Picture this scene. You have been on an invigorating hike all morning. You are very familiar with the area so you have opted to leave the maintained trails and venture off into some more rigorous terrain. You are now several miles away from the nearest building or ranger station.
Suddenly you start to feel something deep down inside. A friend says that it is your inner being resonating with the wilderness around you. Another friend says that you are experiencing a profound spiritual awakening and that your body is yearning to become one with the earth.
As you think about it, you realize that your body is indeed feeling the call of nature, but it has nothing to do with spiritual awakenings or resonating inner beings.
You have to poop! BADLY!
There is no need to be coy about it. You are out in the middle of the boonies and your inner lumberjack wants to drop some logs!
What do you do? It is way too far to make it back to the outhouse at the campsite.
You may be faced with a dilemma like this one at some point in your life. If so, you must be ready! You need to have a plan! And it all starts with one life-changing fact that you need to come to terms with and accept…
You are going to have to poop in the woods
There is no way around it. There is no use fighting it. Embrace it! It can actually be a very freeing and liberating experience. But only if you are prepared!
Here are several things that you need to know:
Doo your duty with poise!
If you have ever had to drop a deuce in the sticks as I have, you may have discovered that finding a comfortable position is somewhat awkward. Should you sit? Should you squat? Should you lean against a tree? Should you dig a hole first?
Let me impart a piece of ancient wisdom that I discovered recently: Sitting on an elevated porcelain throne is actually not a proper or efficient way to “release the kraken” — it is far better to squat!
Squatting lines up the passageways of the body and eliminates any kinking that occurs when sitting on a standard modern toilet. It allows everything to flow out smoothly without causing discomfort or making you push hard and possibly hurt yourself.
Out in the woods, you have severely limited options for seating. So squatting is actually one of the best options. You may still want to find a fallen log or a rock to lean against so you don’t accidentally lose your balance and deposit yourself in your… deposit.
Make sure your pants are all the way down to your ankles so that you can spread your hips adequately and squat down. Hug your knees or hold on to something in front of you. Sometimes a crab walk position can also be effective as long as you have acceptable clearance between the ground and your posterior.
Pay attention to where your mortars are going to land so that you don’t soil your clothing. Also if you need to pee at the same time, be sure that the tinkle isn’t going to trickle into your shoes or clothes.
The only thing left to do now is fire away and hope that everything comes out solid.
Don’t leave a mess behind you!
The biggest problem with pooping in the woods is not doing the actual deed itself, but the cleanup afterwards. Finding a comfortable and effective means of wiping can be quite an ominous task.
Some people decide to opt out and don’t wipe at all. You may be able to get away with this if you had a nice, dry, solid turd that left no remnants. However, this is not usually the case.
Hopefully you thought ahead and brought toilet paper with you for just such an occasion. But since you probably didn’t, here are a few other ideas of things that you could use.
This can be a risky business because many leaves can cause rashes and itching. Know your leaves! Steer clear of waxy, oily leaves. These don’t work well and may be poisonous. Some leaves are also too thin and will tear easily. I recommend softer wider leaves if you can find them. But caution is still advised.
Sometimes the edge of a smooth rock can be used to scrape the excess material off. This method has varying levels of success depending on the solidity of the movement.
Articles of clothing
A spare T-shirt or a dirty sock can come in very handy in these situations. But remember that you may not want to use it ever again, and you still have to carry it out of the woods.
Moss and other organically based, semi-abrasive materials
There are several types of moss that could be useful. They may even be a comfortable option. You can also use things like corn husks or dried corn cobs. Unfortunately, most people don’t carry corn cobs on the average hiking excursion, so you should probably start looking for some moss.
One of the most effective ways to clean up is just to splash some water on the mucky area and then allow it to dry. For survival reasons, I would not recommend using your valuable drinking water if you are way out on the trail.
These are only a few ways that you can wipe while in the woods. Get creative, but remember to be careful! Hiking is a relaxing and energizing pastime, and occasionally you have to relieve yourself far from the comforts of a modern bathroom. Just remember to plan ahead and know what you can use to wipe.
I’ll leave you with one last piece of advice. Watch out for sandy mounds. Those are ant hills, and the ants don’t take kindly to humans taking a dump on their home.
Kyle is an outdoor enthusiast with a passion for nature and sustainability. When he is not writing, you will find him in his workshop crafting with local wood, hiking in the Arizona mountains, fly fishing, horseback riding or putting together a healthy meal in the kitchen.