Back to Basics: When Camping, Where Do You Poop?

Back to Basics: When Camping, Where Do You Poop?

When it comes to camping, there are numerous essentials that need to be addressed. From setting up your tent to starting a campfire, the basics are undoubtedly important. Yet, there’s one crucial aspect that many shy away from discussing – the simple yet cardinal question: Where do you poop when you’re camping? This article aims to address this awkward yet essential topic and offers guidance on how to appropriately and responsibly dispose of our body waste while enjoying nature.

Why it Matters

Before delving into the ‘how’, it’s essential to understand ‘why’ proper disposal of human waste during camping matters. Badly managed poop can contaminate water sources, harm wildlife, and is unpleasing to the eye. More importantly, it can spread diseases such as Giardia, E. coli, and Hepatitis, making future campers sick. It’s our responsibility as campers to care for the environment we enjoy and protect the health of others who might follow in our footsteps.

Backcountry Bathroom Basics

In camping, a fine balance must be found between safeguarding the environment and meeting one’s physiological needs comfortably. Here are a few methods for disposing of human waste in the wilderness.

Digging a Cathole

The most common method of disposal in the backcountry is to dig a cathole. For this method, you will need a lightweight garden trowel. Find a secluded spot about 200 feet (70 adult steps) away from any water source, trail, or campsite. The hole should be about 6 to 8 inches deep and 4 to 6 inches in diameter, to favor decomposition. After use, fill the hole with the previously removed dirt and cover it with natural materials. Always remember to pack out your toilet paper, as it takes a long time to decompose.

Packing Out Your Waste

In some high altitude, desert environments, or heavily visited areas, digging a cathole is not appropriate. The soil in these areas lacks the organisms necessary for decomposition. Here, it’s recommended to use a portable toilet system or waste bags designed to pack out human waste. They contain invasive chemicals that break down the waste and kill bacteria and viruses, making it safer to transport.

Using Designated Bathrooms

Many backpacking or camping areas, especially those with high visitor turnover, have designated pit toilets or bathrooms. These could be as simple as a backcountry outhouse or a full-service toilet in a campground. As a responsible camper, make sure to use these facilities when you have them to lessen your impact on the environment.

Hygiene Matters

No matter which method you use, maintaining good hygiene should be a top priority. Make sure you carry biodegradable camping soap, hand sanitizer, or hand wipes. Wash or sanitize your hands properly after going to the ‘bathroom’ or before preparing food to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria.

What About Toilet Paper?

If you use toilet paper, it must be packed out. Never bury it, as it doesn’t decompose quickly and animals may dig it up. A good practice is to carry sealable, opaque bags to put your used toilet paper in. Alternatively, natural elements such as smooth rocks, snow, or vegetation can also serve the purpose, but remember to use these methods responsibly and ensure that they do not harm the environment in any way.

A Note on Pee

Urine is generally less of an issue than feces as it’s sterile and quickly absorbed, but it too should be done 200 feet away from campsites and water sources. Moreover, in delicate ecosystems and high-traffic areas, it may be more appropriate to use a designated toilet facility or a ‘pee bottle’ which can be emptied in an appropriate location later on.

A Little Planning Goes a Long Way

While stepping back out into nature, a little forethought into something as basic and natural as going to the bathroom can have a profound impact on the environment. Make it a point to learn whether the area you plan to visit requires you to pack out your waste, or if there are existing facilities. Always pack a trowel, waste bags, and toilet paper in case you need to go at any time.


Adventuring into the great outdoors, embracing the back-to-basics camping lifestyle, doesn’t mean forgetting about personal hygiene or the environment. By correctly disposing of our waste, we ensure that the natural beauty we have enjoyed today will remain unspoiled for future generations to experience and enjoy. It might be an uncomfortable topic to discuss, but understanding where and how to poop in the wilderness is a critical part of responsible and enjoyable camping.

By Kokoda Gear Uncategorized