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How To Poo Outdoors

Al fresco toilet trips are a health and etiquette minefield. The act might be best kept to yourself, but answering the call of nature, in nature, needn't be a taboo subject of discussion. With no apologies for anything tongue in cheek, here are some ways to help minimise your impact.

Chillin on a lakeland toilet :-)  © heathermeek
Chillin on a lakeland toilet :-)
© heathermeek

A pre-emptive strike is best

Try your best to go to the toilet before you leave the house in the morning; it beats squatting behind a boulder, hands down.

Don't go up high

Things don't biodegrade quite so readily in the cold of a mountain summit, and the thin stony soil of this fragile environmental niche could really do without a dump of human fertiliser. If possible wait til you're lower down. Make like a bear, for instance.

Stay far from paths and water

When you've gotta go, you've gotta go; but do your fellow walkers a favour and make it as far as possible from the trail. Due to the concentration of people passing through, the immediate vicinity of bothies and the base of popular climbers' crags aren't great places to crap either. And perhaps most importantly from a sanitary standpoint, keep well away from streams and lakes - at least 30 metres is a good rule of thumb. Someone might be drinking that water downstream; all together now... eeughhh.

photo
Scenic Toilet - N. Cascades
© Glen

When the wind blows...

...hold tight to the toilet roll. You don't want to be chasing it across the hillside with pants around your ankles.

Bury the poo

Let's be frank: Squishing your turd beneath a little monument of stones and then metaphorically washing your hands of it for someone else to discover by mistake later is pretty anti social. Yet it's surprising how many hillwalkers to do it, seemingly without a care. Don't be that minger. Poo biodegrades far better if it's buried under the soil - 15cm or so should do it. Safely interred in its hastily dug latrine grave it'll be out of sight and out of smell; replace the turf on top and you can trot away with a clean conscience. A small trowel should be on everyone's kit list, especially for overnight trips - you can even buy folding ones designed expressly for the purpose.

Consider burning your paper

The tissue trail that marks the course of popular paths and scatters heavily used toilet stops is as unsightly as it is unsanitary. If you're only having a pee then it'd be better to drip dry than festoon the hills with your bunting. However when there's nothing for it but to wipe then the best way to get rid of the evidence is arguably to carefully burn it. The key word here is carefully. Your environmental halo would be badly tarnished if you inadvertently torched the countryside in the process, so do make double sure the embers are thoroughly extinguished before leaving the scene of the crime - pour on water.

Pack out everything that won't rot or burn

Since that means carrying used tampons, pads and nappies, having a few spare plastic bags with you is a good idea. In some wilderness areas in the States the pack-it-out philosophy covers all the perishables too, and hikers are obliged to travel around with bags or 'poop tubes' full of excrement. There's nothing like a dose of fresh mountain air, after all. Something similar was trialled over here, the Cairngorms Poo Project. For some reason it doesn't yet seem to have stuck, though there are certainly arguments in favour of the idea.

Always carry these bare essentials in case of emergency

  • Toilet roll
  • Lighter
  • Trowel
  • Sanitising hand gel



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23 Jun, 2015
Crap article Dan... Sorry, I'll get my coat as I leave.
I wondered if I was preaching to the converted with this article, if people really needed telling all this. Then the night before last I pitched my tent in a layby near Loch Maree (yes it's still legal up there). Noticed a bit of a smell but it was too dark to see and I had a cold, so it didn't strike me what the smell was - I actually decided it was just the smell of the tent fabric (unbelievable in hindsight). Then I packed up in the morning and discovered a - presumably human - turd squashed under the groundsheet. No paper. Right out in the open beside the road. It never ceases to amaze me how disgusting some folk are. I don't care what the washing instructions are - the first thing I did when I got home was to stick the tent in the washing machine.
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