Going backpacking without toilet paper may sound like an odd thing to do. Why would anyone not bring toilet paper (TP) to a campsite?
In actuality, many people prefer not bringing toilet paper when backpacking in the great outdoors. In fact, there are numerous good reasons why you should leave the TP at home.
Unfortunately, along with the rise of outdoor recreation the constancy of people leaving their “trace” has drastically multiplied. In truth, the accumulative impact of people using the woods as a toilet has increased tenfold.
According to the Outdoor Foundation and the Coleman Company 2017 report, 40.5 million Americans ages 6 and older went camping in 2016. That is an increase of 500,000 participants in one year. Of the 40.5 million people, 22% preferred toilet facilities.
Now 22% may not seem like very much but it actually equates to 8,910,000 people who litter the forest or countryside with toilet paper each year.
Likewise, there were 280 million people who visit our National Parks, 180 million visitors to Forest Service lands and 740 million visits to state parks in 2015. This many visitors add up to a lot of waste.
One of the best ways to reduce waste is to leave your toilet paper at home. In fact, the only way to maintain our pristine wilderness is by disposing of your waste properly.
Likewise, the best solution to the “poop” problem is with proactive education.
Cut Back on Supplies
There can be a lot of things that need packed when you prepare for a camping or backpacking trip. In effect, everything needs to be organized perfectly in order to take advantage of every bit of space.
And when it comes to backpacking, the weight and size of items is very important. For instance, a backpack can get heavy really fast when carrying a large load.
Even a few miles can feel like you’re carrying a ton if the load is oversized. The best way to lighten the load is to reduce heaving items like cans of food.
In addition, large items such a toilet paper should be limited. In fact, leaving the TP at home will make room for a lot more important things you can carry instead.
Leave No Trace
Even if you bury it, dumping toilet paper in the woods is not very sanitary or Eco friendly. Honestly, TP in the wilderness does follow the “Leave No Trace” standards and ethics.
In truth, toilet paper can take a long time to decompose, especially in dry regions. Moreover, toilet paper pollutes the water supply and also attracts wildlife to your campsite.
A good rule of thumb is – if you pack it in, then you need to pack it out.
Gross and Unsanitary
No matter how you look at it; toilet paper in the woods is gross and disgusting. As well, toilet paper littered in the woods (buried or not) is very unsanitary.
In addition, using toilet paper to do your business in the woods will attract all sorts of animals. More often than not, the toilet paper will be dug up and strewn about the environment.
To make matters worse, humans carry many types of diseases that can be transmitted to animals through feces.
How to Properly Poop in the Wilderness
Pooping in the wilderness can be easy if you have the right equipment. As well, there are just a few tips that need to be followed for a positive experience.
Tools – you only need a few simple tools such as a trowel (very small shovel), a sealable plastic bag, clean TP and a small bottle of natural hand sanitizer. You will also need an extra zip lock bag to carry your “used” toilet paper in.
A Cathole – A cathole is the area you pick to poop. The ideal cathole location includes:
Privacy – a private spot is always nice and it gives you a secluded area to clear a space for a cat hole.
Off the Beaten Trail – you want to find a place for your cat hole that is off the beaten trail. The location should never be visible to other hikers. As well, if your cat hole is off the beaten path, animals are less likely to find it.
Easy to Dig Soil – when searching for a good spot to place your cathole always look for soil that is easy to dig. For instance, you would not want to select an area that has a lot of rock.
Rocky ground is quite difficult to dig through. Instead, choose soil that is soft and easy to work with.
Away from a Water Source – always makes sure to dig your cathole at least 67 yards (200 feet) away from any water source (rivers, streams or lakes). Peeing or pooping near a water source will definitely contaminate the water.
A Sunny Location – it is best to dig and use a cathole that is in a sunny location, sunshine actually speeds up the decomposition rate. In truth, the quicker the poop decomposes the better.
Depth and Width – Dig a cathole between 6 and 8 inches deep and 4-6 inches in diameter. The depth is the most important because it will keep animals from smelling the poop and digging it up.
Do Not Procrastinate – when you have to go to the bathroom, do so immediately. If you wait to the last minute you may not have time to find and dig a cathole.
Burying the Cathole – once you are finished going to the bathroom in the cathole, make sure to cover it up. Covering it up supports the Leave No Trace practice plus it keeps the animals from digging it up.
Pack it Out – if you use toilet paper, make sure to pack it out. Never bury TP in the cathole. Just place everything into a zip lock bag and store it in a safe place in your backpack. You can dispose of the zip lock bag once you get to a garbage.
Going Completely Natural
In honesty, the most Eco friendly way to poop in the wilderness is without toilet paper. Other products that can be used are leaves, smooth rocks and moss.
Some people even use pinecones. Just be careful that you do not use a pinecone that has a lot of sap.
Another precaution is to know what type of leaf you are using for toilet paper. You want to be careful and makes sure that you do not use poison oak or poison ivy.
Both of these plants can give you an intense rash that spreads quickly to other areas of the body.
On the contrary, when people are irresponsible with their poop, they risk contaminating the water plus affecting wildlife and people. However, being a responsible and mindful hiker really is quite easy.
Good practices include pooping responsibly outdoors.