I was recently interviewed by Blue Ridge Outdoors for an article titled "Answering Nature's Call" about how to go to the bathroom in the woods. It isn't the most glamorous topic, but it's one we talk A LOT about. This is something that many first-time backpackers struggle with - what should they expect when it comes to using the bathroom on trail. Before all of our trips, we talk about the 3 Ps - pees, poops, and periods. Our hope is that by talking about this early and openly, we can take away some of the anxiety around the topic.

Any time you're using the bathroom outside, you should find a spot that isn't in view of other hikers, and is at least 200ft away from a trail, campsite, or water source. You should also be prepared to pack out any trash - I like to carry a dedicated toilet trash zip-top bag in my pack. If you don't use scented products (ex: scented wet wipes or tampons), you don't need to hang this with your food. If you do use scented products, plan to hang this overnight.

Guidelines listed below are for Western NC. Always remember to check regulations for where you'll be hiking to make sure you handle human waste properly!


If you stand to pee, this is pretty straightforward - find a suitable place, and pee just like you would at home.

If you squat to pee, it's a little bit more complicated. If you've found a place that's relatively flat, you can squat and go! If you've found a place on a hill, I personally prefer to position myself with my backside downhill, so when I pee it runs away from my feet. If you wipe with toilet paper, you'll want to plan to add that to your toilet trash baggie. Personally, I prefer to carry a pee cloth (like the Kula) to wipe. This hangs on the outside of my pack to dry after I've used it. Some hikers like to use a stand to pee device (like the pStyle), which is effectively a forward-facing funnel allowing folks who usually squat to pee to stand. I highly recommend practicing using it in the shower at home before hitting the trail for the first time!


Any time you're pooping in the woods, you'll want to start by digging a cathole - a hole that's 4-6" wide and 6-8" deep.  Squat, use the bathroom in your cathole, then fill your hole back in with the dirt you dug out of it. Some areas have a healthy enough soil microbiome that biodegradeable toilet paper can easily be broken down, but I prefer to always pack mine out.


You can largely handle periods the same way you do at home!

If you use tampons or pads, you can use those on trail, and just plan to pack our your used products in your toilet trash bag.

If you use period panties, you can use those on trail. Bring a spare gallon zip-top bag to carry your used pairs out with your dirty clothes.

If you use a menstrual cup, you'll want to empty it into a cathole (just like you dig to poop). Use clean hands to remove and empty your cup, then rinse with filtered potable water and re-insert. It is important to use clean hands and filtered water to avoid introducing any bacteria into your body!

Potty Kit

I always carry a potty kit with me when I'm hiking! My potty kit contains a small roll of toilet paper, a trowel, a clean zip-top bag for toilet trash, hand sanitizer, and my pee cloth. For people who menstruate, it's a good idea to include a tampon as well.