I Was Gonna Have to Talk about It Some Time: Pottying in the Woods

Whenever I talk outdoors fun with people who are unfamiliar, the conversation inevitably takes a strange, personal, halfway inappropriate turn. You can kind of see the look on their faces that tells you they want to ask a burning question, but then they don’t. Finally, I have to say, “I know what you want to ask me, it’s okay. Go ahead.”

My hapless victim will usually start to laugh and look sheepish and then finally stammer, “But how do you go to the bathroom?!”

When nature calls, and not just the call of a beautiful fall day in the mountains but the actual call of having to suddenly find a bathroom, how you’re going to react depends on a lot of factors. One of the most important factors is: what are you doing?

If you’re camping, are you at a state park or a back country spot? Because at a state park you go to the nearest bathroom. In the back country (a primitive campsite…be aware of those words “primitive camping” if you’re booking a trip to an actual campground, since they mean no amenities whatsoever), there’s an excellent chance it’s going to involve a tree for privacy.

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably not ready to head off on an unsupported backpacking trip. Important note: if you’re heading off on an unsupported backpacking trip and are still having to Google “how to potty in the woods,” you’re also not ready for this trip yet. I’m already envisioning a cruel prank where a new boyfriend has duped you into primitive camping and you don’t know what to expect.

A more likely scenario is that you’ll be on a hiking day trip or kayaking on a creek with your kids and one/all of you will have to go. There are a few schools of thought on how to handle this type of crisis.

First, is it number one or number two? If it’s number one, you’re basically going to leave behind an almost-sterile liquid that will not cause any harm. If it’s number two, you’re going to leave behind a pile of human excrement for the next hiker to enjoy, along with some litter in the form of your toilet paper. More importantly, how you actually accomplish the pottying will differ based on whether it’s number one or number two.

In the follow-up posts, I’ll provide step-by-step, gruesomely detailed instructions on how to handle each of these, as well as how the steps are different for boys and girls. I’ll talk about handling squeamish kids who can’t do it in the woods, as well as give you instructions for making a potty packet. Enjoy!

Animals have zero qualms about pottying in the woods. This happens to be turkey poop.

Animals have zero qualms about pottying in the woods. This happens to be turkey poop.

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