Pooping in the Woods: A Lost Art

Having a bowel movement can be categorized as one of the most normal and healthy biological occurrences that humans experience. All human beings poop, it’s just a fact of life; In fact, all living creatures poop. Have you ever heard the sarcastic phrase, “Does a bear shit in the woods?”... This phrase is used to sarcastically imply that the answer to the question being posed is indubitably ‘yes!’. Well, I would pose that same sarcastic phrase to anyone who asked me, “Nate, you like pooping outside?”

I believe the skill of pooping in the wilderness is a lost art in today's culture. This is a skill I have perfected over time and with much practice. I would say the same thing about activities such as canning vegetables, soap making, fire starting, and trapping beaver to name a few.

It is commonly accepted among health professionals that depending on the person, pooping three times a day to pooping every three days, or anywhere in between is considered ‘normal’. In other words, most people have their own personal potty schedule that is unique to their body. On a given day, anywhere between the times of 7am and 10am EST, there's a pretty good chance you’ll find me somewhere in the world doing my business. I rarely ever miss and when I do I know something isn’t quite right, that is just how consistent my body is.

It just so happens, that my passion in life is pursuing all types of wild game and most of the critters I pursue are crepuscular species. Crepuscular means they are mainly active during the twilight hours, dusk and dawn. What that essentially means is: On a typical day, I enjoy waking up before the light of day and making my way into the backcountry somewhere to put myself in the best position to harvest dinner. If you’re following me this far you can infer that I have had my fair share of practice dropping trou in the woods. I have been pooping in the woods since I was knee high, I just figured it out, it’s not like someone ever taught me how! If you spend enough time outdoors, your time will soon come. I hope this article helps you to become more familiar with the art of pooping in the woods and encourage you to go farther and stay longer.

Why is this an Important Skill to Develop?

Peace of mind! It doesn't have to be horrible folks! Over the years, I have developed this peace of mind knowing that at any given moment I can release myself of unwanted tensions anywhere in the world. I have gathered a commonality from talking with various people over the years that folks might be scared to go on camping trips or would rather stay home when a unique outdoor experience is presented just because they can't get over the hump of fear they’ve built up over time. (Pun intended.) Conquering your fears and just letting it happen can bring you ultimate peace of mind whenever you travel, which in my opinion is priceless.

Think about it, the first flushable toilet was invented in 1596 by and English man named Sir John Harington; Harington was the godson of Queen Elizabeth I. That means for 1595 years before the toilet was invented people have been going number two in all sorts of different manners and places that was NOT a nice clean bathroom. Yes, there were probably outhouses being utilized but I can assure you pooping in the woods wasn't an uncommon stunt for men and women living on the countryside all over the globe. When life gives you lemons you make lemonade, and when life gives you venison you make poop. It's just a fact!

First Toilet Invented in 1596

“Leave No Trace”

Leave No Trace is an environmentally friendly organization that is committed to protecting the outdoors by teaching and inspiring people to enjoy it responsibly. This organization has adopted 7 principles that sums up what they represent. “The Seven Principles of Leave No Trace provide an easily understood framework of minimum impact practices for anyone visiting the outdoors.” Leave no trace is a well known set of invisible guidelines that outdoorsmen and women abide by all across the world because of similar interests and goals. It's almost like etiquette in the sport of golf; there are many things you should just do out of courtesy even though they aren't necessarily set in stone laws or rules.

Principle number 3 of the 7 is: “Disposing of Waste Properly”.

I highly recommend going to their web-page to see more on what they recommend on this topic. Overall, properly disposing of human waste is an important step because it minimizes the possibility of spreading diseases and decreases the chance of polluting ground water sources. Most times, properly burying feces in a cat hole is widely acceptable but sometimes certain locations, such as narrow river canyons, require you to pack out solid waste. There are a few different types of EPA approved bags that can be brought into the back-country to help in this circumstance. The thought of packing out your own waste may seem crazy to some but my initial response is always, how many people have you seen pick up their dogs poop while walking in the park

and carry it around in a bag? This is the same thing, I’d personally rather pick up my own poop over a dogs poop any day of the week.

A cat hole is merely a hole one digs that is 6-8 inches deep and is at least 200 feet away from the nearest water source. After the deed is done, simply recover the waste with dirt, leaves, and other natural debris.


In my professional opinion, I have found that there are four main techniques that should be utilized when pooping outdoors.

The Leaner, the Burner, the Catcher, and the Tree Hugger. All are widely acceptable and commonly used methods by experienced outdoorsmen. Practicing to find which method best suits you is recommended.

1. The Leaner

This first technique may look odd at first but the comfort level can be superior for some. Leaning backwards and letting your arm take the majority of the pressure allows for your legs to relax which helps the overall flow. The idea is to lean back slightly against a firm object and let gravity do the rest. Don't fall.

