Posted on August 7, 2012 by Beth Yost
At 7 o’clock this evening I’m leaving for a 5-night backcountry trip to the Enchantment lakes, arguably one of the most beautiful hikes I’ll ever do. Am I excited? Incredibly. Nervous? A tad. Yes, there are bears, yes, there are dangerous ridges to climb, yes, the area is desolate and isolated—but none of this concerns me too much.
Really, only one thing keeps haunting my thoughts. At some point, at some hideous point, I’m going to have to, ahem, drop a deuce in the the woods.
You may be wondering, “She’s no stranger to backcountry camping, so why all of a sudden the concern?” Allow me to let you in on a little secret. None of my trips have been longer than two nights, and with some strategy and Imodium AD, the deuce has always been avoided. Yes, I know plugging myself up is probably not advisable or recommended by doctors, but hiking out bloated and making a mad dash to the nearest restroom once we reached civilization always seemed far more appealing than going in the woods.
This is not an option for this trip. It’s too long. So, I’ve done a little research, which I’ll gladly share with you. (Although this may be more beneficial after my trip, but I’ll just add an update, ‘cause I’m sure you’re all dying to know how it goes.)
Ok, so here goes: How to poop in the woods.
Depending on where you visit, check the area’s “Leave no trace” guidelines. You’re either going to have to pack it out or dig a “cat hole”.
Packing out your waste doesn’t just mean garbage; it also means your number two. For the record, garbage should ALWAYS be packed out. Packing out your poo is usually requested at locations above the treeline because there isn’t enough ground soil to break it down.
Just imagine, popular hiking spots in the most beautiful places in the world with human waste festering in every tiny little soil patch. Gross. But improving sanitation and appeal isn’t the only reason we need get rid of poo properly. It also protects the water supply and prevents habituation of animals. The last thing we need is a bunch of poop-mongering wildlife.
Waste pack-out kits are available and contain odor-fighting chemicals and liquid-absorbing powders. I know, not the most appealing option. If you’re really hardcore, you can just make your own with kitty litter. Just make sure you use a durable bag with a strong seal for obvious reasons.
The next option is to dig a “cat hole.” This is exactly what you think it is. We bought our poo shovel yesterday, or hand trowel as it’s called by the pro wilderness poopers. Dig a hole 6 to 8 inches deep, do your business, clean up, and fill the hole back in, so the bacteria can work its magic. It’s ok to put your toilet paper in there or pack it out — just don’t burn it, and especially don’t leave it out in the open. Again, gross.
While we’re on the topic, we may as well cover peeing too. Guys, you’ve got it made and we envy you for this, but don’t just go pointing that thing anywhere. First, I know so many of you who naturally like to pee in water or on a tree. I don’t know why, but please, stop. Pee FAR from water and on rocks, not trees, grass, or vegetation. It’s also a good rule of thumb to spell your name to prevent the urine from concentrating in one single place (we know you like to do that anyway). Mountain goats love salt and will dig up all the vegetation if it’s in one spot.
Girls, find a place where no one will see your naked butt, where you won’t fall over, and where you won’t pee on your feet.
And, with that, cross your fingers that everything, er, comes out ok for me on the trip. And please stay tuned for post number two (sorry, I couldn’t resist) on this thralling topic.
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