“Think of pooping outdoors as something to be proud of,” says JD Tanner, director of education and training at the Boulder-based environmental nonprofit Leave No Trace. “It’s not this uncomfortable, shameful thing. It’s natural.” Once you accept that, here’s what to do next.

1. Survey your surroundings. You should move at least 200 feet—about 70 big steps for adults or 90 for kids—away from the trail and any water to prevent contamination. You’ll also need a trowel and earth that’s soft enough to excavate. Privacy is optional…but recommended.

To reach the soil microbes that will break down your waste, your cathole needs to be four to six inches wide and six to eight inches deep—unless you’re in the desert, where four to six inches down is ideal.

3. Squat over your hole. Holding onto a tree or hanging your backside over a log will help your balance, allowing you to relax and enjoy the view.

4. Use as little single-ply toilet paper as you can, and if you can’t pack it out, place it deep in the hole to aid decomposition. Should your aim be less than true, grab a stick (not your trowel) to herd any wayward deposits into their new home before you fill in your burrow.

5. If there’s no diggable dirt (such as when you’re above treeline) or you can’t get far enough away from water, use a waste alleviating gel (WAG) bag, which is filled with crystals that deodorize, bind, and break down waste. Leakage can happen, though, so stow used bags upright on the outside of your pack.

This article was originally published in 5280 June 2024.
Nicholas Hunt
Nicholas Hunt
Nicholas writes and edits the Compass, Adventure, and Culture sections of 5280 and writes for 5280.com.