How to go to the toilet when wild camping

The where and how of pooing and peeing in the wild…

So, you just have to go to the toilet. We all do. It’s a fact of life for wild campers as well as everyone else. You might not be a wild camper, but just have the need to poo or pee on a walk.

How does going to the toilet outdoors work?

First, find a discreet location away from water sources and where you can dig a hole if you need a poo. If you can’t dig a hole, you will need a bag to take your waste away with you.

Let’s go through the details of how that’s all going to work…

Using a public toilet is the easy way

This is the obvious solution. But of course, that’s not the way things always work out.

You could plan to park where there is a toilet or plan a route where there is one on the way. Even if you are on a wild camping mission, this is a good way to plan. For example, I often camp on Kinder Scout and plan a visit to the public toilets in Edale for the morning. Problem solved. No need to poo in the wild.

This website can be useful for finding toilets.

Where to go to the toilet wild camping

Let’s assume that there are no public toilets available and you are on a walk or a wild camping trip. Where should you go and where should you avoid?

Where not to go to the toilet outdoors

These are a few places to avoid when you need to go.

In a public place where you could be seen.

As well as this being embarrassing, you could commit several offences. It’s not illegal to urinate in public, but it’s easy to be prosecuted for any of these offences:

  • Outraging Public Decency (Criminal Justice Act 2003)
  • Indecent Exposure (Sexual Offences Act 2003)
  • Penalty Notice for Disorder – PND (Section 5 of Public Order Act 1986)

There could also be local byelaws.

Near a path

Just don’t go there. Even if it’s just for a pee, the smell is offensive and people tend to pick the same spots. Definitely don’t poo near a path regardless of how good a hole you may dig. Dogs and other animals can dig up your doings.

Near a water source

Don’t pee in the river or stream, or even near it. Keeping water clean makes sense to a wild camper, as that is often where we collect our water from. It’s a lot healthier if someone hasn’t peed in the lake you are filtering water from.

In a building or cave

Whilst this is a way to avoid being seen, it is highly unhygienic and offensive. It doesn’t conform to the overarching policy of leaving no trace.

The above are hopefully pretty obvious, but there are a few more places to avoid:

  • Squatting in stinging nettles etc.
  • Any foliage that may contain ticks
  • Ground that is too hard for a 6″ poo hole

Where to poop when wild camping?

So where is that ideal place for a poo in the wild?

The best place is a public toilet, but outside of that you should look for the following:

Somewhere away from water, buildings, paths, and people.

The critical thing is to be able to dig a hole that is at least 15cm or 6″ deep. The ground needs to be soft enough to dig in with the tools you have. A plastic trowel has limited use in hard ground. A metal trowel will fare better but know the limitations of your digging tool. Don’t skimp on the hole.

Is it OK to poop in the woods?

The woods are no different from anywhere else. People tend to think that doing it behind a tree is acceptable. It’s not and the same rules apply for digging a hole and burying your waste, but not the toilet paper. That needs to go in a bag and get binned.

Can you pee in the woods while camping?

Once again, the same rules apply and being in the woods makes no difference.

Is it illegal to poo out doors?

It’s not illegal to poo outdoors as there is no law against it. But several places have local byelaws that make it an offence. There are also several offences that you can be prosecuted for if other people see you.

How do you poop wild camping?

Now you’ve selected a spot, here’s how to go about taking a poo in the outdoors.

Use a trowel or other digging implement to dig a hole that is at least 15cm or 6″ deep.

Do what you need to do and use paper, but don’t put it in the hole. There are 2 ways to proceed from here. One is to burn the paper which I really don’t recommend. It’s a fire risk and still leaves a residue. It’s not the best way forward. The best thing is to take paper with you in a sealable bag. Dog poo bags are great as are Ziplocks. Either way, just pack it and take it away for disposal.

Fill in your hole and do your absolute best to make it look like you were never there.

Wash your hands with hand sanitiser but do not be tempted to use water sources such as lakes and streams. We don’t want to pollute the water. The other option is to use bottled water well away from natural water.

Wild camping toilet paper

If you must use toilet paper, then use a biodegradable one and bury it in the hole. This is not ideal and should be avoided.

Avoid using leaves as natural toilet paper as there is a risk of ticks and the associated Lymes disease.

From a female perspective

Now I’m a guy, and I don’t have the deep insight of how this is different for a woman, so I have searched online and found an article that will do a better job than I can to help you if you are female.

Meet Becky the traveller.

Tools of the outdoor toileter

Toilet trowel

As well as plastic bags, hand sanitiser, and toilet paper, the other tool you’ll need for a poo in nature is a trowel. These come in various forms, some better than others.

They all need to do the same job, but only a decent one will if the ground is hard, rocky or has roots in it.

The Rolls Royce of toilet trowels is the Tentlab Deuce. This is a ridiculously expensive option that I nearly couldn’t bring myself to buy. However, it is so good and so light that I can recommend it. A more sensibly priced and well-respected toilet trowel is the Coghlan Backpackers trowel.

The pee bottle

A simple option for peeing is to use a bottle if you are a guy, and combining that with a shewee if you are a woman. I can’t vouch for the latter, but I am led to believe it is tricky to execute. This has the bonus of being able to use it inside your tent. You can use the tightly secured bottle as a hot water bottle in the winter if you are brave enough.

A wide mouthed and secure bottle such as a Nalgene is ideal.

The WAG bag

Another alternative for wild camping is the WAG (Waste Alleviation and Gelling) bag.

Toilet paper

If you are going to take your toilet paper home or to a bin, then it doesn’t matter what you use. But if you insist on burying the paper then please use a biodegradable one and never leave wet wipes, sanitary towels or tampons in a hole. These take forever to rot down and the latter tends to get dug up by animals.

Take a bag and take everything away is really the best thing to do with all waste.

Hopefully this has helped

If you have any questions or suggestions then please comment below. I’m sure I’ve missed something.

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