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How to Use the Bathroom in the Woods and What the Heck to Bring

Outside of wildlife encounters and getting lost, how to use the bathroom while hiking, trail running, and backpacking is a common concern!

And it is the topic that no one reallllllly wants to talk about, but is important TO talk about. 🙂

🐻 If we want to be able to explore and adventure for years to come, we need to be doing our best to Leave No Trace and leave as little impact as possible when we are recreating. Improper disposal of waste can contaminate water sources and affect the wildlife!

There are not always “real” toilets available when out on the trails which means your only option is in the great outdoors.

This can feel intimidating and WEIRD at first (this was me once – I feel ya) and can take some practice, but you’ll be a PRO in no time.

We will first cover what to pack in your bathroom kit and then best practices for going #1 and #2 in the woods.

Bathroom & Hygiene Kit Essentials:

  • Toilet Paper/Sanitizing Wipes
  • Kula Cloth (optional - TP alternate)

**Before you head out, you will need to research (simple Google search will do) what the waste pack out/carry-out regulations are for the area/park you are in. Your bathroom kit may need to have specific things pending the regulations – like a WAG bag, for example.**

I like to keep my bathroom kit in the brain (top) of my pack or in the front or side pocket for easy access. I do my best to keep it away from my food bag, just to be on the safe side.

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Alright, going pee…

As a general rule of thumb, you want to pee 200 ft away [take 60-70 giant steps] from the trail, water sources, and campsites.

If you are in the high backcountry and are unable to move 200ft away from the trail, you can opt for peeing on a rock.

🌲 When you go to head off trail to find the perfect pee spot, keep your eyes peeled for a large tree or boulder to go behind. This gives you privacy to do your business! If you are with friends, they can keep a look out up and down the trail to make sure no one is coming.

You can find a tree or rock to lean against, branch to hold onto, or you can use your trekking pole to help you squat down as low as you go.

After you finish, use a small wad of toilet paper, your Kula cloth, or you can use the “shake out” method to dry out. Not going to lie, you may pee on your shoes the first couple times. 😂

ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS PACK OUT YOUR TOILET PAPER. Mother Earth thanks you.

Head back to the trail, use some hand sanitizer, and get back to moving!

Okay okay, going #2…

Like you were going #1, take those 60-70 large steps away from the trail, water sources, and campsites.

Next, if the park does not require you to pack out your waste, you will dig your cathole!

👉 In short, a cathole is a hole in the ground where you go #2 in and then cover + bury it when you’re done. 🙂

You will use your trowel to dig a hole that’s at minimum 6in deep and 4in wide. The length of the trowel is around 6in, so use that to measure. This depth is really important for proper decomposition.**

You will squat over the hole (use a trekking pole, branch, or tree for support), do your business into the hole, put your toilet paper in a Ziplock bag, use the dirt you dug up + moved to recover the hole, apply some hand sanitizer, and get back on trail!

Heads up – your trowel should never actually touch any waste.

If you’re in a popular spot, it doesn’t hurt to put a little stick “x” or a rock on the spot to mark it. 😉

Some people will cover their Ziplock that holds used TP/wipes with duct tape for “privacy” or you can even put a dog poop bag inside that bag!

Meet the author

Bethany Taylor

I’m a PNW-based outdoor educator, adventure athlete, highly-caffeinated creative, all-women adventure trip host, safety advocate, and obsessed dog mom. I am here to help you chase more stoke-filled days outdoors with confidence through education and empowerment.

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