As anyone who has ventured out on a backpacking trip through the untamed wilderness can tell you, the inexorable human need to poop can become quite an inconvenience. The more urban members of civilized society may not think much about it, thanks to the ubiquity of toilets and people’s tendency to frown on the act of pooping in your front yard like a dog. But for adventuresome types, it becomes a real issue. The natural world is woefully unprepared for catering to the natural needs of people.
There’s little reason to feel anxious about the outdoor deed. We all empathize with each other’s hesitancy to go #2 outdoors. There are many comforts of urban areas where restrooms can be found, especially clean ones. In the outdoors though, you have to make it your own. Don’t be afraid to embark on the new journey and if you’re a veteran of the outdoor deed, you can always use a refresher on different ideas to improve your technique.
So, when you’re far from any toilets, what can you do? Here are five ways to handle the situation when nature calls number two.
1. The Good Old Squat
Simple as it sounds. Use a sturdy stick—or a trowel if you thought to bring one—to dig a hole. Squat over the hole, do the doo-doo, and then cover it up. You could forego the hole, but if anyone else stumbles across your little gift to nature they won’t appreciate it.
One drawback to the squat is the potential for your legs to fall asleep or cramp, especially if you like to take your time and play several games of Tetris on your smartphone while pooping. In this case, see number four.
If you can find a suitable log, one without sap or a plague of fire ants hiding in the bark, you may be able to sit on it and drop your own little logs over the back of it. A log with a diameter around 8-10 inches would probably be easiest, so you can hang your rear far enough over it for obvious reasons without falling off.
Now we’re getting past the Neanderthal options and into Stone Age technology. Locate a couple of small boulders that provide adequate cheek support while still leaving a gap between them, and voila! Instant toilet seat.
You might be tempted to use mossy boulders for extra cushioning, but speaking from experience, prolonged exposure of bare skin to most sorts of moss can result in a lot of itchiness. Your butt-skin-to-moss reaction may vary.
4. Use a Tree
Although we can’t poop in the front yard, perhaps we can get some useful ideas from our dogs. They seem to think that trees make great toilets, and unless you’re on a polar expedition or hanging out in some desert or grassland, you’ll almost always have some form of arborous flora nearby.
To prevent leg cramps or other discomforts, try leaning against a tree. Or, you could tie loops in the ends of a rope, wrap it around the trunk, hold onto both ends, and lean back.
5. Build a Whole Toilet
Are you one of those incredibly prepared people who carry enough supplies to establish a homestead on the frontier? Is MacGyver your favorite 80s TV show? Or are you just planning to camp out in the same area for several days? Then this option might be for you.
There are several ways to build latrines. One ingenious setup, found near a lake, was a folding camp chair with a hole cut out of the middle of the seat, and a bucket lined with a garbage bag below it. There were suspicious brown smudges on the fabric of the chair, but the idea wasn’t bad. You can, of course, replace the bucket with a hole in the ground.
The Boy Scouts undoubtedly have several elaborate latrine designs, but in most situations, you probably won’t feel like spending two hours constructing one. If you can find three flat pieces of wood, or slabs of rock, you can place them around a hole to make a crude toilet seat. Sometimes the Stone Age technology works just fine.
Finally, when it’s all over, and you’re looking about frantically for something to wipe with, remember that you really should have brought a small roll of toilet paper with you. If you do bring toilet paper, put the roll inside a couple of sealed plastic bags in case you encounter rain or fall into a lake. If you end up using leaves, watch out for poison ivy, poison oak, nettles, and many other plants that will do interesting things to your butt.
On a more serious note, always remember to do your business at least 200 feet from any water sources or campsites, and bury it at least six inches deep. There is no reason to contaminate the world or leave messes that will stick to people’s shoes or animals’ feet.