Before you hold up your roll of double quilted toilet paper and wave the white flag of surrender, here are some simple tips to make doing your duty (or in this case, “doody”) in nature less of a chore.
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What qualifies one to pen advice on the subject of pooping in the woods to strangers from all geographic regions? Growing up hunting, fishing, and rafting in Montana helps. Follow that up with guiding “never slept in a tent before” folks on fishing and rafting trips. Top it off with “I am a mother.”
When we talk about introducing new folks to the outdoors, it’s the little things that can actually be the biggest hurdles to keep them from venturing out. Nature calling while you are out in nature is one of those things we rarely think about but causes the most anxiety. I have seen it with young and old. Even the most seasoned veterans in the outdoors often pick up tips from one another when this topic inevitably comes up in camp.
Critical Steps to Pooping in the Woods
You need to begin the process when you think you have to go, not when you have to go immediately. You are not just taking a stroll down the hall to the porcelain throne; there is the time involved in finding the right spot with the right amount of privacy. And if you have ever had to hike uphill or through a thick forest with critically clenched butt cheeks you know this is no time to dilly-dally.
Step 1: Dig a Hole
No one on this planet wants to see what kind of brown statue you build. And NO ONE wants to see your toilet paper scattered about.
Ideally, you should carry a small spade or shovel in your camping gear. Aim for a depth of six inches or more, deposit your load in the hole, and bury it. If a hole is not practical, kick out an indentation with your heel, poop in the indentation, and cover your business with rocks or logs.
Always remember there are some designated geographic areas that require you to pack it out. Yes, I said pack your literal shit out of the wild. Doggie poop bags aren’t just for the dogs anymore.
Step 2: Assume the Position
Fast as lightning or read the paper — what is your style? The length of time doing your duty will dictate your preferred position to poop.
Pro tip: Drop your pants below your knees, this helps with balance. Skinny jeans or tight pants are your enemies.
Use the quads that God gave you! Make sure your legs are about shoulder-width apart. Get yourself into as close a seated position as you can. Don’t be afraid to shift your center of balance forward. If you need extra stability, rest your elbows on your knees
Some need to sit. Keep your eye open for small downed trees securely suspended at the appropriate height over the ground. If you are in camp, lash a sturdy branch between two trees and dig a large hole directly underneath. Then sit comfortably and enjoy the view.
Find a sapling or small tree to hang onto with one or two hands while you lean back into a squatted, seated position; this takes some of the pressure off your legs. Just make sure the tree is living and won’t fall when you put pressure on it, otherwise, you’re in for a messy fall.
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Use a strap or a rope around the tree and around you under your arms; this leaves your hands free and allows for a longer process.
Assume the squatted, seated position but put your lower back up against a tree or rock. You are using your quads, but this will help your balance and buy you a few more moments before muscle fatigue sets in.
This is a brace but with only one cheek or the side of the hip. Remember, for women these positions come in handy, even if you are just going No. 1. This position is particularly useful when you need to go and all you have is an outboard motor on a boat to brace against.
Step 3: Wiping Your Butt
With clean-up, your ultimate goal is to avoid what’s commonly known as “baboon ass.” If you don’t know what that is, Google it to get the picture — no words necessary. You may even know what it feels like to have the junk in your trunk look like that. Having diaper rash while you are trying to enjoy the great outdoors greatly reduces said enjoyment.
Mountain money, shit tickets — call it what you will — these names imply that your toilet paper is valuable out in the wild. Use it wisely. No toilet paper mittens allowed!
Even better, bring wet wipes. Carry them with you everywhere. This simple yet priceless tool is the only sure thing to stand between you and monkey butt powder.
Pro tip: To avoid your toilet paper getting soggy or dirty sitting on the ground, position yourself near a tree or a bush. Use one of the short or broken branches to hold your toilet paper like the holder in your home bathroom.
To know that you are always ready for what lies ahead, prepare a “shit kit” and carry it with you everywhere. It can be small or large depending on the adventure and the number of people using it. Start with a plastic bag of an appropriate size or an accessory size dry bag. Fill it with toilet paper, wipes, and travel-size bottles of bug spray and hand sanitizer.
Pro tip: Mosquitos love a stationary bare butt. Carry a small bottle of bug spray and give your cheeks a little mist; this will save you from embarrassing scratching later.
Pooping in the Woods: Pro Tips
There are other issues that may arise out in the wilderness. Here are a few extra tips for pooping in the woods:
When you can’t go, you won’t enjoy your time outdoors. Try coffee, chewing tobacco, or high fiber foods like pineapple — whatever it takes to get things moving.
What’s That Smell?
When you are out on adventures like hunting, you have a lot of clothing and gear. Make sure they are all pulled forward out of the drop zone or moved out of the way before it is “bombs away.” And as for your archery release, take it off before you wipe; a knock point next to your nose will let you know if you failed to do so.
No Toilet Paper?
If the mitten-making gets out of hand and you do run out of toilet paper — or heaven forbid you forget it altogether — keep your eye open for non-poisonous leaves. Birch bark, small fir (not spruce) boughs, or snow balls in the winter all make great toilet paper alternatives. If all else fails, use your knife to cut off the top of a sock, the sleeve of a t-shirt, or use your underwear to get the job done.
Talk openly and share the information and tips on how to shit in the woods listed here. This will ensure we are all enjoying our time in the outdoors and leaving it as wild and pristine as we found it!
About the Author
Rachel VandeVoort is a Montana girl, mother, and wife. When she is not working for public land and water and the greater outdoor recreation industry, she can usually be found on some sort of outdoor adventure big or small. You can follow her adventures at @mtraerae.