Dealing with human poop in the woods

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Home Forums General Forums General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion Dealing with human poop in the woods

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    Christopher R
    BPL Member


    Where in your pack do you carry your bag of dirty toilet paper? Outside? Inside?

    What do you do for smell? Powdered bleach? Double ziplock?

    In bear country do you put it in your bear can?

    Do you use wag bags and carry everything out? Or just dirty to? Where do you pack used wag bags?

    Greg Mihalik


    Locale: Colorado

    I know you didn’t ask, but this is the classic that came out of the closet many, many years ago –

    YouTube video

    Jump to 4:50 to cut to the chase, but the whole video has merit.


    W I S N E R !


    Go TP-free and these issues disappear. Probably one of the more liberating outdoor skills IMO. 12 years and counting now?

    I sure miss Mike Clelland! here.

    Crystal G
    BPL Member


    Here is what I carry – and at risk of TMI, I have an auto-immune issue that causes issues with my GE tract occasionally, so I take this s**t seriously :)

    In my “Poop Kit” (a small sil rolltop water resistant stuff sack) I have TP, wipes, hand sanitizer, a bunch of very lightweight sandwich bags and a “Stink Sack” (  I like this variety because they are black and odor resistant.

    Dirty paper goes in a sandwich bag after each event.  These are the really lightweight sandwich bags, I carry enough for the trip (maybe 2 per day, YMMV) and I really don’t want to reopen one of these once they are shut up, for obvious reasons.  The used toilet paper carrying sandwich bags are then put in my Stink Sack and carried out.  I obviously try to conserve paper and I have not yet filled a Stink Sack (but my trips are less than 10 days and I try to compress my sandwich bags as much as possible).  I have only had to use one with a wag bag once, and that is an entirely different story — if I thought I was going to have to use wag bags I would be carrying individual lightweight small garbage bags I think, because that would fill a Stink Sack super quick.

    I have messed around with carrying ziplocks with baking soda, etc. but I just find the Stink Sacks do the job well and can even be reused a lot of time (as long as the inner ziplocks survive unopened and are handled with clean hands).  The Stink Sack is really just a back up and you could likely just use a larger ziplock, but I like the black bag (who wants to look at used TP in their pack) and the fact it is heavy weight.

    I do not put my Poop Kit in my bear can or bear hang, but I don’t hike in grizzly territory and there is so much easy food for the black bears around me most of the time it is hard to imagine they would be curious about excrement.  Maybe I am wrong on that.  Curious what others do in this case.

    Christopher R
    BPL Member


    @crystal G where do you carry your stink sack in your bag?

    BPL Member


    Locale: Northern California

    I thought the whole point of carrying out was because bears dig up catholes and spread tp all around.So yeah, bears are interested in excrement.

    That said, if you leave your tp and whatever out in the open…isn’t that worse than not burying it? I bring a bottle of water and drench my tp in a cathole that’s well outside of any campsite; or burn it in a fire ring if one is available.

    Crystal G
    BPL Member


    @Christopher R – After something goes in the Stink Sack I put it back in my Poop Kit (which is large enough to handle a full Stink Sack bag).  My Poop Kit resides in one of my pack’s mesh pockets (typically the big back one, I don’t really like the idea of my Poop Kit, no matter how clean and well contained, near my water bottles).

    @jscott – I hike a lot on extremely well used trails in the NE and at least out here the issue is more just that people toss their TP or shove it under a half inch of soil – which doesn’t help much when we hit a freeze/thaw cycle.  I have not heard about animals digging it up so much (but there are a lot of privys around, so maybe that is why) and I have never really heard of bears going after TP or anything related to poop.  Like I said, there are so many people out here sleeping with their food in the shelters or doing shitty bear hangs that habituated bears have a pretty easy time finding much more interesting things.  I would love to know what the LNT practice is for the Sierra, since that is a different situation (folks are typically required to carry bear cans, although it sounds like the bears don’t have too hard a time finding food rewards there either).

    BPL Member


    Locale: Colorado

    I’m sure people will find a way to criticize this, but I have a very simple system that works fine for me in the Colorado high country. I have a poop kit that includes trowel, unused TP, and used TP, all inside a 1 gal zip-lock. Inside the 1 gal zip-lock, I have the unused TP in one small zip-lock and the used TP inside another small zip-lock. The whole thing goes in the pack, and it has never been an issue for me for hundreds of nights over twenty-something years.

    If I’m feeling really decadent, I will throw a few wet-wipes into a third small zip-lock, and add that to the kit as well.  ;-)

    Paul S
    BPL Member


    I use:

    1) OpSak to hold everything.

    2) Ziplock w/ TP

    3) Ziplock w/ wipes

    4) Ziplock w/ doggy bag (hide the dirty TP) and drier sheet (optional, so when you open the bag… well you know).

    5) Trowel or a beefy stake, even a snow stake in the Sierra. Ice axe w/ adze works even better!

    6) Hand sanitizer, think it is a 0.5 or 1 oz.



