Here’s How to Pee and Poop Properly in the Woods (or While Camping)
Now, before you say you know what you're doing, understand that we’re talking beyond your squatting form. Rather, it’s important to know how to use nature’s loo in a way that’s sustainable and eco-friendly. With that in mind, we chatted with two experts on the matter: author Brianna Madia, who is a well-known influencer who loves the outdoors, and board-certified OB-GYN and Poise and U by Kotex partner Staci Tanouye, MD. With their help, ahead you’ll learn how to pee and poop properly in the woods.
How to poop (and pee) in the woods
1. Stock up on Wag Bags.
Wag Bags ($22 for 6) are essentially little toilet kits to help you go anywhere, anytime—and Madia swears by them. Each kit includes one waste bag, a gelling/deodorizing agent to prevent drippy leaks and nix odors, a puncture-resistant, zip-close storage bag, toilet paper, and a hand wipe. Simply do your business in the bag (you can position it on the ground or affix it to a bucket, portable toilet, or non-working toilet), zip everything up in the bag, and toss it out when you find a trash can.
“First thing to know: I have spent years pooping almost exclusively outside,” says Madia, who originally lived in her famous orange van, Bertha, but has since added an RV to her life, while in the process of building her desert dream house. “The world has been my bathroom.”
While Madia will pee just about anywhere with little regard (given it dries fast), if she uses toilet paper or a wipe, she always discards it properly. “I always carry it out with me and toss it in my car in a bag exclusively reserved for pee and poop,” she shares. “And now that I’ve written that, I’m feeling like that’s weird. As for pooping, I love a Wag Bag. If an area is frequently visited or you’re camping in a large group, I think Wag Bags are essential to avoid littering a campsite with small bouquets of toilet paper rising up from the dirt.”
2. Don’t be afraid to go.
While peeing and pooping in the woods may feel unnatural to you, Tanouye says not to avoid it. “Even though it may feel uncomfortable at first, don’t wait or hold in your urine or BM if you feel the urge to go as this could contribute to pelvic floor dysfunction and constipation, making it harder in the end,” she warns, adding that “Holding in a bowel movement too long can lead to larger and harder stool that can create constipation and difficulty going.”
3. Digg cat holes.
If you’re hiking or camping in a more remote area, Madia says it’s fine to leave your waste, so long as you dig a cat hole (aka a pit to poo in). “When I’m out in remote areas, I dig cat holes, per Leave No Trace standards—six inches, y’all!—usually with a rock because I don’t carry a trowel around on a tool belt or anything and when you gotta go, you gotta go,” she says.
4. Be aware of your surroundings.
This is a multi-pronged tip. First, Tanouye says to be sure to select a private location, but one not too far away from your group to ensure safety. Additionally, she says to scout out a spot away from natural water sources, so as to not disrupt an ecosystem or contaminate drinking water. “[Find] a spot where you can use one hand to lean against the ground, a tree, or rock to steady yourself as you squat to urinate or defecate,” she adds, noting that it will make the process less stressful. “[Lastly,] If you notice yourself on a slope, position yourself perpendicular to the hill so any urine runs down the hill and not into your feet.”
5. Always pack out any non-natural items.
While it’s fine to leave your feces in the woods, leaving the paper or wipes you wipe with (however biodegradable they may claim to be) is not recommended. “For the love of God, please carry your toilet paper or wipes out from behind the bush with you,” Madia begs. “I carry a dog poop bag with me and bag my wipes that way. It masks any odor and is sturdy enough to carry out in a pack without an explosion.”
This goes for tampons and pads, too. “Planning ahead with an essential period kit, particularly space to pack period hygiene items as well as a proper waste bag to carry them out to dispose of them since they can’t be buried or thrown out in nature, is a must,” says Tanouye says. “An easy option is to pack several small zip-top bags to put each individual product in, and then put the smaller bags into a single larger gallon size zip-top bag to keep it all together.”
Alternatively, if you don’t like the idea of toting around a bunch of used pads and tampons, you can always opt for a menstrual cup, but you’ll need to have water on hand to be able to rinse it out daily.
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