Pooping on the Appalachian Trail: Important Statistics from My Thru-Hike

The following is a guest post by Brian “Slurpee” Garner.

I believe that the best way to share the story of a thru-hike is with poop. There’s lots of talk about white blazing or blue blazing, but I believe life on trail is all about the brown blazing. You want to talk about resupplies? I’d rather talk about desupplies. I thru-hiked the AT from February 25 to July 10 this year, logging 125 hiking days, 10 zero days, and most importantly, 195 poops. I logged these poops using the app Poop Map and noted the location, a rating out of five stars, the setting (e.g. privy or cathole), and a brief qualitative description. After thorough analysis, I’d like to present a scat-istical analysis of the life of a thru-pooper.

Some Notes on Methods

  1. I considered the section of trail on the North Carolina/Tennessee border a part of NC.
  2. I committed the mortal sin of forgetting to rate my poop five times over the course of the hike. These poops were not included in graphs relating to ratings.
  3. In “Average Number of Miles Between Poops (Poops/Mile),” data was calculated by dividing the number of poops by the number of miles in a state. The flaw to this formula can be clearly seen in the West Virginia datapoint, as there are only 3.1 miles of trail in that state, providing a misleadingly low number.
  4. Poop ratings were made at the time of the poop. They are based on overall experience, and are a reflection of a number of factors including feeling, results, scenery, ambiance, and mood.

Here is a screenshot of my PoopMap app. Yes, it’s epic. Yes, I’ve been using and enjoying this app unironically for almost three years now so I do have some poops that are not from my thru hike.

KABOOM with Virginia! At least 2/47 would not have happened without Fresh Grounds. Despite my best attempts, I failed the Massive Two Shits Challenge miserably (though I only pooped twice in the 100 mile wilderness, which is arguably cooler).

High mileage, frequent towns, and several zeroes are to blame for the high numbers in PA. Frequent huts leading to a higher availability of restrooms resulted in high numbers in NH.

I was very inconsistent with my mileage and my poops. See Note #3.

The north took longer, which also made it poopier.

 

Most poops on trail are awesome experiences. That being said, a five or a one star poop are rare ratings due to my high standards for either.

I believe that GA had such good poops because that was the honeymoon phase of shitting on trail. My diet was certainly the least bad and I was still not used to the purity of hiking poops. NJ was tough. That being said, a low sample size is likely to blame for its low average. In fact, NJ had the highest standard deviation for poop ratings (1.53).

This is the most surprising data I formulated. Looking back on it, I’ve theorized several reasons why so many poops took place in restrooms. First, I went into just about every town. Most were short stops (in and out the same day), but I would enjoy a town poop every couple days. I also pooped more frequently in towns, and went out of my way to utilize restrooms. In fact, I pooped 12 times at the Yellow Deli (sorry!!!).

The high portapotty rating can be attributed to a low sample size (every one of the 5 poops were rated 4 stars). The ranking of the other three settings make sense: restrooms are better than privies which are better than catholes. However, the difference between these ratings is small due to the fact that setting is just a small part of a poop’s overall rating.

About the Author

Hi, my name is Slurpee! After graduating high school in 2021, I hiked the Long Trail and decided I would never do another thru-hike. Exactly seven months later, I started the Appalachian Trail and completed it in July 2022. When I’m not hiking, I make sure to stay active by partaking in other sports such as eating, sleeping, and pooping.

Featured image: Graphic design by Chris Helm (@chris.helm).

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Comments 7

  • Mr Hankey : Aug 2nd

    Not to sound like a party pooper… Such a crappy article. Lol. Nah, it didn’t stink that bad. Time to wash my hands of it. 😉

    Reply
  • Russ1663 : Aug 3rd

    Well Slurpee, that was an interesting “data download”. Didn’t know there was an app thought for some reason it does not surprise me. Best of trail luck on your next adventure

    Reply
  • Eric Krieg : Aug 3rd

    What an awesome analysis. It is important to properly dispose of what would be around half your weight in excrement. Having done most all the AT, I can get how more than half his defecation was in a real bathroom

    Reply
  • CAPT Gary Andres USN ret : Aug 5th

    Amigo, this just ain’t right! (I’m kidding, man….I really laughed at your article!). I’m retired Navy, and retired federal wildlife officer….so I think I can say, with some credibility, your ability to accurately account for your deposits, recording your stats, and the perfection you gave to the details, is to be applauded. I do believe, my friend, with all sincerity, that you indeed, have a future in “government”! I’m a failed thru-hiker…now a committed section hiker. The reason that I “failed”, as an old Navy aircraft back injury flared up “ten miles from nowhere”….and I started looking at the trail as a 2200 mile long “Petri dish-frat party”. That said, I found 99% of the folks I met along the trail, to be outstanding youngsters (and a few oldsters ) which somewhat restored my faith in people….and after my second career in natural resource law enforcement, I needed that! Again, a humorous article….with some wisdom and advice to new backpackers integrated. Nice job….and much congrats on your successful Thru-hike journey! I sincerely, wish you many more safe journeys…and do so while you are young….before access to Metamucil becomes mandatory!

    Reply
  • Turtle Man : Aug 5th

    Wow, quite the data dump! Impressive record keeping. Everyone does it, but few talk about it, especially in this much detail. Appreciate the endeavor.

    Found it interesting that the number of cat hole disposals was relatively low compared to what i might have expected. Missing from the data pool was time time of day for the event. For me, i’m a once-or-twice-in-the-morning guy, soon after waking up and before/after having something to eat, then i’m good for the day. So, most poop events would be happening near those places i was camped. Since i try to avoid staying at shelters, this would mostly mean cat holes in dispersed-camping areas (without any privy).

    I’m also curious about what criteria factored into the rating evaluation. Views? Sense of relief? Having adequate t.p. on hand?

    Related: I’ve found that a portable bidet device (CuloClean, for example) are a game changer for keeping the nethers fresh and clean on the trail.

    Reply
  • Kristin : Aug 5th

    What is the two poop challenge, I’m very by intrigued. My husband thought this was TMI, I on the other hand loved this article!

    Reply
  • Buck : Aug 8th

    Great article! And always good to get more A.T. mgt. data. On your next hike, I’d love to see you add your ratings for use of WAG bags. And, as someone else wondered, do catholes always correlate with overnights where there was no privy? I’ll check out the app you mention to see about the rating system. Thx!

    Reply

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