Lets Talk About What Really Goes on in the Primitive Bathroom, Better Known as the Outdoors Part I

The other day, my little son asked me where I went to the bathroom when I went camping. The question was a little puzzling since he has gone camping since he was in diapers. I explained to him that there were correct ways of going to the bathroom when you are out in the backcountry and that to be a responsible primitive camper, one should follow these rules. In his little voice, he said why mom animals go outside. Well as you can imagine the answer was not as simple as he thought and in a society where the backcountry and primitive camping is becoming more popular, the answer is as muddy as a creek after a spring rain.

Anytime you plan to go out into the backcountry, one must have a plan as to what to do when you have to go. One approach is to always go before you go but this is neither always possible nor practical, especially for those long trips.

A more practical approach is to plan to go when you go and this plan should be based on the rules established by the land manger and the Leave No Trace Guidelines. The four guidelines that apply to waste are that it should not affect water quality, spread disease, affect the aesthetic beauty of the area and be handled in a way that it can be decomposed of safely and quickly.

Handling Number One

Handling a number one really is not that big of a problem for men or women. While the issue is of handling this waste is pretty simple, there does exist some basic rules that one should follow.

1. Urinate at least 200 feet from the campsites, water sources, and trails. 2. Consider diluting the urine with water. This will cut down on the odor. 3. Respect other campers and hikers when choosing a location. 4. While urinating, make sure to avoid ones pants and shoes.

Handling Number Two

Number two can be bigger problem. Some areas require campers and hikers to carry out their waste (WAG) while others allow individuals to handle their waste appropriately in the environment.

Two ways that number two can be handled without carrying it out includes catholes and latrines. Catholes are generally dug for one person and only for short-term use. Latrines, on the other hand, are dug to handle more waste and in doing so work for groups or in areas where you plan to camp for a long period of time.

Digging a cathole or latrine, starts with choosing a correct area. Both of these need to follow the Leave No Trace Guidelines described above. They also need to be in areas that are normally not visited by humans, such as thick brush or under logs,

Once you have your location selected, the next step is to dig the hole. Catholes should be six to eight inches deep and four to six inches wide while a latrine should be six feet deep and the length is dependent on the size of the group.

To use either one of these “holes”, one goes to hole and does their business. The waste is then covered up with soil. Continue to do this until the “hole” is full or you leave the area. Prior to leaving the area, both “holes” should be completely covered over and the area should be left pristine.

If dealing with a latrine, one end should be selected to be the beginning and then filled in as usual.

Once the Job is Done, What About the Paperwork

There has been a lot of debate about toilet paper and its affects on the environment. Toilet paper buried in catholes or latrines takes longer to decompose then the waste. In doing so, many campers and hikers are carrying out their paperwork in resealable plastic bags.

If you insist on disposing of your toilet paper in a cathole or latrine, make sure to only use white, non-perfumed toilet paper.

Other natural sources exist for that can be used in place of toilet paper. This includes dried leaves, which should be identified before using and smooth rocks. When using this approach, make sure to bury these items in the “hole” with the waste.

What to do with ones waste is a universal question that has been asked since the beginning of time. But following these simple guidelines will help one become a responsible camper and keep all wild places wild and clean.