How to poop and pee in the woods

We know ... We know ... this is not a topic that most of us want to read about, or in our case, write about.  The fact is though, it's a topic we all need to be educated about in order to be good stewards of our beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.   

Knowing how to properly poop and pee in the woods is a really important aspect of Leave No Trace.  This article is part of our our larger effort to not only share with you all of the great places to see here in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but to also help you visit with the least impact, Leaving No Trace.

When you gotta go ...

How many times have you been out for hike, and decided to explore that small side trail to get that epic shot of the creek, wildlife, or waterfall?   Nothing ruins that experience more than stepping in someone's waste  (aka poop) that wasn't probably taken care of.   I'll tell ya, from personal experience, multiple times, it will ruin your day ... along with your hiking boots.

The reality is, that sooner or later, when you are hiking, you'll have to pee or poop out on the trail.  Being responsible when doing so, and following the principles of Leave No Trace, are important to the protection of our environment, and to the respect of others.  Remember, we all want to enjoy our experience outdoors.

Properly disposing of human waste is important for a number of reasons:

  1. Avoiding water pollution
  2. Avoiding the negative Impacts of other people finding it (aka stepping in it)
  3. Maximizing decomposition
  4. Avoiding spreading disease to humans or wildlife

Be Discreet

Principle 7 of Leave No Trace tells us to "Be considerate of others".   When using the bathroom outdoors, be sure to find a place that not only meets the criteria for proper waste disposal (see below),  but is also out of sight of most people and foot traffic.   BUT - Don't EVER put yourself in danger.  Never venture far  off the trail, and only venture into areas you feel safe.  Never risk your safety.

As part of Leave No Trace, we don't ever want to ruin the mountain experience for anyone, and we want to show and advocate mutual respect.

Urinating (peeing) Outdoors

Urine has very little negative impact to our environment.  The only down side is that it may attract wildlife, which may dig in the same area, tearing up plants and undergrowth.   When urinating, try to find a location with less vegetation, such as rocks, pine needles, or bare areas.  

We also recommend not urinating near water to avoid water pollution.

For you ladies, we realize that peeing is a bit more difficult, than for the men.  There are actually a some really great solutions to make things a little comfortable for you, these include:

  • Go Girl - A unique device that allows women to stand up while peeing
  • Hiking Skirts - Allows peeing without clothing removal
  • ZipHers - Full front to back zippered pants.

Important - In talking and hiking with many different people, people, especially women, have a tendency to not properly hydrate while hiking, to avoid having to pee.  This is a very bad and dangerous practice.  Proper hydration is critical on the trail, and urinating to properly dispose of waste is also critical.    

Solid Waste - Pooping outdoors

The best and safest way to manage solid waste (poop) is to bury it or pack it out with you.   In the parks of the Blue Ridge Mountains, burying solid waste is allowed and recommended.  With that being said, the most responsible thing to do is to pack out your waste, using one of the safe products designed for that.

Cat Holes

Cat Holes are the best way to bury your waste.  A Cat Hole should be located at least 200feet from water, trails and camp if you're camping.  With a small shovel, dig a 4-6 inch hole, about 6 inches deep.  If you do not have a shovel, use a nearby rock or stick.   Once you're done, bury the cat hole with the dirt you removed, and cover it up so that it naturally blends in.

If you are hiking in a group, or with as a family with kids, digging a latrine is a better option.  Think of a latrine as a long cat hole.   Dig a 4-6 deep hole, about 4-6" wide, and at least 1 foot long.  Longer depending on the number of people.   

When each person as to go, they will use the latrine, and bury just their waste, leaving the rest of the latrine for others to use.   You'll want to help your children with this, of course.  We also recommend using a bandanna, stick or object to note when the latrine is "busy", for privacy.

Toilet Paper

Toilet paper should be buried in the cat hole, with the solid waste, or packed out.  Additionally, you should only use plain, white, non-perfumed brands.   We bring ours in a ziplock bag.  

When just peeing and wiping while outdoors, we just pack the toilet paper out in an empty ziplock bag we bring with us.

Tampons/Sanitary napkins

Never bury these, always pack them out with you.  Neither decomposes well, and they will attract wildlife that will dig them up.


Enjoy the outdoors!  When you gotta go, GO, but always do it safely, correctly, and Leaving No Trace.

About the author

Larry Deane is co-owner of Blue Ridge Mountain Life. He has spent more than 20 years exploring the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and has a deep passion for nature, history, storytelling, and adventure. Along with his wife Jenn, they combined these passions to create Blue Ridge Mountain Life, a travel guide to these stunning mountains they are fortunate to call home.

Larry has more than 20 years of experience as a writer and journalist, and has established himself as a leading voice and expert for Blue Ridge Mountains. He is also an avid hiker, photographer, and videographer. He loves sharing his mountain adventures and knowledge with more than 500,000 people per month on Blue Ridge Mountain Life.

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