The Ultimate Guide: How to Poop While Backpacking

Backpacking is an exhilarating adventure that allows us to disconnect from our daily routines and reconnect with nature. However, it’s essential to remember that even in the great outdoors, our bodily functions don’t take a break. When backpacking, knowing how to properly handle your bathroom needs becomes crucial for both personal hygiene and environmental preservation. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore everything you need to know about pooping while backpacking.

Choosing the Right Spot

Follow Leave No Trace Principles

Before you start searching for the perfect spot, familiarize yourself with Leave No Trace principles. These guidelines aim at minimizing our impact on natural spaces by promoting responsible outdoor practices. Respect wildlife habitats, water sources, and other campers by choosing a location far away from trails or campsites.

Away from Water Sources

When deciding where to go, ensure you’re at least 200 feet (about 70 steps) away from water sources such as rivers or lakes. This distance prevents contamination of these vital ecosystems and preserves their purity for everyone’s enjoyment.

Elevation Matters

Consider the elevation when selecting your spot as well. Ideally, pick an area higher than any nearby bodies of water since gravity ensures proper drainage away from water sources downhill.

Digging a Cat Hole

Gather Essentials

To dig a cat hole – also known as a cathole – you’ll need some basic tools: a small trowel or shovel (lightweight options are available), toilet paper or alternatives like unscented baby wipes (remember biodegradable options), and hand sanitizer for cleanliness after finishing up.

Find Suitable Soil Conditions

Look for loose, rich soil that will allow easy digging and decomposition. Avoid rocky or sandy areas as they may make the process more challenging.

Digging Properly

Using your trowel or shovel, dig a hole approximately six to eight inches deep and four to six inches in diameter. Make sure it’s wide enough to accommodate your waste while keeping it covered effectively.

Taking Care of Business

Proper Technique

Once you’ve found an appropriate spot and dug your cat hole, assume a comfortable squatting position with feet shoulder-width apart. Squatting mimics the natural position for elimination, making the process easier.

Burying Your Waste

After you’re done, use toilet paper sparingly (or choose alternatives like leaves if permitted) and place it in the hole. Cover everything with soil until no waste is visible from above ground level.

Cleanliness is Key

Sanitizing Your Hands

Thoroughly clean your hands using hand sanitizer or soap and water after handling any waste-related materials. This step minimizes the risk of spreading harmful bacteria and keeps you hygienic throughout your backpacking journey.

Pack It Out If Necessary

In some environments where burying waste isn’t feasible – such as arid regions with limited decomposition opportunities – pack out all used toilet paper in sealable bags designated for this purpose. Dispose of these bags responsibly once reaching suitable facilities.


In summary, knowing how to appropriately manage bodily functions while backpacking is essential for both personal hygiene and environmental preservation. By following Leave No Trace principles, choosing proper spots away from water sources, digging adequate cat holes, practicing good technique during elimination, ensuring cleanliness through hand sanitization, and packing out when necessary, you can contribute to protecting the natural spaces we all cherish. So, next time you embark on a backpacking adventure, remember these guidelines and enjoy your experience while respecting nature’s call!