2. The Burner

The burner gets it's name merely because the position requires leg strength and burns your quads after a few minutes. I personally do not utilize this position but many prefer to use this technique because it closely resembles the position you assume when sitting on your porcelain throne in your home. Be sure to establish a secure footing so your feet don't slip out from under you.

3. The Catcher

This position is not for everyone because it requires slightly more balance and leg strength with no real solid object to hold onto or lean against. What makes this position a winner is that you can effectively get your business done anywhere you need to without the need for a tree, rock, or downed log for stability. This position gives you optimal colon angling for the smoothest flow possible. Some believe this technique to be the "most natural" position one can assume when pooping. This is my personal favorite.

The Tree Hugger

This is very similar to the leaner but you are facing the opposite direction. Instead of leaning backwards you face a solid object, such as a tree or rock, and use it as a stabilizer while leaning slightly forward. You can grab the tree with one or two hands depending on what is more comfortable for you.

With all these techniques make sure to keep the toilet paper nearby so you don't have to move once you are in position. Practice using one of your free hand to pull your trousers forward and out of the way or wrapping them around knee caps and pushing your legs outward to stay hands-free.

Practice Makes Perfect

It’s just like riding a bike! When you first started you kept falling over but after a few days of practice everything went super smooth. It’s the same with pooping outside. You need to perfect your form. Find what makes you most comfortable and perfect your craft. The only way you will ever become more comfortable is if you practice a few times. You don't have to love it but being familiar when in remote places will bring you peace of mind.

Proof is in the Posture

It is a commonly accepted fact in the medical field that when people use the proper posture to imitate the squatting position, the process of clearing your bowels is quicker and provides less strain on your body. Imagine that! When squatting to poop in the woods, your body assumes the most natural position possible to help things flow more smoothly for you. When your colon angles itself in a natural manner you will empty your bowels more completely and more efficiently than ever before. Don’t believe me? Check out this product: The Squatty Potty, that is made to imitate the position one assumes when squatting to help make pooping more enjoyable at home. I’d be lying to you if I said I’ve never tried that product before.

Hot Tips!

Pack an Extra Role - I can’t tell you how many times I have been saved by keeping a few rolls of biodegradable toilet paper stashed away in the truck, in my backpacks, or in the hunting blind. Knowing you have it in a pinch brings peace of mind that is priceless.

Transporting and Storing Tissue Paper - This may seem basic but it is commonly overlooked to store your extra rolls in a plastic bag. Plastic bags keep your paper clean, dry, all in one central location, and keeps your pack light weight when going on longer pack-in trips.

Use Leaves - When you are in a pinch, using leaves is a very comfortable alternative to standard tissue paper. The main challenge is usually gathering enough material to fully clean and wipe your backside. Most times, I like to break off a small section of branch from a well known tree, like an oak or maple. I take my left hand and wrap it around the base of one of the main stems of the branch and firmly squeeze it, but not too tight. I’ll then simultaneously take my other and slowly pull the branch away while keeping a firm grip on the stem. The result is that you will strip the branch naked of all the leaves that were once growing on it and end up with a handful of prime wiping material. Repeat this as many times as needed.

Watch Out for Poison Ivy! -

This may go without saying but the last thing you want to do is grab a fist full of poison ivy and rub it all over your rump. Over the years, I have had multiple episodes of major poison ivy breakouts on my ass and it's not pretty. Sometimes you might not even pick it up the poison ivy leaves themselves but leaves nearby may have oil residues on them from merely being in the same vicinity. Be very selective when finding natural wiping materials. If you're nervous about this a good rule of thumb is to only use leaves that are NOT on the ground. Use the example I mentioned in the previous tip above.


Does a bear shit in the woods? Well, the answer is absolutely yes, and so do I. I pride myself in having pooped in some of the most remote and

beautiful locations in the United States. For me, pooping outside is an adventure in itself. Each time I complete a multi day pack-in adventure in the wilderness I try to find the most creative places to do my work. It’s like a game I play with myself to find the most rad places in nature to poop. Weird you say? Well, maybe. If I had to say, my most memorable bowel movement has to be on one of the trips I took to the Minnesota Boundary Waters Wilderness Area in 2017. Early one morning, I got up and climbed to this overlook area just a quarter mile above where my camp was set. When I reached the top I found a sheer cliff that dropped off to the water below; It was truly beautiful scenery. I watched the sun come up that morning over the trees with my pants dangling around my ankles. I took my time, listened to birds chirp, and watched the world come to life before me. There's nowhere in the world I would have rather been at that exact moment!

By: Nate Hicks

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