    M B
    BPL Member


    Never hiked anywhere requiring to pack out TP.   If your leaving poop… can leave TP too.


    I use natural materials, finish up with only a couple squares of TP.


    Add a little water, mix it all up with dirt with a stick, fill in hole.   Done.


    On JMT years ago…..I dug up 4 previously used catholes in 12 days.   People dont realize how high trail use is.


    Using jmt as example…..50 people start per day , avg 20 days on trail…one poop per person per day…….90 day “season” per year.   50 x 20 x 90 =90000 poops per season. 220mi x 5280 ft/90000=12.9 ft.  Or one poop every 12.9 ft….per year!


    There’s not that many attractive trees rocks etc visible from the trail to do business behind…….areas that offer no cover……get none.  Others get orders of magnitude more use.


    Jenny A
    BPL Member


    Locale: Front Range

    I eat freeze-dried meals (mmmm, Mountain House lasagna….) and put used TP in the bags that the meals come in.  After I’ve eaten the meals, of course.  The bags are heavy enough to contain odors, have to be packed out anyway, and reseal quite nicely with the ziplock-type closure.  The ratio of empty food bags to TP seems to work out just right; I have yet to run out of space.  I would much prefer to burn the TP, but that really isn’t an option in the Colorado Rockies with our ongoing drought.   Empty food bags or empty bags containing other trash go in the Ursack with other smellies and then just into the backpack.  Never had an issue with odors or leakage, at least that I could detect, and that’s all I care about.  Lord forbid I ever have to carry out WAG bags on my back – I hate those things.

    I just ordered and received a Culo Clean cap from GGG.  That in combo with my Kulo Cloth should cut way down or eliminate the need for TP entirely.  TMI?

    Diane “Piper” Soini
    BPL Member


    Locale: Santa Barbara

    A pocket bidet. You will never go back. So much cleaner.

    Even if you use TP if you hose it down with the bidet it will go away better. Never burn your TP. There’s a lot of forest that is gone because people burned their TP and the forest with it.

    Kevin Babione
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pennsylvania

    Years ago I had to poop in a torrential downpour (you can’t always pick a good time).  My lightweight single-ply TP got wet and I was trying to wipe myself with clumps of TP rather than nicely folded sheets.

    After that I got the blue shop towels and cut each sheet in half (each sheet is rectangular – like half of a square paper towel).  I carry them in a ziploc and take 2-3 squares out as I’m on my way to do my business.  If it’s raining I don’t worry – these work equally well when damp or wet.  After use, I fold the blue square, tuck it into a ziploc designated for that purpose, and reseal my “used” bag.  The used bag and my tp bag to into a quart ziplock which then goes into my “Gotta Go” bag, which also has a couple of wet wipes (which go into the used bag if utilized) and my hand sanitizer.  After I use the hand sanitizer I drop it in my “Gotta Go” bag, zip it shut and I’m all ready for the next adventure.

    I get home and simply throw out the used bag in the trash.  I always pack out – especially since I’m not convinced the blue shop towel squares I use would degrade quickly.  I’ve never checked because I bring them home.

    Randy Martin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Colorado

    Yet another recommendation to go with a personal bidet.  Sooooo much better.

    Dondo .
    BPL Member


    Locale: Colorado Rockies

    +1 on the blue shop towels, in my case, cut into 4 pieces and carried in a ziplock bag with a small bottle of hand sanitizer.  The used towels go into a doubled dog poop bag and  are carried at the bottom of a netting pocket on the back of my pack.

    The OP also asked about carrying wag bags, which I think is a more interesting topic.  I’ve done this exactly once and wrote about it here.  In the comments section, Pete the Brit talks about carrying wag bags on Denali to a designated crevasse and heaving them in there.  David Heath mentions using them in Paria Canyon.

    I know there have to be a lot more wag bag stories out there, so let’s hear them.

    Tom K
    BPL Member


    “Jump to 4:50 to cut to the chase, but the whole video has merit.”

    Especially the Tucker Technique;  the ultimate in leave no trace pooping.

    Claiborne B
    BPL Member


    I’d rather not pack out any materials, so I don’t use them. My typical game plan goes with a travel bidet by CuloClean, a dedicate soda bottle, and a small rag to dry myself off after use. I’ve found that fluted bottles like a 17oz Perrier or 20oz Coke products add just the right amount of pressure per squeeze, although I never needed the full capacity of water. I add a few drops of Dr. Bronners to the filtered water in the bottle before use. This hack pays dividends on a multiday hike for you and your party.  My kit also includes a Qiwiz Trowel, Hand Sanitizer, and a small Suunto clipper compass (don’t laugh the mountain foliage can be super thick here in the Carolinas/ Virginia);  all fits into a nylon bag. This resides where-eva on the outside of my pack for quick access. I’ve been using this system for a little over two years on trail and the bidet everyday ever since the great TP crisis of 2020.

