This video is about the semi-taboo subject of peeing and pooping in the woods. It's an important topic to discuss because increasing numbers of people are using the backcountry, causing environmental damage and pollution ... especially along heavily used trails. What are the rules? What about the dirty outhouses? And if there are no outhouses, what do I do? When and where is it ok to dig? Do I need to use toilet paper? What are the alternatives?
Many backcountry campsites have outhouses. While these facilities are usually not pleasant, they are the best place for both number 1's and number 2's. They are built to contain human waste and protect the surrounding environment, especially bodies of water, from pollution. Their main drawbacks are an awful spell and the usually dirty interior.
I offer several tips for using an outhouse. If the privy is smelly and dirty, prepare your toilet paper first, before you go in so you can do your business quickly and get out. Use the facility with the door propped open. I've noticed that if I do this, other campers respect my privacy and also use the door propped open. It simply smells better, not to mention, the view is better. Another problem with these facilities is Poop Splash. We've all experienced it, but seldom talk about it. When solids hit the water, there is a splash that hits your butt ... uck. To solve the problem, put a layer of toilet paper on the water. No splash. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XNDM4eAn1U.
If you are fortunate, your privy will be a composting toilet. These are dry toilets that provide a miniature ecosystem where aerobic microorganisms convert waste into humus that may be used as a soil amendment, after composting is complete. These toilet's don't smell and there is no poop splash. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Composting_toilet, http://www.clivusmultrum.com/, http://www.permaculture-design-courses.com/2011/07/worldwide-sources-of-composting-toilets.html and http://www.thenaturalhome.com/compost.html
Always follow the recommendations for the local area when peeing and pooping in the woods. The leave no trace principle is best -- you carry out what you take in. Leave the place the same (or better) than when you got there. See: http://www.lnt.org/index.php, http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/BoyScouts/TeachingLeaveNoTrace/033_dispose.aspx
In most situations, urinating in the woods is ok. Unlike solid deposits, urine does not carry disease. In a few situations, urine may attract wildlife due to the salts. Because urine has an objectionable order, be sure to urinate at least 200 feet from a campsite or trail. Also don't urinate in the same spot; too much urine may hurt the root systems of sensitive plants. Some guys write their name in cursive while urinating as a technique to reduce concentration. Some women use a funnel-like device, so they can urinate similar to guys. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_urination_device, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjBdqg6crU8, and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ap40zSO4vh0
The BIG QUESTIONS deal with how to handle solid deposits in the backcountry. You want to avoid pollution of water sources, avoid negative implications of someone else finding it, minimize the possibility of spreading disease, and maximize the rate of decomposition. For information on advantages of squatting compared to western toilets, see: http://www.naturesplatform.com/health_benefits.html and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WQaqeC_wME
You should come prepared with a bathroom kit. Mine is packed with wiping material (non-scented, biodegradable toilet paper), biodegradable wet wipes, hand sanitizer and a small trowel. The use of toilet paper is controversial. The best practice is to use natural wiping materials, such as leaves, smooth sticks, rounded rocks and grass, when available. If you use plants, make sure you can identify the ones that could cause a skin rash. Ouch! See: http://amountaintophigh.blogspot.com/2009/04/how-to-poop-in-woods.html
The pack-it-out approach is the preferred method, especially with groups of people, high use areas, along rivers, and in sensitive ecosystems. There are several commercially available sanitary bag systems, such as "Wag Bags". These products provide a lightweight, sanitary way to pack out human waste. See: http://www.blm.gov/or/resources/recreation/files/brochures/portable_toilets.pdf, http://www.ufwda.org/environmental-sustainability/pack-it-in-pack-it-out/, http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Poop-Tube.
OK, now that I've outlined how to deal with human waste when hiking and camping, please offer your suggestions; what works, what doesn't work, HOW DO YOU HANDLE IT WHEN NATURE CALLS?
Videography by Ken Kramm, January 2011, Canon Vixia HFS20, Final Cut Pro X. Creative Commons Music "Everybody Poops" by Jason Shaw. Permission granted for use in this video. http://www.audionautix.com