Survival Skills 101 – When Camping, Where Do You Poop?

Survival Skills 101 – When Camping, Where Do You Poop?

For those adventurous souls that head into the great outdoors, embracing the wilderness often extends beyond rugged terrain and hiking trails. One such adventure is answering nature’s call without the comfort of a state-of-the-art toilet. When camping, the question, “where do you poop?” surprisingly carries great importance. Whether you are new to the outdoors or just want to better navigate the natural way of doing your business, this guide will cover the various aspects of the elusive art of pooping in the woods.

Why is Pooping Properly Important?

Pooping improperly in the wild can have significant impacts on the environment, affecting both human health and wildlife. Improper waste disposal can contaminate water sources, spreading diseases like Giardia, E. coli, and more. Beyond the health risks, it is about respecting our natural surroundings and leaving no trace so that future visitors can enjoy the same pristine environment.

Defining A Proper Poop Spot

When choosing an appropriate spot to do your business, there are a few essential things to remember. According to the Leave No Trace principles, you should be at least 200 feet (that’s about 70 steps) away from your camp, trails, and any water sources, to avoid contamination. The location should be discreet to respect the experience of fellow outdoorsmen. If possible, find a site with deep organic soil; this will assist in breaking down the waste faster.

Digging the Cathole

The most common approach to pooping in the wild is digging a cathole. A cathole is a hole 6 to 8 inches deep and 4 to 6 inches in diameter. It’s deep enough to prevent animals from digging it up and compact enough to aid in the decomposition process. Use a small shovel or a camping trowel to dig the hole. Once you’re done, refill the hole with the initial dirt you dug up, and camouflage it with natural materials.

The Pooping Process

Once you’ve prepared your cathole, it’s time for business. This can be an awkward experience for newbies, but over time it becomes comfortable and natural. Squat over the hole, ensuring your aim is correct, and do what you have to do. It might be a good idea to have a tree or log for support to maintain balance.

Dealing with Toilet Paper

Toilet paper is a comfort many campers prefer not to leave behind. If you do use it, the responsible thing is to pack it out. Invest in a small, sealable bag where you can store used toilet paper to dispose of properly when you return. Alternatively, you can use natural options like leaves, rocks, or snow. Ensure the leaves are not from a poison ivy or poison oak plant — you definitely do not want that!

Using Portable Camping Toilets

If the idea of using a cathole doesn’t appeal to you, there are portable camping toilets available in the market. These toilets include a bagging system that you can seal and pack out when you leave. Be aware that some wilderness areas require campers to pack out human waste, where a portable camping toilet might be the best option.

Washing Hands After

The last part, and possibly the most important, is washing your hands. Hand hygiene is essential to keep from getting ill on your camping trip. Ideally, use biodegradable soap and clean, purified water to wash your hands thoroughly after each bathroom visit. Hand sanitizers can also be used, but it should be a last resort option when water and soap are not available, as it does not eliminate all types of germs.


Properly managing your poop while camping is not only a survival skill but etiquette for respecting the great outdoors. It might seem daunting at first, but like all things, with practice, you will master the art. Our wild spaces are a privilege to enjoy, and it’s our responsibility to protect and preserve them. Happy camping!


  • Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics – Disposing of Waste
  • Center for Disease Control and Prevention – Handwashing

By Kokoda Gear Uncategorized