Do Bears poo in the woods?
They sure do! And so do people. Now this is not the most romantic subject but it is one that I feel I must discuss.
I see it everywhere, well actually I see the tell tale white loo roll everywhere either poking out from under a suspect rock or blowing about.
It takes loo roll 5 weeks or more to decompose, however, even more distasteful is the fact that viruses and bacteria from human waste, once in a water source will be there forever.
I treat ALL water in any of the national parks in the UK as contaminated and it must be either filtered or boiled.
It is just a fact that at some stage you will get caught short or be out for long enough that the inevitable will need to happen. So what do we do, hold it in for the week we are away on a trip? Anyone got a cork?
Cat Holes – If you get caught out don’t worry, but do it properly.
Make sure you’re at least 200m away from a water course, foot path etc. Dig a hole, ideally 15cm deep. Look around and make sure a bird watcher is not going to need counselling after the fact and then do your thing. Burn the loo roll and bury it. Wet wipes don’t burn so they need to be bagged and carried out.
Cover and conceal and move off with a spring in your step. Simple and ethical.
Long drops – For long term camps of a week or two I use a “long drop”. I have built these in the jungle for groups many times and as long as everyone covers and cleans afterwards they are fine.
In short, dig a good size hole, put a bar across it to perch on, provide plenty of loose soil and a shovel, a simple tarp for privacy and have a system to prevent surprising someone, I usually just have one loo roll in a bag, when you go, take the bag and no one should disturb you.
BEWARE, things find their way into long drops in the jungle including snakes. Check before sitting!
Poo tubes – If it must be carried out, which in some places it is recommended, this is how we do it. The Cairngorm poo project kind of died a death, which is a shame, but I think some just couldn’t handle the idea.
You need a length of gutter down pipe, one end needs to be SECURELY capped and glued. The other end is fitted with a screw top sealed fitting, this is then very easy to transport on the side of a pack under the compression straps.
Do what you need to do in a zip lock bag and chuck it in the tube. The Cairngorm project provided corn starch bags that were biodegradable so they could be put into a waste management system.
At the end of the trip draw straws and the loser gets rid of the contents in a safe hygienic way.
Tree Bogs – For long term, if not permanent use, tree bogs are fantastic and never need emptying. I have used and seen a few, one in particular was very good. A small shed in the woods with a massive hole under it. Planted all around it were willows and some of the biggest nettles I have ever seen! Inside the shed was a nicely fitted toilet seat etc. With a handful of sawdust and straw to cover it there was no smell and after years of use it just rotted away and was eaten by the surrounding willows and nettles etc. Spot on!
There we have it. Never be caught short again and do it ethically. My mini kit list is below:
- Trowel (lightweight hiking trowel)
- Loo roll
- Hand gel
- Wet wipes
- Zip lock bags
Survive, thrive and leave no trace, the woods and mountains don’t need to be strewn with used toilet paper and the rocks stuck down with poo!