It's a given: If you're going to spend a lot of time in nature, eventually you're going to have to answer her call.
And if you enjoy getting out in the wild and away from established campgrounds, that means you'll be on your own when the time comes to poop in the woods. This is hardly the most glamorous aspect of backpacking, but it doesn't need to be problematic, either.
The important thing to remember is Leave No Trace—when you're done, anyone who comes along after you should not know you were there. There's nothing worse than stepping off the trail to do your business and walking into a minefield of discarded toilet paper, or worse an uncovered deposit from a previous hiker.
In addition, improper sanitation efforts can be a significant source of disease. Feces harbor germs that can result in intestinal diseases such as Giardia and cryptosporidiosis, especially if they find their way into a water supply.
Here's what you need to know to properly use the wilderness as your bathroom, from safety suggestions to gear tips.
More: 8 Hiking Safety Tips
Let's start with the simpler issue of urination in the wild. Human urine is generally clean and doesn't promote disease. The most important factor is making sure you go 200 feet away from a campsite, trail or any other water source. Urine can be hard on some plants, so it's recommended that you find a rock to relieve yourself.
Pooping in the woods is a slightly more involved, but as with most things, a little preparation is the key. First, make sure to keep the following gear items in your backpack:
- A lightweight trowel
- A quarter-roll of toilet paper or a few baby wipes
- A couple of zip-top plastic bags
- A small bottle of hand sanitizer
When the time comes, look for an isolated spot at least 200 feet from your camp, the trail and any water sources. Use your trowel to dig a small hole 6 inches deep and 8 inches across.
If you've forgotten toilet paper, you can make due with broad, soft leaves or even smooth sticks or stones. Cover the hole, scatter leaves and sticks if available to make it look natural, and put a rock on top to discourage the next person from choosing the same spot for their hole.
Don't forget to wash and sanitize your hands.