There's nothing quite as refreshing as taking a morning dump while staring out at nature. Pooping in the back country is a refreshing experience right up until you have to wipe. Don't get caught with your pants down, empty handed, relying on leaves to clean your butt.
We've done the dirty work to figure out the best wet wipes to take backpacking and camping so you can stay clean and fresh the entire day.
Why You Should Trust Me
I am a backpacking fanatic. I live in Michigan and have backpacked the Manistee River and Manitou Island. I flew out to Colorado last year and spent a week in the Rawah Wilderness and this year I'm going out to backpack in Grand Teton.
I buried my first poop on Manitou Island and it was life changing (maybe not really). I stepped up my backpacking poop game and upgraded to wet wipe for my Colorado trip.
I've spent hundreds of hours reading reviews and first hand testimonies from other backpackers on what they liked and didn't like about every piece of gear.
I've taken everything I know about pooping in the woods and broken it down here for you to help you buy the best butt wiping material you can find.
Toilet Paper vs Wipes
We're going to start out by ignoring leaves. In a really bad situation, you can probably use leaves as emergency toilet paper but it's not the best option. You might end up with some nasty bacteria on the leaves that could infect your body or you may even get poison ivy mixed up with the leaves. Just think about that. Not fun.
So we're going to compare the two most popular options for wiping: toilet paper and wipes.
The Importance of Being Biodegradable
Some remote hiking areas require you to pack out human waste. This means you need to bring your poop and your wipes with you when you leave. Truly, leaving no trace.
But for most hiking areas in the United States, the rules just require you to be away from water sources and campe sites. You dig a 12" deep hole, poop in it, wipe, and bury the toilet paper/wipes with the poop.
Since you're burying the wipes/TP in the ground, it's 100% necessary that these are made of biodegradable material. You can't just take your normal household toilet paper or some baby wipes you have sitting around your house and bury them in the back country. This is bad for the environment and if everybody did it, could cause huge problems for the ecosystems that we all want to hike and enjoy. So take care of nature and make sure you have 100% biodegradable, nature friendly toilet paper or wipes.
Toilet Paper for Backpacking
Most people use toilet paper at home so it makes sense that you'd bring this for backpacking as well. Toilet paper is fine but it doesn't do a really thorough job of cleaning up a mess.
The best analogy I've ever heard was to imagine that you rubbed a bunch of peanut butter in Santa's beard and now you have to get it out only using dry paper towels. How well do you think that'd go? Yuck.
At home this isn't a big deal. You get yourself mostly clean, go about your day, and usually take a shower within the next 12-24 hours.
But out on the trails you might not shower for another week. So all that nastiness builds up and when you combine it with hiking 8 hours a day and all the sweat build up, you can get some pretty funky smells.
So the main benefits of toilet paper for camping/backpacking are:
- It's familiar, everybody knows how to use it and it's easy to find.
- It's lightweight and can be compressed in your pack.
- You can use any leftover toilet paper when you get back home.
And the downsides to toilet paper:
- Toilet paper doesn't do a very good job of getting you 100% clean.
- Biodegradable toilet paper can be very weak and tear easily.
- You'll probably have to use quite a bit of TP since it's so thin.
As long as it's biodegradable, toilet paper is pretty much toilet paper. There's not a huge difference between the different brands so you can basically take your pick. Here are the top 3 best sellers that we'd recommend checking out.
Best Backpacking Toilet Paper
[amazon bestseller=”biodegradable toilet paper” items=”3″ title_length=”100″ description_length=”255″ description_items=”1″ image_size=”large” /]
My Choice - Using Wet Wipes for Backpacking
In the last section I gave you the beautiful imagery of Santa's beard full of gooey, sticky peanut butter. Paper towels aren't gonna work real great for cleaning that out but a nice wet wipe would handle the job, no problem.
The first time I went backpacking I bought some 7th Generation biodegradable toilet paper and it was 'meh'. It worked but it was a little hard to use and it probably didn't do a great job of getting everything cleaned out.
On my next trip I bought a pack of biodegradable wet wipes (sadly this brand is discontinued) and the difference between those wipes and toilet paper was incredible. It was like night and day. I felt spring time fresh and clean for the entire 4 day backpacking trip through the Rawah Wilderness.
Wipes aren't perfect though and they have a couple issues that toilet paper doesn't have. But first, let's cover some of the pros to using wet wipes:
- Wipes will get you cleaner than toilet paper.
- Wipes can also be used to clean other parts of your body if you're feeling gross.
And some cons of using wet wipes:
- Since they're so wet, they weigh quite a bit more than toilet paper.
- They have a limited shelf life and will eventually dry up.
- They cost more than toilet paper.
Personally I'm OK carrying a couple extra ounces to feel cleaner but it's a personal judgement you'll have to make. If you can spare the room and weight, I'd suggest trying wipes at least once so you can make the call for yourself.
Since the brand I used in Colorado isn't available for sale anymore, I'd recommend taking a look at the 3 best sellers from Amazon listed below. Similar to TP, they're mostly interchangeable. The one thing you want to look out for is scented wipes. You should avoid these and try to get something nonscented so it doesn't attract animals.
Best Backpacking Wet Wipes
[amazon bestseller=”biodegradable wet wipes” items=”3″ title_length=”100″ description_length=”255″ description_items=”1″ image_size=”large” /]
Don't Forget Your Shovel!
One of the things I never thought I'd need until I started to really plan out my backpacking trip was a trowel for burying the poop. Yep, you need a sh!# shovel.
You'll want to get a plastic trowel that's nice and lightweight. There isn't a lot to say here, it's just a shovel to dig a 12" hole to bury your poop so don't go crazy and look for some top of the line shovel. Just get one that gets the job done.
Here's my recommendation:
[amazon box=”B000BS05Z6″ /]
Backpacking Poop Wrap Up
Who knew pooping could be so interesting? Hopefully this guide helped you figure out whether toilet paper or wipes will be better for your camping/hiking/backpacking situation.
Just remember that the goal is to leave no trace! Make sure you do your part to keep nature nice and clean and your poop hidden away underground. Happy hiking!