How to Legally Poop in the Woods

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A conversation about how to poop in the woods can get quite messy if you let it, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’ve ever wondered about pooping in the woods and all this dirty deed entails, wonder no more.

We’ll tell you all you need to know about pooping in the woods, including how to do so legally and ethically.

When out exploring and you gotta go, you gotta go. But is it legal to poop anywhere in the woods? If those woods are literally your neighbor’s backyard, then no. If you go on private property, you could get in trouble for public defecation, exposure, and trespassing. 

However, if you’re in the forest in the backcountry, then pooping in the woods is a common occurrence. 

So, while the legalities of where to and not to relieve yourself may be a bit murky, the general rule is to follow the Leave No Trace Principles.

What Does Leave No Trace Mean?

Leave No Trace is a set of principles for outdoor recreation that aims to minimize human impact on the environment. 

The “Leave No Trace” philosophy centers around seven core tenets: plan ahead and prepare, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, and be considerate of other visitors. 

Following these principles can help protect our parks, forests, and wilderness areas. 

However, Leave No Trace is not just about picking up your trash; it’s about enjoying the outdoors without leaving a lasting impact. 

When we all take care to leave no trace, we can help ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy our favorite outdoor places. And that means that it matters where and how you poop in the woods.

Why Does It Matter Where and How You Poop in the Woods?

As mentioned before, we get it. When you got to go, you got to go. And when camping, backpacking, hiking, etc., in the woods, you won’t have a bathroom that magically appears when you need it to. 

So why does it even matter if there’s a bathroom or not? Why can’t we just poop in the woods without giving it another thought? Animals do it all the time. 

Coming across toilet paper while hiking through a remote canyon just plain ruins Mother Nature’s beauty. However, human waste in the woods can also cause many issues. 

It can cause problems such as polluting our water sources, increasing the spread of disease, and attracting animals. 

It Can Attract Animals

When out in the wild, you don’t typically want to attract animals, especially bears. Any hiker and camper should aim to keep an animal-proof campsite. 

Once a conflict occurs with a wild animal, it can cause danger to humans and the animal, with the animal possibly being put down. 

While humans belong on the planet as much as other animals do, we seem to inflict more damage than other animals, so we need to care for it. 

And with millions of hikers and backpackers enjoying the backcountry at any given moment, doing what we can to mitigate contact with wild animals is of the utmost importance. 

This means taking care that our poop doesn’t land anywhere on the trail. Keep it strategically packed away, whether that means appropriately buried in the ground or in your backpack to dispose of later.

Pathogens Can Get Into Waterways

Another reason why it really does matter how and where you poop in the woods is that human excrement contains all kinds of pathogens that can wreak havoc on the planet if not taken care of properly. 

These can wash into waterways, contaminate drinking water sources, and negatively impact plant and animal life. 

With heavy rainfall or snowmelt, human feces can become a significant contaminant in groundwater, increasing the prevalence of giardia. If not appropriately buried, human poop can become a threatening problem.

No One Wants to See or Smell Your Waste

Finally, no one wants to come across someone else’s poop while on a nice hike. We’ve all walked into a bathroom after someone has done their duty; we all know it doesn’t smell like roses. 

The same thing holds true when relieving yourself in the wilderness. Just because you’re in the great outdoors doesn’t mean your poop doesn’t stink. Nobody else wants to smell it, either. 

Properly burying human waste and toilet paper is the best way to poop in the woods for beautification and sanitation purposes.

How to Legally Poop in the Woods

Now that you know pooping in the woods can cause problems and be unsightly if not done properly, how do you legally poop in the woods?

With the six easy steps outlined below, you can become an expert at relieving yourself in the wilderness.

Be Prepared

If hiking or camping in the backcountry for more than a day, you’ll probably have to find a way to poop in the woods. It’s important to be prepared. 

First, you’ll need a trowel for digging a hole. A stick might work, too. However, it is sometimes difficult to find a useful stick nearby that can dig a proper hole. 

Second, you’ll need toilet paper. And yes, you could use your natural surroundings, but be sure to know what each plant is. You wouldn’t want to grab a handful of poison ivy for the clean-up job.

And third, you’ll need a waste bag. If you have biodegradable toilet paper, you can bury the TP with the waste, but it’s still better to pack it out. You’ll be prepared to poop in the woods with these three things.

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Select Your Spot Carefully

Now that you have the tools, you need a spot and shouldn’t just poop anywhere. The decomposition rate for human waste is pretty slow. In fact, it can take up to a year or more. This is why digging a cathole is the most acceptable way of pooping in the woods. 

When digging, ensure the hole is at least 200 feet away from water, the trail, campsites, and other frequently used places. You may want to be near a sturdy tree if you need support when doing your business. Keep that in mind before digging. 

Finally, dig a hole about 6-8 inches deep and 4-6 inches in diameter. Are you wondering about how to use the hole you just dug?

Do Your Business

You have all the tools. You’ve dug the perfect hole. Now it’s time to get down to business. And believe it or not, you have several ways to poop in the woods. 

If your knees and quads feel strong, a simple squat over the hole will work. But, if you’ve dug the hole conveniently at the base of a tree, you can squat and use the tree as a back support. 

Or face the other way and hold the tree trunk in front of you while you squat. Simply wrap your arms around the trunk for support and take a squat.

A downed log may do the trick if you really need a place to sit instead of squatting. First, dig your hole next to the log. Then sit on it with your rear end hanging over the hole. But be careful not to sit too far back.

Clean Yourself

Finally, you’ll need to clean yourself, and this process relies on proper planning. Bring biodegradable toilet paper and a plastic bag to assist with the best possible cleanup.

Biodegradable toilet paper works best even if you don’t want to bury it. If you can use something that decomposes quickly, then use it. However, the environment would appreciate you packing it out and throwing it away later. 

Besides, certain areas require you to pack out your TP. So before heading out into the backcountry, know the rules and regulations of where you’re going.

Think packing out used TP is gross? It doesn’t have to be. Simply wrap the used TP in a small bundle of fresh paper and place it in a sealed bag. Place the sealed bag in your backpack to throw away later when you have access to a trash container.

If you didn’t bring toilet paper, nature offers many natural products for your use, such as leaves, rocks, and snow. Just be careful not to pick up poison ivy by accident.

Keep in Mind: Do you actually need RV Toilet Paper? Is it just a hoax?

Cover the Waste

When you have finished to poop in the woods, cover up the evidence by filling in the hole. Use the dirt you dug out and additional dirt and leaves nearby. 

And while rocks may seem like a good idea, they can make it more difficult for the waste to decompose because they prevent the sun from heating the ground. So, you can keep it simple by using dirt and leaves.

Use Hand Sanitizer

And just like anytime you would use the bathroom, the final step is to wash your hands. When pooping in the woods, you won’t have running water and soap. So ensure you have hand sanitizer. 

Passing on fecal matter can spread unwanted pathogens that can make you sick. Getting sick in the backcountry is an entirely different and unpleasant experience, let alone possibly dangerous. 

Using hand sanitizer is an easy but essential step when relieving yourself in nature.

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Now You Know How to Poop in the Woods 

Now that you know how to poop in the woods, it’s not such a dirty job after all. You’ve learned how and where to dig a hole, how to squat, and how to bury the evidence.

 Remember to bring a small shovel, toilet paper, sealable bags, and hand sanitizer to do your business. But it doesn’t have to be too uncomfortable or messy. 

But the best part of knowing how to poop in the woods is the views you’ll have. 

Last update on 2024-06-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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