How-To Guide for Going to the Bathroom in the Woods

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By: Sonia Zannoni

For many hikers out there, one of the things that they dread the most, I would say, is going to the bathroom in the woods. Why? Mainly because they don’t know how to do so in accordance with the leave no trace initiative.

Fellow hikers, in order to alleviate any fears you might have, I have put together a how-to guide showing you how to go about peeing and pooping while hiking the backcountry.

Let’s dig in, shall we? 

When Nature Calls…

By the way, when nature calls, it’s never a good idea to fight it by holding it in because you are apprehensive of going to the bathroom in the wild. It is an unhealthy practice, leading to serious health issues later on, such as urinary tract infections or constipation. Neither is fun to deal with, I assure you.

Let’s face it, sooner or later, while hiking, it will come a time when you will have to relieve yourself. Therefore, it is crucial while planning your hiking adventure to find out about the regulation regarding human waste. Since you can bury human waste in some areas, whereas, in others, you have to pack it and dispose of it later.

Furthermore, while following the leave no trace approach, keep in mind that the chosen spot for going to the bathroom must be at least 200 feet or 70 steps away from the campsite, ravines, and water sources (river, stream, lakes). 

First, let’s start with the most common biological process while hiking:

How to Pee in the Wilderness

First off, when you feel the urge to void your bladder, don’t fight it. Find a place instead to relieve yourself. 

Now, if you are a guy, there are no issues here to pee in the backcountry, is there?

If you are a woman, then that’s another story. So, here are some tips:

  • You should, if possible, find a spot of soft earth, such as pine needles, for example, which will quickly absorb the urine, so there is no splashing.
  • Take a wide stance to avoid losing your balance, and squat.
  • Once you are done, you could either shake it dry (not the best option, in my opinion) or use a pee rag or bandana to wipe it dry (definitely the best option). 
  • Then you can attach the rag or bandana to the front of your hiking backpack to dry.
  • Another option is to use either toilet paper, baby wipes, or towelettes. In that case, once you are done, you should pack it in a Ziploc bag and dispose of it later (when you get home, for instance).
  • Lastly, you can use nature, such as large leaves, like your toilet paper.
  • Some women prefer to use a pee funnel, as shown in the image on the right. Don’t forget to rinse it with water after use.
Going to the Bathroom in the Woods — Pee Funnel for Women.

It is imperative that after you are done wash your hands. You have two options:

  1. Use hand sanitizer.
  2. Wash your hands with biodegradable soap and clean water.

Now let’s talk about if you feel the urge to go for the #2 while on the trails:

How to Poop in the Backcountry

Before you set out to go poop in the wild, make sure that you have all the supplies needed to get the job done! You will need toilet paper (preferably biodegradable), a camp trowel, plastic bags, and hand sanitizer.

Once you have found a spot at least 200 feet (70 steps) away from the campsite and any water sources, it’s time to make your cathole toilet!

Dig a hole of about 4 inches (10 cm) wide and 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) deep with a camp trowel. If you don’t have a trowel, you can use a stick, a tent stake, and even the heel of your hiking boot to make the hole.

If you can’t make a hole because you are in a rocky area or the soil is too hard to dig, find a rock to lift and make your deposit there. After you are done, simply replace the rock on top.

Now comes the fun part: waste management! Depending on the region you are in, you might not be allowed to dispose of human solid waste and toilet paper in the wild.

Going to the Bathroom in the Woods — Poop on the Ground.

If there are no restrictions concerning waste disposal:

  • Make your deposit in the cathole and throw in the used toilet paper as well.
  • Use a stick to swirl the content as it helps for faster decomposition.
  • Cover the waste with the original dirt. 
  • Pack down the soil by stamping it with your foot and place a rock or some branches on top to finish covering up and deter critters from digging it up.

If there are restrictions, here is what you need to do: 

  • Put the used toilet paper or towelettes wipes in a Ziploc bag and double the bag. 
  • Another alternative is to burn the toilet paper. However, you need to make sure to burn it to ashes. And this option is only available for toilet paper. You cannot burn the towelettes and wipes.
  • If you must also pack your poop, then you definitely want to use human waste disposal bags. 
  • There are different types of bags. I prefer to use the one with the gel inside. 
  • No matter which kind of bag you use, it is a good practice to double the bag to be safe. 

Now, you are almost done! The last step and most important one are washing your hands using hand sanitizer and paying attention to your fingers!

Watch the video below, showing you how to poop in the woods:

Final Thoughts 

So, there you have it! When going to the bathroom in the woods, don’t fret about it. Follow this how-to guide. Furthermore, when looking for a place for your outdoor bathroom sort of speak, always bear in mind the leave no trace approach for minimal impact on the environment.

Finally, you mustn’t fight the urge to relieve yourself. It could lead to severe health issues, which is the last thing you want to deal with while in the great outdoors!

If you have any questions about how to go to the bathroom in the woods, please leave a comment below. I will get back to you ASAP.

4 thoughts on “How-To Guide for Going to the Bathroom in the Woods”

  1. Hello there, I have been pleased with how you have made this article fun to read because there is so much we would be willing to learn.

    I have to say learning these guidelines about how to go to the bathroom in the woods is essential, and eventually, it would be beneficial for me someday when I least expect it. Cheers.

    • Nowadays, with the Leave no Trace initiative, I would say that my guide on how to go to the bathroom in the woods is a must-have in your hiking backpack. Otherwise, you might get into trouble, especially in the areas where it is forbidden to leave human waste of any kind.

  2. Thank you so much

    I found this article interesting and did not quite know what to expect initially. It would be best if you relieved yourself, and I know that I am always apprehensive about going to the bathroom in the woods. However, thanks to this article, I will be better prepared and will not feel embarrassed at all. I really like the idea of the Ziploc bags, which are so simple and yet hugely useful.

    Lots of useful information here, some of which I had never considered at all.

    Great information

    Thanks again

    • I am glad that you found value in my post about going to the bathroom in the woods. I learned the hard way that it’s not a good idea not to void your bladder in the woods, as I ended up with a urinary infection, after a weekend hike, not the most enjoyable experience! Don’t wish that to anyone.

      Thanks for stopping by.


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