How to sh!t in the woods … why aren’t people learning?

By Unsealed 4X4 6 Min Read

Your mother would be mortified to know you still require toilet training. Sadly, this issue doesn’t seem to be getting better or going away. This is why we have updated this story, and are sadly posting it again. We know we are preaching to the choir, and no Unsealed 4×4 reader would treat the environment and campsites with such disrespect. If you know anyone new to the off-road and camping lifestyle, set them up for success. This article should hopefully help you avoid having an awkward conversation or two…


What’s the story?

Ahhh. The perfect campsite. Short green grass, nice and level, no sticks or stones under the tent. Low shrubs form a screen and tall trees for shade not far away. Not a single other human intrusion in sight.

Exception: Flapping gaily in the breeze, a flimsy white flag caught on a twig. Not the national flag of France, just a filthy reminder that someone has “been there” before.

Where to start

C’mon folks, it really isn’t difficult. You dig a healthy hole, point your exhaust at it and let ‘er rip. Drop the lot in the hole! Afterwards, replace the plug of dirt from whence it came and plant a stick or rock on it as if to say “don’t dig here”.

Girls, when you pee, go prepared. Two ziplock bags, one with soft, white double-ply squares, the other packed inside the first. No need to dig a hole obviously, but one thing is hence critical: that little square goes neatly in the bag inside the bag to be binned later and doesn’t float around our lovely environment for days or weeks. Same goes for feminine hygiene products of all types – bag them. Leave no tangible trace!


A big bag for fresh roll, small bag for used

…and that’s the crux of it. Leave no trace.

Those so-called flushable wipes? Don’t use them. Just don’t. They don’t dissolve like toilet paper, they take forever to rot, they don’t burn. If your haemorrhoids demand the moistest touch and you absolutely must use wet wipes, you must also carry them out – so take a resealable plastic bag with you. Anything less is gross.

Hygiene is very important at home and even more so when away. Without mains water, hot water taps, sanitary bins and so forth, contracting e. coli, hep A or just plain old diarrhea becomes more likely. Wash your hands and use a hand sanitiser if you can.

So what to do?

If there’s a toilet, it’s always the best choice. Old fashioned long drops can brew a pretty potent pong, but not as bad as stepping in someone else’s (or your own) second hand breakfast in the bush. Leaving the lid down between uses helps keeps the flies out and the stink won’t spread through neighbouring campsites, including your own. Many campers take a portable toilet either with a chemical cocktail to eliminate odour or bags to dispose of the waste sensibly. But if there’s no toilet solution, then what’s the go?

You should walk at least 150 metres from any water, be it creek, dam, lake or puddle. This prevents contamination spreading through groundwater. Likewise, hike at least a hundred paces from any campsite, track or structure. Even better is to not go near a campsite at all but stop at a random spot on the track where nobody else is likely to hang around. Find a nice sunny spot in soft dirt and…

Dig, Lazareth, dig! A depth of 15cm (or the depth of your shovel or trowel) at minimum, 30cm is ideal, and wide enough that you can aim for it with absolute success – around 15cm x 15cm as a guide. You can’t thread the eye of a needle if you’re squatting over it…

With shovel to hand for balance, bog roll ready, the perfect personal pit

Unless there’s a total fire ban or you’re squatting in the middle of dry grass or tinder, once you’ve pulled your pants up, strike a match and burn the toilet paper within the hole. Destroy the evidence! Fill the hole in, firm it down with your boot, scatter some leaf litter for camouflage and plant your stick or rock on top in celebration of a movement well made.

Can’t dig a hole?

What if you’re in the snow or the place is a rock garden? If you can’t dig deep enough into proper dirt, you’re going to have to carry it out in a bag. There’s products with names like ‘Biffy Bag’ and ‘Wag Bag’ which are a complete toilet in a bag, containing absorbent powders to treat the waste and sealed compartments to prevent spillage or the spread of infection, odour or any other unpleasantness. They can be used alone or with a bucket or collapsible toilet for those who can’t squat or need a little extra comfort.

Burn your paper trail

Final word: If you’re too ignorant to leave no trace, stay in a hotel!

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