When nature calls: Handling the call with finesse, care, and of course, toilet paper.

As an adventure company one of the questions we get asked quite frequently is, “How does the bathroom situation work while we’re out there?”. Its an amusing one to be asked and even more amusing (for me anyways) to answer it! Before you head out into the backcountry, make sure you have the proper supplies BEFORE you hit the trail…. It would be a real shame to get out there and not have what you need to get this job done!

You can buy black ziplock bags online, some are even smell proof!

You can buy black ziplock bags online, some are even smell proof!

Get a trowel, in my experience those orange ones made by Coghland work great, last a long time, and are very inexpensive. Get toilet paper, you don’t need to spring for the “camping or travel toilet paper”, its expensive, you don’t get a whole lot, and its like half a ply! Get a regular roll of toilet paper and then remove the cardboard roll. By removing the roll, you’ll be able to pack down the toilet paper roll into a more manageable size for backpacking. Order yourself some small black ziplock bags and also pick up a some medium sized ziplock bags. Lastly, get a small bottle of hand sanitizer. *** Please note that this article is only focusing on areas where a “wagbag” isn’t required and digging a hole is a-ok for doing your thing. Mount Whitney, winter trekking, and The Narrows in Zion are all locations that I have been where a “wagbag” was required.

Now that you have your supplies and nature is calling, let’s talk about making that process happen! First of all, be thankful that it happened. Sometimes we hear a lot of people get clogged up due to altitude or just being out of their natural element. Let me take this moment to make an important point, DO NOT intentionally clog your system with certain foods or medication before hitting the trail. The last place you want to have stomach issues is 10 miles deep in the backcountry. Let nature call and respond to the call! It is what it is, as the title of a book my little brother used to have, Everybody Poops.

  1. Gather your supplies. Grab the trowel, t.p., your bags, and hand sanitizer

  2. Find a suitable location. Venture out away from your campsite and friends, be 200 feet away from the trail AND any water source. Sometimes this process takes a bit longer than one would expect, so make sure you aren’t waiting til the last minute….

  3. Dig! Look for an area where you can actually dig. Some places you might come across have too many rocks and roots. That can be an issue as you need to dig at least 6 inches in the ground.

  4. Execute your position with confidence. There are a few positions for you to handle pooping in the woods. Some squat, some use a tree to lean on, others find a couple of small boulders to balance their cheeks on! Whatever position you choose, just be confident and go with it!

  5. Enjoy a view much greater than your home bathroom. Do your thing. We guarantee its a much better view than your local gas station’s tagged up stalls.

  6. Place your tp in a bag, not the hole. It seems that back in the day it was taught to just bury your used toilet paper. This is no longer the case and it never really should’ve been ok. Animals, because they are animals, end up digging the used toilet paper up and it eventually makes it way to the water source you were planning on using for your dinner. Not sure what you’re into, but I’m not down with drinking literal toilet water. Put the used t.p. in the black ziplock bag and then place that bag into the medium sized ziplock bag.

  7. Cover the hole back up and sanitize your hands. We get it… sometimes with backpacking our hygiene takes a dive, but don’t be gross.

  8. Out of sight, out of mind. Take your stuff back to camp and place the medium sized ziplock bag in a pocket of your backpack that you normally don’t go into or one that your friends might stumble upon. I get it, its weird to carry out used t.p., but in my experience this process is made easier by practicing the “out of sight, out of mind” technique.

We hope that you found this article not too out there and we hope that it helps you next time you find yourself having to respond to nature’s call!

- Chris Duarte