A Guide To Pooping In The Woods

This guide includes LNT instructions, the importance of monitoring bowel movements, the poop rating system, euphemisms for pooping, and the story of my favorite poop!

Leave No Trace After Defecating

  1. Pack it out. You can carry plastic bags, bag your poop, and dispose of it later in a toilet or privy.
  2. Go in a privy. As a former member of an AMC trail crew, I do want to highlight that privies are strictly for pooping. Peeing in a privy is what makes it smell and prevents the fecal matter from decomposing properly, so please avoid doing this.
  3. Bury it or go directly in a cathole. This hole should be six to eight inches deep, away from the trail, and 200 feet away from water, campsites, and shelters. Always carry a shmoo shovel (trowel) on the trail, and treat it well. You can even name your shmoo shovel! In India, ours was Paco.  A shmoo shovel should never come in contact with your poop.
  4. If you are in an area without a privy that you can’t dig in and don’t have anything to pack out your poop in (i.e., on top of a rocky mountain), then defecate on a hard, durable surface, such as rock. A rock is not a living organism, but moss, lichen, grass, and bushes are, so avoid killing these organisms with your crap. Save lichen, shit on rocks.
  5. Please see the Leave No Trace website for their policies at https://lnt.org/learn/7-principles.

Keep Tallies On Your Poops

  1. Your bowel movements are an important indicator of your health. As a veterinary technician, we record stool quality in order to help monitor the patients. If an animal has continuous diarrhea or blood in its stool, than we notify the vet and adjust the treatment as needed. So if you’re on the trail and notice that you’ve had several bouts of diarrhea in a row, than it might mean that you are getting sick or are dehydrated. Also diarrhea can be caused by dehydration and cause dehydration, so if your stool is loose, increase your water intake.
  2. Conversely, your lack of bowel movements are indicative of your health. If you aren’t defecating, that can be a bad sign. It’s a good idea to know how frequently you poop normally. Therefore, if you notice that you’re going significantly less than usual or not at all, than you should try to consume foods and liquids that will help you do the doo.
  3. It’s fun! Believe me, keeping track of your poop can make for hilarious stories. At least in my experience. Also, getting more comfortable talking about poop can make life easier. For example, you won’t feel as awkward bringing it up with doctors or you won’t be as embarrassed when you stink up the bathroom at your significant other’s place.

The Poop Scale

  1. Liquid. It feels like you’re pooping water. “It’s coming out of me like lava! Movie, anyone?
  2. Loose stool. Basically, mild diarrhea.
  3. Perfect. Not too hard, not too soft. No burn, no extra effort.
  4. Slightly hard. Potentially difficulty to push out.
  5. Rock solid. It feels like you’re squeezing large diamonds out of your ass. Your turds may even cause some bleeding on the way out.

How To Use The Scale

  1. Using the number system, keep track of your poops, especially if you begin to notice your fecal matter drifting to one end of the scale. If you do tend away from 2.5 to 3.5, start to pay special attention in order to be on top of trends that may indicate oncoming sickness, the need to drink more water, or the need to consume a more balanced diet, including fiber.
  2. Even better, keep a poop journal! If you are journaling, then you can keep a couple pages in the back dedicated to recording bowel movements. In India, the whole group shared a poop journal, and we all got copies when we came home. It’s funny to look at now, like the day where someone had 11 poops. He was very sick. It was hilarious (because he was fine in the end).


  1. Taking a dump
  2. Baking a brownie
  3. Building a log cabin
  4. Code brown
  5. Dispensing some soft-serve
  6. Download a brown load
  7. Foraging for dingleberries
  8. Let the dogs out
  9. Dropping the kids off at the pool (my personal favorite, learned from a friend who I studied abroad with in Botswana)

My poop portrait from studying abroad in Botswana (I’m not actually going in the photo).

Emma’s Greatest Poop Of All Time

The best crap I ever had was along the AT in southern Massachusetts in fall 2009. I was on a training weekend backpacking trip with my World Challenge gang. When I remember that trip, I recall dreading the idea of pooping. I didn’t know everyone well enough yet, and making a grab for Paco was my worst nightmare. However, on the second night, I could not hold it any more. I took Paco as inconspicuously as possible and marched away to find a spot.

I climbed to the top of a hill, and my eyes widened. I had come across a magnificent lookout with the sun setting on rolling hills of fall foliage in New England. It was such a beautiful view. There was a downed tree conveniently placed on the top of that hill. After digging a hole in front of the log, I rested against it as I dropped my kids off at the pool. Of course, they were all 3s. Finally, the agony of clenching my cheeks shut was over. I sat there for an unnecessary amount of time just to take in that view and revel in my satisfaction.

OK folks, that’s it for my guide on pooping in the great outdoors. May your travels be blessed with many 3s!

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Comments 5

  • Vince Piquet : Jan 24th

    Far as descriptions go, I’ve always liked one we used in the Pen. “Dropping a Duece”. See ya on the trail toots.
    Vince aka “The Dude, SOBO, ’17/’18

  • TechnoNomadic : Jan 29th

    Gator Miller coined “Brown Blazing” or if it wasn’t him, then he got it from someone else on the trail during his thru-hike.

  • Larry Eliachar : Mar 15th

    A very resourceful blog with good information. Reminds me of my days in the Israeli army. Look forward to reading more.


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