The Complete Camper’s Guide: When Camping, Where Do You Poop?

The Complete Camper’s Guide: When Camping, Where Do You Poop?

Ensuring that one leaves no trace is one of the basic principles of outdoor ethics. This principle applies not just to trash but extends to human waste as well. Although not the first thing that comes to mind when planning a camping trip, figuring out where to answer nature’s call when in the great outdoors is an integral part of wilderness etiquette.

Understanding the Importance of Proper Waste Disposal

Proper disposal of human waste is essential to prevent pollution of water sources, to avoid the spread of diseases, and to discourage the attraction of wildlife. Beyond these practical reasons, maintaining a clean and uncontaminated outdoor environment is also about respect – for nature and other campers.

The Options Available

So when camping, where do you poop? There are several options, each with its own merits and disadvantages, that depend on your location, the duration of your stay, and personal preference.

Campground Facilities

Using established restroom facilities provided by campground sites is the preferred method whenever available. They are designed to handle waste in an environmentally safe manner. They are often equipped with toilets, handwashing stations, and sometimes even hot showers.

Portable Camping Toilets

Portable toilets are a further option, although they require more effort. Portable toilets offer campers an advanced level of comfort and are especially useful for camping in areas without a serviceable toilet facility. However, they also require the user to dispose of the waste safely and legally.


If campground facilities or portable toilets aren’t an option, then digging a ‘cathole’ is the most accepted way to dispose of feces in the backcountry. A cathole should be located 200 feet (or roughly 70 adult steps) away from water, trails, and campsites. The hole must be 6-8 inches deep and 4-6 inches wide. After use, the “cathole” should be filled in with the original dirt and disguised with natural materials.

How to Poop in the Woods

Let’s examine the process of using a cathole, as this move requires more instruction than using a campground toilet or a portable one. All you need is a trowel for digging, toilet paper or waste-free alternatives, and hand sanitizer.

Finding the Right Spot

Select an area that is at least 200 feet away from any water source, trail, or campsite to protect these areas from contamination. Look for a spot with deep organic soil, which helps in decomposing the feces at a faster rate. Find a sunny spot, if possible. Sunlight helps with decomposition and kills pathogens.

Digging Your Cathole

Use your trowel to dig a hole 6-8 inches deep and 4-6 inches wide. Try to remove the top layer of soil and keep it intact; you’ll need this later.

Doing Your Business

Once your cathole is ready, it’s time to poop. Squatting directly over the hole can work, but some people find it a little tricky. Find what position is comfortable for you.

Clean Up

Wipe with toilet paper or use natural options like large leaves, smooth stones, or snow. However, make sure that these materials are safe and non-toxic. Do not bury your toilet paper in the cathole since it does not decompose rapidly. Instead, pack it out in a trash bag.

Finishing Up

After you’ve cleaned up, fill the cathole with the original dirt and then place the intact topsoil layer back on top. Disguise your cathole with native materials. Lastly, don’t forget to sanitize your hands.

Toilet Paper Alternatives

Toilet paper isn’t always ideal for use in the wilderness. It usually doesn’t break down very quickly and can be difficult to pack out. If you opt not to use toilet paper, consider natural alternatives like large leaves, smooth stones, or snow. Ensure that these materials are safe, non-toxic, and are not endangering any local wildlife or vegetation. If you prefer a reusable method, a dedicated ‘pee rag’ or a camping bidet can be environmentally-friendly options.

In a Nutshell

Bathroom logistics might not be the most glamorous part of camping, but they play a critical role in maintaining the natural beauty and health of our treasured outdoor spaces. Whether you’re pooping in a campground toilet, a portable john, or a hand-dug cathole, always remember: pack it in, pack it out, and leave no trace.

Camping should be about embracing the great outdoors in all its glory, including the not-so-glamorous aspects. While figuring out where to poop when camping might be a bit of an awkward topic, it’s an important conversation we should all be willing to engage in, for the sake of preserving our incredible wildernesses for generations to come.

By Kokoda Gear Uncategorized