"Out in the great wide open ..."
Outdoor recreation is awesome, and everyone has been doing a lot more of it this summer. One thing that's not often spoken of, however, is what happens when one is in the middle of the Great Outdoors and nature comes calling. When you gotta go, you gotta go. And if you happen to be in the middle of a hike or swim, it's highly likely you may find yourself faced with the dilemma of pooping out in the great wide open.
Okay. Now that the awkward subject is out there, let us get right down to business. (Pun intended.)
Poop happens, and there are some things to talk about regarding doing the doo outside. This is a situation that can quickly turn into a nightmare; someone could see what's happening, something could get on your shoes (ew!) ... so many things could happen to make the experience that much more uncomfortable.
So while it is an embrassing and not-often-talked-about-in-large-groups subject, there are some things we can do to make that pooping in the woods a little less impactful on the environment and a little less gross for everyone. Before we get started, it's important to remember the concept of Leave No Trace, taking nothing out and leaving nothing behind.
Tips for Pooping in the Woods:
Find an appropriate spot
Choose wisely. This is one of the biggest things to remember. Do not go in the same spot more than once, and if you are not alone, then put some space between yourself and your companion. A location on higher ground is better than one on lower ground—try and find one that will not run off into an area of water.
Go in a hole
This is important, and for a good reason. If you bury it, it can be covered up, will not be stepped in, and will help decompose faster. A “cathole,” as these holes are often called, should be dug away from where others are going. Too much of the stuff in one place will attract animals. Try to stay away from water sources, trails, campsites, etc. This will also prevent someone else form the awful experience of stepping in left behind human waste (*shudders*).
Cover that S#@! up!
Cover that hole back up with dirt, leaves, and other natural materials that are nearby. It's also customary to mark the spot with a stick, rock, etc., to discourage anyone else from digging a cathole in the same spot. Holes should be about 6 to 8 inches deep, about 4 or so inches wide, and roughly 200 feet away from campsites or water sources.
To TP or not to TP, that is the question
This is more of a personal preference; if full mountain man is your style, then rocks or leaves will do. If you're not exactly thrilled about using a leaf to clean yourself, TP is the way to go. White, non-scented is the best bet if you plan to leave the TP behind. Remember, bury it and don't ever burn it.
Pack it out
This one might make some folks feel a bit icky, so fair warning. Packing it out means that you take out anything you bring in, and that includes poop. Ziplock bags, layered boxes are great, and there are even special waste-alleviation-and-gelling (WAG) bags that some places will provide. These bags come with a gelling power developed by NASA that will turn the doo into and odorless goo. Some places require it, in certain national parks; it's a federal offense to leave waste, including poop, behind.
As uncomfortable as it is to talk about, the fact of the matter is that people poop, and if it happens to be outside in the wilderness, there's a right way and a wrong way to go about it. No one wants the beauty of the natural world to fill up with feces, so it's our responsibility to prevent that from happening—and being aware of the issue is the first step.
Do you have any additional advice? Sound off in the comments.