By: Blonde Two
Whether you are hiking off into the wilds for your first wild camp, or find yourself caught short during a picnic, sooner or later you are going to need to go to the toilet outside. Please don’t let the thought of this put you off exploring the UK’s fabulous outdoor spaces (you would be surprised how many people do).
The Countryside Code offers plenty of great advice but is a bit sketchy on outdoor toilet issues. We have the advice on how to deal with toilet needs you have been looking for, and it’s all a lot easier than you think.
What to do when you’re desperate for the loo outdoors
Despite Google’s search engines suggesting that more people want to know how to go when wearing a jumpsuit than how to go to the loo outdoors, we Blondes know there are plenty of you out there keen to get this aspect of outdoor life right. So if you want to find out how to poo when wild camping, what to do with tampons when out walking, or where to put that used toilet paper, read on.
One of our currently most searched for posts is our ‘What to do with toilet paper when you are wild camping one‘. If you know the answer to that question, please read on anyway. With the outdoors being the place to be this summer, this a really important message. Please feel free to share it.
Step 1: Go before you go
Let’s be honest here. We all need to go sometimes. Although bush wee-ing can be a bonding experience, the fewer toilet trips we make in the wilderness the better for both us, other visitors, and the environment. This means that going to the toilet before you leave home or even planning your outdoor visit around your daily ‘poo schedule’ can be really important.
Step 2: Research public toilet locations
I don’t know about you but my bladder has an automatic reaction to getting out of the car; no matter how long the journey, it immediately starts looking for a toilet. By planning your toilet stops and learning where local toilets are, you will reduce your impact on the environment, and your need to find convenient bushes.
For example, if you are planning a three-day walk, why not build toilet stops into your route plan? Or if you are planning to start your outing from a remote car park, stop off at the bigger one with a loo on the way there. This type of research is best done before you leave home as internet access can often be intermittent in countryside areas.
Just a word of warning here, it would also be wise to check toilet opening times where possible. Most local authorities, Forestry Commission, and National Parks have really helpful toilet information and are generally quite good (even with recent coronavirus closures) at getting the right information out there.
Step 3: Pick your wild toilet location carefully
If you are worried about somebody else spotting you going to the toilet outdoors don’t be. If someone does happen to arrive just at the moment you are squatting (or even worse, standing to pull your trousers up), they won’t point and laugh, or even take photos. They might geotag the spot later (I’m joking) but are most likely to politely turn away or walk on past. Trust me, I’ve found the hard, or as it turns out, the easy way.
What you need to think about more carefully is the impact of your chosen wild toilet location on both the environment and other visitors. Far more important than making sure you’re out of view of other people is to make sure nobody else will inadvertently find what you leave behind (which they won’t if you don’t leave anything – we’ll talk about hiding poo later).
Contrary to popular belief, wee-ing and poo-ing does have an environmental impact (for examples nettles often grow where lots of people have urinated) but you can minimise this by choosing a spot away from streams, pools and rivers, and being as discreet as you can.
Step 4: Leave no trace (of anything)
Pack your poo kit
It can come as a surprise to find yourself in an area with no toilets, just at the point that you desperately need one. But considering the possibility of this occurrence beforehand can really help you deal with the situation. If you take the ‘no-one can see I’ve been here’ approach to outdoor wee-ing, poo-ing, and period-sorting, you’ll be doing the best you can for the environment, and for other visitors.
You hopefully carry a first aid kit so why not carry a poo kit with everything you need? Your toilet kit can be really small but it needs to include:
- Loo roll or tissue – to use and wrap used items in
- Tampons or pads
- Plastic or paper bags – to carry out used items (or occasionally poo)
- Hand sanitiser
- Gloves – for potentially but hopefully not messy operations
- A trowel – to dig a hole
Having a wee outside
If you’re a chap, I’m afraid I’m not really equipped to give advice on this point but I do have a fair amount of female wild wee-ing experience that I’m more than happy to share with you ladies. Here are the answers to a few outdoor wee-ing frequently asked questions:
Should I use toilet paper?
If you want to but if you do, please take all used toilet paper home with you. To wipe or not to wipe is definitely a case for personal preference. As a general rule, I find a quick shake adequate for day walks but, if I am outdoors for longer, clothing can become less-than-pleasant if I don’t use loo roll. Panty liners can help with this but please take used panty liners home with you as well.
Will I wee on my clothes or shoes?
