Friday, November 13, 2020 - Blog on a Log

How to Shit in the Woods

Posted: November 13, 2020

Written by: Rick Shone

I never thought I would be writing an article instructing people how to shit in the bush but here I am. Covid 19 has been the motivator that everyone has needed to get outside this year and enjoy the trails an back country canoe routes. I have never seen so many people out there enjoying nature! It is amazing but I have never seen so much shit all over the place either.

With a little research, I even found that someone had written a 138 page book on how to do just this! It is also called “How to Shit in the Woods” so apparently this is a popular topic with lots to talk about. The book covers pooping in just about every form, fashion and environment out there and you should check it out.

But really - it is not that hard and nobody wants to step in your shit or see your toilet paper strewn all over. Those who travel with dogs will also be thankful not to have their pup crawl into the tent smelling like human excrement.

What you need to know in a few simple, easy steps:

1. Pick Your Zone

When traveling with a group, it's always good to discuss where your "zone" will be for the stay. Split up and agree to go in different directions. That way you avoid awkward moments of stumbling on someone doing their business and you spread out the fertilizer. Some more popular routes have outhouses at the trail heads. Other back country routes may have wood or plastic poop boxes called a Thunder Box. I can't remember the last time I have opened one of those where the crap wasn't oozing out the top so this information will come in handy.

2. Pick Your Area

  • Away from Tents
  • Away from Water
  • Away from Trails

It is recommended to be at least 200 ft away from any of the above areas.

3. Dig a Hole

Use a trowel like the Sea to Summit Pocket Trowel or the GSI Cathole Trowel. If you don't want to fork out for those, just use a stick to dig a hole that is about 6" deep by 6" wide. The hole should be dug into soil and not just the top surface of duff or moss.

4. Take a Dump

5. Cover it Up

Use the trowel to cover up your shit and toilet paper with the material you originally removed. Tamp the material down lightly with your foot, returning the area to as natural looking state as possible. It's not likely you'll ever chance on the same spot again but you could leave a couple sticks placed on top in the shape of an X to help you and others avoid the area during your stay.

Things to Consider:

1. Toilet Paper

  • Use biodegradable, non scented toilet paper
  • No need to pack it out and don't burn it in the hole. Can you imagine burning the forest down after taking a dump? Not good.
  • If you can find some sphagnum moss, you just might be lucky enough to feel like you have a bidet in the bush. Watch out for sticks and pine needles though, it can get a bit scratchy - ouch!

2. Bugs

My least favourite thing about shitting in the woods. Those mosquitos are like dive bombers and there is literally not much you can do to avoid a few bites in some awkward spots. Suck it up, fan your arms like crazy, I don't know...but I'm open to more ideas on that one.

3. Rain

Suck it up. When you gotta go, you gotta go

4. Birds and Wind

If you're not in a panic avoiding mosquitoes, take a minute to listen to the birds chirping and the wind rushing through the trees. Shitting in the bush can be so peaceful sometimes.

5. Hand sanitizer / Washing

I often bring small bottle of hand sanitizer with me or any brand of biodegradable camp soap can do the trick to get your hands clean before you head back to camp.

The Leave No Trace website has some further information on this topic along with a lot of other great things you should learn before heading into the back country.

Happy shit free hiking and camping!

Last Updated: November 18, 2020