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When Nature Calls: Camping Bathroom Tips

February 19 2020

landscape of a path with trees and sun rays
One of the most common questions I receive as a backpacker is if I “go” in the woods. The answer is obviously yes (because it’s unhealthy to hold), but if you’re not as experienced in going to the bathroom outdoors it can be daunting.

Here are a few tips on how to go to the bathroom in the woods.

1. Know the Rules Before You Go

Some state and national parks can be particular about their bathroom etiquette, so be sure to investigate on their sites. Some want you to use their facilities, carry out your toilet paper, or pack it all out, so it’s best to do a little research—even with a quick phone call—before you go the wrong way.

2. First Look for Camping Toilets

For some, the ideal scenario is a campground with flushing toilets. And as camping becomes more popular, some campgrounds have standard public bathrooms with stalls and mirrors that are cleaned frequently.

out house
But, a little more rustic, is the camping toilet. Also, known as an outhouse or kybo, they are essentially giant pits in the ground. They can be harsh on odor, but a good campground maintains these toilets with fresh toilet paper.

3. Be Prepared to Dig

The classic backpacking method is to dig a hole (sometimes referred to as a “cathole”) with a trowel, squat, go, and cover it up. It’s pretty simple in nature, but there are some basic rules:

  1. Don’t dig your hole within 200 feet of a water source. Furthermore, don’t go anywhere near the trail; try to dig your cathole in places that people are unlikely to walk.
  2. Dig your hole at least six inches deep, so animals cannot dig up your waste.
  3. Pack out your toilet paper.

For additional camping bathroom tips on digging, I like to pile a stack of rocks to prevent animals from digging down and to warn other campers of my previous whereabouts.

4. Don't Forget to Pack It Out

However, some more popular parks and trails need people to pack out their waste to maintain the outdoors. While packing it out isn’t ideal, it’s necessary to preserve future outdoor experiences for you and other trekkers.

Bring W.A.G. bags (waste alleviation and gelling) to collect your waste and toilet paper in one bag. We recommend bringing another bag for your W.A.G. bags and storing this bag far, far away from your food and everyone overnight.

 

5. Spruce up the Experience with Portable Johns

If you want to answer the call of the wild in luxury, portable toilets are a great idea. We recommend the Cleanwaste Portable Toilet because it allows you to go directly into a W.A.G. bag and is good on space.

While a portable toilet may sound absurd, it is a great option for smaller kids. They may be intimidated by some of the campground outhouses, so this is a fantastic alternative to keep them comfortable in the outdoors.

6. Bathroom Tips for Women 

This is not my forte nor my experience, but the video below details how to pull off using the bathroom in the woods for women.


One of the less graceful aspects of camping is going to the bathroom in the woods. While many are intimidated by doing so, there are many options to make your wilderness bathroom experience a pleasant one.

 

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