Probably at some stage but you would be surprised how quickly these things dry. If they don’t, you can opt for either the ‘shout-about-the-wet-patch’ or ‘politely-ignore-the-wet-patch’ option to deal with the situation. You’ll almost certainly find that the people around you follow your lead.
You could use the Weesmith’s Rule to help you avoid splash-cidents. This complicated calculation takes in slope angle and wind direction to help you avoid dampness but can be difficult to find time for if you are really desperate to go.
What is Weesmith’s Rule?
Degree of splash = (angle of downhill slope / orientation of buttock + wind direction) x wind strength
Do She Wees work?
Not for me! But some people swear by them. I guess it’s just a case of anatomy and precision!
What if I can’t squat to wee?
My research suggests that our ability to squat behind a bush diminishes with age. Even more worrying, our ability to get up again after squatting also diminishes. Taking your rucksack off before you squat can help with this, as can selecting a location with ‘disabled toilet’ features such as a rock or handy branch, or carefully positioning your walking pole.
Just a warning here, gorse bushes offer dense visibility cover but are really terrible at helping you out of the stuck-squat position.
If you definitely can’t squat please don’t despair. The standing-bum-out wee can be just as effective (although more volatile on a windy day). To adopt this position you need to pull your clothing down, slightly bend your knees, and stick your backside out in an about-to-twerk type orientation. You can use a walking pole to support you with this. Grasping your undies etc with one hand, and pulling them forwards. will keep them out of the way of any wayward streaming (most of the time).
I was incidentally once asked to demonstrate this position to a group of ladies. It remains one of my favourite teaching moments ever!
Having a poo outside
‘I’ve just had my first wild poo’, is a triumphant shout we Blondes have heard far more times than you would imagine. Nobody forgets their first time.
I’d like to say that this necessary occupation becomes fun over time. But it doesn’t. Your own poo, removed from the sanctity of the toilet bowl, can come as a bit of a shock. It’s generally more capacious, less formed, and more substantial than you might have been expecting.
Which can leave you with the ‘How on earth am I going to hide that?’ question. The answer is all down to our old friend, planning.
Poo trowels are on most expedition kit lists, and digging a decent sized hole (usually as deep as you can) before you go is a really good poo-hiding solution but trowels (especially plastic ones) sometimes aren’t up to the job or terrain. There are other solutions.
From an environmental perspective the best way to deal with an outdoor poo is to scoop it up in a bag like a dog poo, and take it home with you (or deposit it in a dog poo bin). I’ve only bagged up my own poo once, it wasn’t a pleasant experience but it did solve a problem in a busy outdoor location.
Leaving your poo behind a bush, rock, or sheep is just the same as leaving it on an open area of grass, other people go behind bushes, walls and sheep too. There are other ways to hide your poo until it biodegrades but don’t imagine that it does this quickly or without leaving nasty traces. The Centre for Outdoor Ethics has some great advice on disposing of human waste and what happens if we don’t do it properly.
Never bury or try to hide used toilet paper. You should always take used toilet paper should always be taken home or to the nearest loo.
If this all sounds unpleasant. It is! That’s why PPP (Prior Poo Planning) is so important!
Changing a tampon or pad outside
Once you’ve mastered the outdoor poo, dealing with your period outside is a doddle. Most of the above applies but, just like toilet paper, it’s not okay to bury your used tampons or pads. It’s also not okay to leave them behind a bush, rock or sheep (because they will still be there in a year’s time – the sheep probably won’t).
Once again success in the leave-no-trace approach comes down to prior planning so you could replace your PPP with PPPP (Prior Poo and Period Planning).
Don’t risk a wild fire
Although new tampons make great fire lighters, used ones don’t. Burning use loo roll, tampons and sanitary pads is another effective way of getting rid of them but camp fires cause other environmental issues and are definitely not suitable for wild camping locations or walks.
Let’s work together to keep our outdoors beautiful
So there we have it. There’s plenty more to say, and we all have an outdoor toilet story or three to tell but this is already a long manual to be reading as you attempt a squat behind that bush, rock or sheep.
The UK outdoors is set to be a busy place this summer (which is excellent news), and we’re all going to need the toilet at some point (in my case it seems to be all points). Nobody should be put off getting outside because of worries about needing the loo. If we all do our very best to do the right thing, our beautiful outdoor spaces will remain exactly that.
LEAVE NO TRACE (but if you have to leave a trace, bury it deep).
PS This is a message that really needs to get out there. If you agree with me, please feel free to share this post.