Pooping in the outdoors and other things I learned this summer

12:32 p.m. on August 25, 2013 (EDT)
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August 2013 was a month of new things for me.  My first ever backpacking trips brought along their own new experiences.  A lot of people talk about these experiences but because they are kind of awkward, the details can be sketchy.  My friends are pretty experienced in these matters and they were helpful to a point but when it came to push and shove, I found there was a lot to figure out on my own.

Pooping In The Outdoors

I really thought I would have more trouble with the lack of showering and the icky feeling all day long.  Actually, that was not a big problem for the most part.  More challenging and awkwardly, was managing to poop in the outdoors.  I had advice like finding a rock or log to lean against.  I was also advised to skip bringing a little shovel and just use rocks or sticks. 

First of all, skipping the trowel for rocks and sticks was bad advice.  really bad.  Especially in the Sierras.  The ground is mostly rocks and, well rocks.  Where there is earth, there is a lot of rock and roots.  Plus, it is pretty hard packed.  Without my little shovel, I would have been screwed.  So, bring a shovel regardless of the advice.  They are inexpensive and lightweight and worth it!

During my first foray into this new experience, PitW, I quickly realized that people were apparently marking their poop site with a rock shrine.  So, every seemingly great spot had a little rock talisman there to ward off future potty goers.  The trouble is you have no idea if this is a week old or 10 years.  I took the risk and found no signs of past potty so, you never know.

My first attempt at PitW was not a great success.  First of all, you should wait until you really have to go. I found my sheltered spot, dug my little hole, leaned against a rock as suggested and then tried like hell to hold myself in place.  My legs were shaking, my backside was getting roughed up from the granite boulder and I was not doing my business anytime soon.  Concentrating hard was of no help.  Within a  couple minutes, my ass was firmly planted on the ground.  I ended with just a little success and a great time wiping away the decomposed granite from my butt cheeks.  There were no cheers when I go back to camp.  The dejected look on my face and unmistakable awkward stride told my story.

My second attempt was more successful but once again my ass landed on the ground before the event started.  The scratches on my backside were annoying as well.  I even tried using my shovel and a hiking pole to balance to no avail.  Luckily this was just three nights and I was delighted to get back to the trailhead and use the pit toilets with perfect success.  I could even read my kindle book on my phone +1!

Two weeks later was my next backpacking trip.  This was planned for 8 or 9 days and a lot of strenuous hiking.  My first pass at passing was really successful.  First of all, I got a bit of a thrill when I found a rock that I could remove that left a 5" or 6" hole in the ground.   That really made things a lot easier.  I little digging with the shovel, kicking the rock loose with my boot and viola, the perfect poop pit.  I also devised a new plan since the old one was not working so well for me and I landed on my ass each time.

I found a concealed spot because you want to maintain a bit of modesty sometimes.  I located two flat, smooth granite rocks. I placed these strategically on either site of my poop pit. I placed my TP and wipes conveniently nearby then sat my ass down on these two polished planes.  Phone and kindle book in hand, I was able to have some quality outdoors time.  Stress and worry free, things moved long nicely.

I repeated this maneuver when it was needed and really made PitW easy peasy. 

List of Vital Items

  • Shovel
  • TP.  It is light, bring plenty
  • Wipes.  They just make you feel clean and fresh.
  • Hand Sanitizer. Last thing you want it so transfer germs or nasty bacteria.

Getting Clean When Surrounded By Dirt And Stuff

This was both easy and not all that necessary.  First of all, I encourage you to get good clothes.  Merino wool shirts are expensive but totally worth it.  They don't feel dirty and do not smell like BO.  Even after a week.  I brought two base shirts.  One for sleeping and one for hiking.  They were awesome!

In the Sierras, there is always a creek or lake nearby.   Every afternoon when we made camp, I grabbed my microfiber towel and headed to the lake or stream.   In the course of washing my socks and underwear, I would also scrub up with my handy towel.   It is cold so, I didn't linger but I waded in and got my business done.   The cold water helped sooth the feet after a hard day hiking and it felt great on my injured knee.  I think using the cold water to ice my sore parts helped tremendously.

The creeks are the best.  Especially fast moving and rather shallow.  I found them to be slightly warmer or less cold.  Sitting in a shallow pool takes a second to get used to the cold but felt great to get in a whole bath.  Plus it felt a bit naughty to be sitting nekkid in the creek. 

