littering the woods.

Pro Tip: Make digging a hole quick and easy with one of these 7 Best Folding Survival Shovels to Bring on Your Adventures.

Man digging hole to poop in
Dig a hole before your drop your drawers in the woods.

How to Poop in the Woods

If you’ve never pooped in the woods before, it’s not challenging. However, it will require some getting used to. Let’s walk through the steps for how to poop in the woods.

Be Prepared

Preparation is the key to a smooth experience pooping in the woods. You’ll need to take the time to research the rules specific to the area. Since these vary by location and can change, chatting with local rangers or land management is a good idea.

Additionally, you want to come with the proper tools and equipment for the job. If you plan to bury your waste, you’ll want a trowel to help make digging a hole as easy as possible. For those packing out their waste or toilet paper, having a plastic bag and storage container will be helpful.

Pick the Right Spot

Before you start using the restroom, you must pick your spot carefully. You should ensure you’re at least 200 feet from a water source, trail, or campsite. Keeping this type of distance helps reduce the chances of contamination. 

When picking your spot, you also want to consider privacy. You don’t want someone stumbling upon you while taking care of business. This could embarrass you both.

Dig a Hole

If you bury your waste, you must dig a hole. Carrying a trowel makes this very simple. However, don’t panic if you don’t bring one. While it may take longer and be more challenging, you can dig your hole with sticks and other items readily available in nature.

Keep your hole at least six inches deep and four inches wide. This helps ensure it’s deep enough to decompose without animals discovering it. Remember that you dig your hole before using the restroom, not after.

How To Poop In The Woods The Right Way - Leave No Trace!

Assume the Position

It would be best to assume the position now that you’re ready to use the restroom. However, there are several positions that you can use. Which one is best greatly depends on your situation and your physical limitations.

The squat is the most common and natural stance for pooping in the woods. You squat over the hole you dug and do your best to aim for the spot. You’ll want to have your feet shoulder-width apart and maintain your balance. This helps align your colon and provides a natural position for your bowel movements.

Another standard position to poop in the woods is “the lean.” This requires digging your hole near a sturdy tree or large rock. You then face away from the structure and squat so your back rests against it. You can bend at your knees to squat and try to get your waste into the hole in the ground.

If you can’t find a large tree to lean against, you can use a smaller tree too. However, instead of leaning against it, you’ll face the tree and hold onto it for support as you squat over a hole in the ground. Make sure the tree or branch is strong enough however that it does not snap.

Clean Yourself

After you’ve done your business, it’s time to clean up. If you use wipes or non-biodegradable toilet paper, you’ll need to place them in a plastic bag to take with you. However, if you dig your hole deep enough, you can clean yourself with toilet paper and bury it.

You want to ensure you do a good job of cleaning yourself thoroughly. However, you don’t want to use more toilet paper than necessary. This can help ensure it decomposes as quickly as possible or that you don’t have to carry more than you need.

Cover It

Once you’re clean, it’s time to cover up the hole. Use the tool you used to dig the hole to fill the hole with loose dirt. Just be extra careful not to get waste on the device when moving the earth.

Once you’ve filled the hole, gather leaves, sticks, and other debris from the area. Use it to cover up the hole and further reduce the chances of discovery by animals or others who might come along.

Wash Your Hands

Once you do the job, you’ll need to wash your hands. The best way to clean your hands is to use hand sanitizer that doesn’t require water. These are convenient to carry, and you can find keychain versions to attach to your backpack. This way, you can clean your hands after using the restroom or before eating. 

Pro Tip: When in nature, always follow these 20 Golden Camping Rules Every Camper Should Know to protect the land you are exploring.

Toilet paper by camping tent
If your toilet paper isn’t biodegradable, pack it to take home with you once you leave the woods.

How Long Does Poop Last in the Woods?

The time for poop to decompose in the woods will significantly depend on the conditions. It can take anywhere from months to years for waste to completely decompose in the woods. Warmer and more humid climates accelerate the process, and colder climates inhibit microbial growth, which slows down the process.

This is why you must ensure you dispose of your waste correctly. You don’t want to negatively impact the environment or the outdoor adventures of others trying to enjoy nature.

Answer Nature’s Call in Nature

Thankfully, you don’t have to worry about answering nature’s call while outdoors. We’ve shown you that while it may not be ideal, it’s not the end of the world. If you take the proper precautions and prepare, using the restroom in the woods is relatively easy. So hit the trails, and don’t panic if you suddenly want to go while in nature.

Have you ever had to use the restroom while in the wilderness? Tell us your tips in the comments!

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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Tuesday 9th of May 2023

You didn't say anything about eating habits, but your diet while camping should involve tons of fiber and zero trans fats. Eat a salad with lunch and dinner and incorporate some bran into your breakfasts. Use butter instead of margarine. Drink neutral spirits instead of beer or wine if you drink alcohol. Stay away from junk food. Might be too much info for you to approve the post, but I eat a lot of broccoli and beetroot leaves while camping off grid and do inhumanely large poos that drop down the hole like a cannonball, and barely need a single sheet to wipe. Messy poos are a first world take-away pizza and burgers problem. Eat smart and assume the position. Embrace cellulose. Power-squat, lean forward, and launch the log into the hole from 6 feet away like a model rocket, or just dig a hole and poop in it. The world is your oyster


Sunday 7th of May 2023

When nature calls: When I was younger (78now) wilderness backpacking and camping in the high mountains and taking care of potty’s in the woods was a natural thing to do. We would do it properly as you have described in your article. But when I had a wife and a family “roughing it” was an issue with with my wife and daughter ( the boys adapted) and so I came up with a solution for them. I took a 5 gal bucket and hinged a proper toilet seat to it ,with standard plastic garbage bags ,a bag of sawdust all inside of a portable shower tent we had a bathroom. .

Mortons on the Move

Friday 12th of May 2023

Thats a good way to help out for sure. A requirement on many rafting trips too.


Sunday 7th of May 2023

Well, FIRST of all, and probably most importantly, don't do it with your shorts on, like the guy in the picture! Just sayin......

Mortons on the Move

Friday 12th of May 2023