How to Go in the Woods

January 11, 2012

Wilderness Survival

how to use the bathroom in the woods

Some things in life are indisputable and unchangeable. “The call of nature” is one of them. We all have to “go” at some point. None of us are immune. From the most respected member of high society to the “Average Joe” working two jobs to make ends meet, we all have one thing in common: we all gotta go.

When we are in the midst of modern conveniences, it’s generally not too big of a deal. There is frequently an bathroom close by. In our homes, in our place of business, at restaurants, there are bathrooms. At worst, it’s frantically searching for a relatively clean restroom at a gas station while driving down the interstate.

Disposing of Waste in the Woods

During a trip in the wild, it can be another story. In the wild, the pessimist sees no prebuilt bathrooms available for us and is stuck in a quandary of where to go. The optimist, however, sees thousands of bathrooms (one behind every tree).

But, in either case, you should know how to properly dispose of your excrement for sanitary and beautification reasons.

Protect the Water

No one wants fecal matter in the water supply. Besides the gross factor, consuming water contaminated with feces can cause nasty protozoa-based diseases like Giardia and Cryptosporidium, bacterial diseases like E. Coli, as well as viral diseases. Many of these can be fatal, especially for someone who’s been surviving under less than ideal circumstances.

Make sure that when you go in the woods, you don’t inadvertently contaminate your water supply. Make your impromptu restroom is at least 200 feet from any water supply. Make sure that it’s downstream of your campsite, and if possible, downhill from the water source.

Feed the Microbes

Microbes in the soil live to breakdown excrement from people and animals. Going in the woods actually helps to nourish the soil and those organisms.

Using a small spade, shovel, pointed rock, or stick, dig a small hole approximately 6 inches deep; this is commonly known as a “cat hole.” There is no need to dig much deeper than that as most of the organisms that will help break down the feces live within the top 12 inches.

Relieve yourself and then refill the hole using the soil that you removed when digging. You should also replace the leaves, pine needles, or other ground coverings as it was before.

Mark the Spot

If you are going to be in one area for several days, you may hear the call of nature more than once. That’ll, of course, require multiple cat holes. To prevent accidentally digging in the same place at a later time, when you are finished with one cat hole find a find a small stick and push it into the soil right beside your cat hole. This will mark your spot and help you to steer clear of it in subsequent searches for a woodland bathroom.

Make it Permanent

If you are going to be in one place for an extended period, or you are surviving with a group of people, it is better to create a latrine. Dig a trench 3 or 4 feet long, 1 foot wide, and 10 inches deep.

After you “go”, sprinkle a shallow layer of soil in the latrine to help control odor and flies. Once you’re finished with the latrine, fill it back in and if necessary dig another one.

As with cat holes, make sure your latrine is 200 to 300 feet from water, downhill if possible from the water, and downstream from your campsite.

Do You Really Need to Know This?

going in the forestThis may be somewhat of a course topic for many but the fact is that all of us must go as a natural result of eating and living. And as a prepper, you should know what to do and how to go in the woods. Whether you’re in the woods for extended primitive camping excursion or because of an unexpected survival situation, if you spend enough time there, you will have to go where there is no restroom.

I will say that despite my continued advocacy for practicing your survival skills before you actually need them, this is one bit of knowledge that you can learn theoretically. Knowing how to properly dispose of waste is important. The rest you practice regularly anyway.

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8 Comments on “How to Go in the Woods”

  1. isurvivalskills Says:

    Excellent article, I think you have it all “covered” pun intended! Tweeted and followed form @isurvivalskills


  2. Getting Ready For Baby Says:

    It’s difficult to find experienced people in this particular topic, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks



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