Every couple days, I collected some water then moved more then 100' from the water source and used a mild Cetaphil cleanser to wash my hair, face and upper body.  The sunscreen, swear and grime does build up and I felt super refreshed after cleansering up and rinsing off. 

Right after sunning or wiping myself dry, I applied deodorant. That was just my thing.  I did not want to smell to much.  And I didn't.  I was quite happy with my regiment.  Clean underwear and socks every day were great!  Mostly clean self was great.   I felt normal. 

One thing I learned was that clean is relative.  Being camp clean was fine.  When I got home, it took forever to see the pink skin of my palms. 

My list of Vital Items

  • Wipes.  I would have preferred not having baby wipes as they are coated with some lotion stuff.  Something more antibacterial and unscented with no moisturizer would have been greatly preferred.  Still, something was better than nothing.
  • Quick Drying Towel.  Super nice to have something to scrub down with.
  • Deodorant
  •  Mild cleanser / face cleanser

First Aid And Other Things I Found Handy

Every stinking scratch seems to get infected.  Even when you don't get a scratch, something gets red and seeping.  My thumb had some weird pain and like infected.  Right along side my fingernail. I have no idea why but luckily I had prepared some first aid remedies.  I found Aquaphor was great to put over any cut, scrape or weird thumbnail thing.  Everything healed quickly and did not get infected.  I had some antibacterial stuff too but didn't need to use it.

Bandaids, of course.  Surprising how often you need one.  I preferred the fabric ones.  Anytime I used Aquaphor, I covered with a bandaid!

Ace bandage.  I didn't plan to injure my knee but fortunately, when I needed the support, I had a bandage there and handy.  The self sticking type worked well.  Plus, there are a number of used a bandage can have so.  I always keep one in my day pack and was happy I had it with me.

Ibuprofen, Advil, whatever.   Vitamin A as I call it.  I kept regular doses to ward off Altitude symptoms, reduce joint and body pain and help keep me generally feeling good.  I took some before the day started and every 4 or so hours along the way.  I kept six or eight pills in my pants pocket ready at a moments notice!  After injuring my knee, I upped the dosage.  I was happy to have brought plenty. 

Stronger pain meds.   I had some left over Vicodin.  I brought it just in case.   I almost took some the first night after injuring me knee but found Advil was working well (I did have to take some in the middle of the night but I was up peeing anyway).  A more severe injury would need something stronger until help arrived.

Sunscreen.  Nuff said.   I didn't wear any the last day.  It was mostly cloudy.  I didn't wear my neck scarf either.  I had a nasty sunburn.  Don't be me, use it.

My neck scarf.  Damn does that sun beat down on your neck.  Except for the last day, it kept me free of nasty burns.  Plus, it was a topo map of Yosemite, so if I were out there, I might be able to navigate to civilization.

Good luck and I wish you the best with your endeavors.  May things pass easily.

Copied from my post on my website www dot jomebrew dot com

1:58 p.m. on August 25, 2013 (EDT)
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6,037 forum posts


This probably should have gone in the "Beginners" forum. I do not want to insult you, but from your website and posts here on Trailspace, you are very much a beginner in the outdoors and still have a lot to learn. I will suggest some sources of information (Trailspace has a lot of good information and highly experienced members - plus a fair number of tyros as well).

First, go to the Leave No Trace website and study and learn the basic principles well. You will discover that you violated several of the basic principles, most notably bathing in creeks, ponds, and other water sources. This contaminates the water that YOU, your party, and the animals that live there will be drinking. If you are going to wash up (or cook, or clean your dishes and pots), get your water in a pot or one of the folding buckets, take it at least 100 ft from the water source, and do the washing there.

LNT, by the way, does recommend carrying a trowel.

For camping, use the "Bear-muda Triangle" - campsite, food storage (bear canister in the areas you list in your website, bear boxes where provided, bear bagging), and wash water disposal area should be separated from one another by 100 feet.

Washing in the stream, cooking or camping at the lake, etc marks the area that the local animals also use to get their water and tends to make them go elsewhere.

Second, get yourself a copy of the book "How to Shit in the Woods" by Kathleen Meyer. You can get it in many bookstores or on Amazon.com (currently in it third edition). This book covers many outdoor hygiene topics.

April 8, 2020
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