    I had to use wag bags in Zion NP. In addition to the wag bags, I carried a few self sealing USPS Priority mail envelopes and freezer bag ziplocks (one of each per day use) to house the used wag bags. Placed wag bag in a ziplocks, then the ziplocks into the envelope, folded and taped the envelopes into bricks individually wrapped in duct tape. The bricks stayed in a doubled up tyvek envelope on the front mesh of my pack while hiking. At camp they stayed a fair distance away at night separate from my trash, didn’t have an investigator rodent check it out, might have been lucky. Threw the whole poo package away as soon as I could.

    AK Granola
    BPL Member


    No dirty TP in the bear canister!! No no no, ick. Even when I still used it, it went into its own double bag not near anything else. No animal ever approached my ick bag, here in grizzly country. Not even a marmot.
    I will echo the others on the bidet solution. No Tp to worry about, shower clean, clean hands. Done!!

    AK Granola
    BPL Member


    You didn’t ask, but in case there are women readers concerned about menstrual products… when I used these I didn’t put those in a bear container either. Never with food. Again, no animals ever disturbed my stuff, even camping in Denali National Park, many many times. I think people hype up animals interest in our waste products but the only thing they really want is our food! And sometimes our sleeping pads – the bears in Denali used to like sliding on those old orange thermarests. Never got mine, thankfully.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Virgo Supercluster

    It would almost be worth losing a sleeping pad to see a bear sledding on it.  Almost.

    Joshua B
    BPL Member


    Locale: Indy

    TP-free here as well per the Mike Clelland link above.  However, my wife isn’t quite there yet, so our compromise is to carry dehydrated biodegradable wetwipes.  To dehydrate them, just lay them out individually on a countertop overnight, they are very light weight to pack this way.  On the trail, usually only 1-2 is needed per episode.  Just rehydrate before use, works just fine in the rain and isn’t as fussy in the wind.  Just rest it on a twig after it is rehydrated to keep it clean before use. We bury it with the rest of our DNA.  Dr. Bonners in a dropper and a splash of water afterward eliminates cross-contamination.

    If I had to pack it out, the wipes stay compact and help absorb odor, so probably just a ziplock in a solid exterior pocket of my pack (or dedicated ditty bag in a mesh pocket).

    Kevin Babione
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pennsylvania

    Without getting too graphic (and I really DON’T want to watch a YouTube video on this subject), can someone help me understand how you use, for example, the CuloClean squirt bottle?  I’ll admit to never using a bidet, so here are my questions:

    • Do a couple squirts of water really clean you?
    • What do you do if a couple squirts doesn’t clean you?
    • How do you “know” when you’re clean?  With paper I have a literal litmus test ;)
    • If I’m in the woods with my pants around my ankles, how do I keep from soaking my underwear and pants (and socks and shoes) with either clean or runoff bidet water?
    • Be honest – do you take some TP with you “just in case”?

    I really like the idea.  I remain pretty regular while on the trail.  A couple of my hiking buddies have never pooped in the woods – their system shuts down on a weekend hike (and that’s all we’ve ever done together).

    Josh J
    BPL Member


    Now what about a bidet in 20 degree weather?

    AK Granola
    BPL Member


    Do a couple squirts of water really clean you?

    A. No, at least not always. Start with a clean rounded rock. Then use the bidet. I use a nasal lavage bottle and use the entire thing.

    What do you do if a couple squirts doesn’t clean you?

    A. See above; I use more than a couple of squirts. If you know you’ll have more of a challenge have a small dropper bottle of soap nearby to wash with. I have it nearby anyway, because I use it to wash hands afterward. You know yourself; are you major mess? You can try it out at home first.

    How do you “know” when you’re clean?  With paper I have a literal litmus test ;)

    A. Try it a couple of times and you’ll know what it takes. You will be shower clean. Do you use TP after your shower to see if you’re clean?

    If I’m in the woods with my pants around my ankles, how do I keep from soaking my underwear and pants (and socks and shoes) with either clean or runoff bidet water?

    A. Do it in the shower at home when you have time. You will quickly figure it out. I have never gotten water on my clothes. You’re squirting away from your pants, not toward.

    Be honest – do you take some TP with you “just in case”?

    A. No, never. Not any more. I did the first few times out, but no longer. If I were in an area without known adequate water, I would take TP.

    Remember that most of the humans in this world do not have toilet paper and do just fine. Anecdote: Many years ago when our babies were small, my sister in law (from another country) was appalled at “baby wipes” and diaper rash. She couldn’t fathom why Americans buy these things, which are polluting and wasteful and even harmful to skin, when running water and soap were right on hand. She just took her babies to the sink and washed their butts. No diaper creme necessary. Clean happy babies.

    Point being, we make things complicated that really aren’t, often because someone is selling something to us (in the case of wipes). If you want to try the bidet, start in the shower with your clothes on, learn how to use whatever method you have, and then start using it on day hikes.

    Question: How does one “shut one’s system down?” That seems terrible! Your buddies must be very uncomfortable! I hope they aren’t using drugs for this.

    AK Granola
    BPL Member


    Josh – do you have snow? That’s the easiest method of all!

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