Camping and backpacking. Two of the most enjoyable outdoor pastimes. Each and every year millions of adventure-seeking souls head to the backcountry to hike, camp and just get away from the hustle and bustle of their workaday lives.
From nature walking to bird watching to a calm day alone, just fishing along a little-known section of a mountainous stream, the wilderness offers many opportunities not found on the flatland below it.
And while going deep into the woods to escape for a while certainly has a truckload of advantages, there are some common conveniences that many wilderness-bound people tend to miss, the most noteworthy of which is a safe and clean place to go to the bathroom.
So just how do you go about going to the bathroom in the woods? Of course, for a simple Number 1 visit to the bathroom, all you really need is a good pair of walking boots and a little privacy, but what about Number 2? This is another story.
In order to keep the woods a safe place for everyone to explore and enjoy you will need to take some special measures when going to the bathroom. To answer this question in more detail, below we will cover several aspects that define just how to go to the bathroom in the woods, including the supplies you will need, tips on finding the perfect spot for the deed, actually going to the bathroom and properly cleaning up after yourself.
What You Need to Bring
When camping, backpacking or just sightseeing in the backcountry of the wilderness, one of the best rules of thumb is to travel light. After all, the last thing you want is an overly heavy bag or backpack weighing you down, making each step feel more difficult than the one before.
That having been said, if there are no public restrooms in the area in which you will be camping or exploring—which there rarely are deep in the backwoods—you will need to bring along a few supplies—supplies that will assist you in going to the bathroom in the woods and also help with the cleanup and proper disposal.
Planning ahead by packing in the items you will need to go to the bathroom is always a good idea, not just for you, but also for other campers and backpackers who are also enjoying the same land. You do not need to go overboard with these supplies, but the bare minimum is definitely a necessity.
By planning ahead you can be sure to keep these supply items to just a pound or two—supplies that will ensure you are a responsible, and clean, enjoyer of the wilderness.
So what should you bring along with you for this purpose? Here is a good list to follow:
- Wiping material. To ensure a clean backside after doing your business, you will need to bring along some sort of wiping materials. Toilet paper, of course, is a good choice, but if you would rather not visually give away your intentions by sneaking off with a roll of toilet paper, you could instead bring along a few of the pocket-size packages of tissues, or even baby wipes—a small package that will fit in your pocket or purse.
- Trowel. As you might have guessed, one of the steps for properly going to the bathroom in the woods involves burying your business. Obviously, it is far from convenient to haul around a big shovel or even a camp spade, but a small garden trowel is both light and inconspicuous and will definitely do the job.
- Hand sanitizer. Since it is highly doubtful that you’ll have access to a sink and a faucet to wash your hands after doing the Number 2 deed, you should always bring along a small bottle or tube of hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer works quickly and is known to kill about 99 percent of bacteria and viruses.
- Sealable Plastic Bags. Once you have wiped, you will need a place to put the used tissue. This is where sealable plastic bags will come in very handy. This might sound gross, but it is better to take your waste with you (until you can find a garbage can) than polluting the environment and littering in the pristine woods. Of course, things like freezer bags will do the trick here, but if you want to be a little more discreet you can always visit a dedicated camp store. There you will find sealable plastic bags that are colored and opaque, preventing anyone from seeing the contents that are inside. Just make sure to seal the bag up tightly before you head back to camp or the trail.
Finding the Ideal Spot for Going to the Bathroom in the Woods
Finding the perfect spot to go to the bathroom in the woods requires little more than a bit of common sense, but there may be some things you forget to take into account. In this section we will fill you in with the information you need to know for a safe, responsible and hassle-free experience.
The first rule of thumb is to steer clear of any bodies of water. You should definitely be about 200-300 feet away from any lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, etc.
The reason for this is simple: by burying your business close to a water source, there is a chance that some of that waste can leach into the water and contaminate it. There are many other people besides yourself that regularly enjoy these water sources, so do the responsible thing and steer clear of those areas.
You should also keep a good distance from any areas where humans may inhabit or visit. Campgrounds and trails are just two examples of these types of areas.
To ensure your safety and the safety of others, follow the same rule above—200-300 feet away—with any areas that humans might use or occupy.
The other two factors you need to think about when choosing the ideal spot to go to the bathroom in the woods are privacy and safety. In terms of privacy, the last thing you want is for another hiker or camper to discover you by accident when you are doing your business—as this will be mighty embarrassing for the both of you.
To avoid this fate, try to look for secluded areas that are impossible to see from any nearby campsites or trails. A clump of trees, for example, will offer a lot of privacy, as will a large thicket of bushes and shrubs.
In places without a lot of trees, a large rock or stump can often do the trick in terms of privacy. Just remember to choose a relatively flat spot when searching. This will help reduce the chance of you losing your balance at a really inopportune time.
From a safety standpoint, you will need to look down and make sure there are no possible hazards in the spot you have selected. Look out for large ant hills, as many mountain ants can leave a pretty good bite that stings.
Similarly, avoid areas where bees or wasps are swarming to avoid getting stung. Finally, be sure not to do your business in areas where there might be poison ivy—a plant that can leave a very painful and itchy rash.
If you do not know what poison ivy looks like, simply avoid plants that have three leaves per branch, a prime characteristic of that nasty plant.
Going to the Bathroom in the Woods
Going to the bathroom in the woods is not as difficult as it may seem, however, it will take a little more effort than which you are probably accustomed. The first step, as we alluded to a bit earlier in this article, is to find a flat spot.
A flat spot does two things. First, it helps ensure you will be able to keep your balance throughout the act, and second, it prevents any runoff dripping back towards you and your shoes.
If flat ground is not possible where you are at, be sure to face in the downward direction so the runoff will run away from you instead of towards you.
Once you have found a flat spot that is private and secluded, you will need to take your trowel and dig a small hole—about 6-8 inches deep and wide enough to ensure your aim is true. Keep the pile of dirt that you dug very nearby, as you will use this later on in the process.
With your hole dug, you can now squat over the hole and commence with your business. Make sure both the wiping material and the sealable plastic bags are within arm’s reach.
When you are finished, use the toilet paper, tissue or baby wipes to clean yourself, each time placing the used piece of wiping material into the sealable bag. Continue until you are totally clean, and close the bag tightly.
Cleaning Up After Yourself
Once you are all buckled up, fill in the hole with the pile of dirt you took out. If need be, you can always get dirt from another place to completely fill the hole.
After the hole has been completely filled, find a nearby stick or branch and place it upright over the filled-in hole. Experienced campers, hikers and backpackers know that an upright stick such as that serves as a marker that someone did their business there.
This is a very important step, because you do not want that area to become disturbed.
Place your trowel, the unused wiping material, and the sealed bag back into your pack—you can dump that bag as soon as you see a garbage can.
Finally, the last step is to clean your hands thoroughly using the hand sanitizer. Be sure to use a liberal amount to ensure you kill all bacteria and/or viruses—microorganisms that could possibly make you sick.
Congratulations! You now know the safest and most responsible way to go to the bathroom in the woods.