Much Ado About Number Two: How to Poop in the Woods

A rag doll dressed like a female park ranger stands in the woods behind a National Park Service sign

What To Do About Number 2?

I may be a pint-sized Ranger but I have big tips on what to do about Number 2!

National Park Service sites are great places to go camping and hiking, and to learn about nature and history. But before you go, be prepared and plan ahead. Does the place you want to hike or camp have restrooms?

Many hiking trails and backcountry campsites do not have restrooms. So what do you do about Number 2?

A rag doll dressed like a female park ranger stands in a patch of purple wildflowers

Step 1: Pick A Site

It is important to think about what you’ll do about disposing of human waste and what are the rules for that area. These instructions are for places where there is organic soil. Where things can decompose.

Pick a site untraveled by people. Two hundred feet away from water and trails (approximately 80 adult paces).

Proper Disposal Should:
♦ Avoid pollution of water sources
♦ Prevent others from finding it
♦ Minimum the possibility of spreading disease
♦ Maximize the rate of decomposition
A rag doll dressed like a female park ranger stands beside a hole in the ground

Step 2: Dig a Cathole

The most widely accepted method of backcountry human waste disposal is the "cathole." This is a small hole dug in the ground for burial of waste.

A small garden trowel is the perfect tool for digging a cathole. Dig the hole about 6-8 inches deep and 4-6 inches in diameter. If camping with a group or for more than one night, disperse the catholes over a wide area. Do not go to the same place twice.
A rag doll dressed like a female park ranger picks up toilet paper wads

Step 3: Cover the Hole and Pack Out Toilet Paper

Once you’re finished doing your business in the hole, stir it with a stick to enhance decomposition. When finished, fill cathole with the original dirt and disguise it with leaves and debris.

Never leave used toilet paper in the woods. Always pack it out and put in the trash. Don’t put it in your cathole either. Pack it out.
Shiny poison ivy leaves

Warning: Watch For Poison Ivy!

If you’re thinking about using leaves instead of toilet paper, know how to identify poison ivy and other plants that can be harmful.

Leaves of Three? Not for TP!!!

A rag doll dressed like a female park ranger stands beside plastic bags

Tips For Packing It Out

Plastic bags with a zipper closure or plastic containers can be used to pack out human waste. Just make sure it’s sealed tight. Better yet, doggie poop bags come in rolls and are often biodegradable. You can even add some kitty litter.

For backpackers, you can make a “Number Two Tube” by cutting off the ends of a PVC pipe and adding removable caps to both ends. Number two in plastic bags can be put down in the tube and then recapped.
A rag doll dressed like a female park ranger stands next to a painting of a field with a Blue Ridge Parkway sign

Please Do You Part!

I hope this was helpful. The outdoors are such a great place to have fun and enjoy nature. Please help keep all our National Parks clean and beautiful.

For more tips, watch the following short video!

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3 minutes, 45 seconds

Follow along with a mini park ranger as she shows you the best way to go "number two" while keeping our parks clean and healthy. Discover some tips and tricks to leave no trace when you have to go while in the woods.

Last updated: May 22, 2020

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