Bear peers out from behind tree

Does a Bear Sh*t in the Woods?

Does a bear sh*t in the woods? Yes. And if you’re out enjoying the great outdoors for any length of time, chances are, you will too.

Don’t be embarrassed. Sometimes nature calls and it’s not always possible, or practical, to wait until you’re back in civilisation.

So what do you do?

You do a wildy. At least, that’s what my friends call it. In other words, you do a poop, right there with the birds and squirrels looking on.

However, what you might not realise is that there is a wrong way and a right way to poop outdoors.

Leave No Trace

Any self-respecting human being with a love of nature will follow the seven Leave No Trace principles. These provide guidance on how to ‘enjoy our natural world in a sustainable way that avoids human-created impacts’. According to principle 3, the best way to dispose of human waste while you’re out hiking, biking, camping, running or whatever it may be, is to bury it.

Why?

Firstly because it’s gross, ok? Just think of your fellow inhabitants of this earth, who may be following in your footsteps, out for a pleasant day on the trail. They stop next to a rock for a rest, only to found a human faeces curled up by their foot and a soiled piece of toilet roll stuck on top, like some kind of shameful flag. No, it’s all wrong.

Aside from human decency, exposed poo also carries the risk of spreading disease. This is particularly true if said excrement finds its way to a water source, which may then be consumed by animals and humans alike. And what do you get from polluted water? Diarrhoea galore – and that’s a best-case scenario.

Burying your poop

Now you know why you should bury your poop, here’s how to do it –

  1. Find a secluded spot which is at least 200 feet from a water source and a decent distance from any trails, lookout spots, campsites and other areas well-travelled.
  2. Dig a hole – known as a cathole – which is at least six inches deep. Keep the displaced dirt in a convenient pile next to it.
  3. Do your businesses into the cathole.
  4. Fill the cathole up with the dirt you previously removed.
  5. Disguise the recently disturbed soil with rocks and stones from the surrounding area.

If you’re staying in the same spot for a while – for example, you are backcountry camping – then be sure to disperse your catholes. Basically, don’t keep pooping in the same spot. You can find more advice as to where to locate your catholes on the Leave No Trace website.

Unless you have wolverine-like claws, you’ll probably want a device to dig your catholes with. A garden trowel will do, but if you’re after something a little more lightweight then I like the Deuce 2 Trowel by TheTentLab. It’s really strong and barely weights a thing.

The Deuce 2 trowel

The Deuce 2 trowel – bury it!

When to pack it out

While burying poop is generally the go-to move, there are times when it’s best to pack your poop out, including narrow river canyons.

Also, you cannot bury any other toilet ‘accoutrements’ that isn’t plain, unperfumed toilet paper. Things like tampons, sanitary towels, wet wipes (which are not biodegradable!) and scented toilet paper must go with you.

I agree, it’s not too glamorous. But if that’s what it takes to enjoy the outdoors without soiling it (quite literally), then you need to be prepared to shovel some sh*t.

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