Cat Holes

Since you’re seeing this on a computer screen, you’re obviously a member of a privileged part of the world population, the part that has bathrooms. We live in a society with toilets and they’re all accompanied by a nice roll of soft toilet paper. There’s nothing to think about, we do our little duty and wipe and flush. This is a delightful convenience we’ve created. But it’s separated us from what should be a very simple bit of outdoor know-how. Believe it or not, many boys (and men) refuse to go on a long backpacking trip only because they are psychologically unprepared to squat and take care of business behind a bush.

Mankind has been pooping in the woods since we climbed down out of the trees, and in historical time, toilet paper (TP) is a pretty recent invention. In fact, many people on this planet have never even seen TP. Why, then, are so many campers so dependent on toilet paper? I would have to guess that they either haven’t used anything other than the store bought stuff on a roll or they’ve had bad luck with natural wiping material in a moment of need.

Get all the information you ever want or need in this great white paper called Toilet Paper Free Expeditions from Backpacking Light (Published with permission from Backpacking Light.)

Read up on the subject and get used to the idea. With so many people going into the woods these days, steps have to be taken. The new backpacker rules at Yosemite require hikers to carry out their used toilet paper. I have not yet been asked by a ranger to show mine, but that day is coming soon. My recommendation is to start transitioning your unit to toilet paper free expeditions soon. (And don’t let anyone leave “moisturized wipes” behind. They are worse than toilet paper on the pollution scale and not very manly anyway.)

Catholes should be at least 200′ away from lakes, streams, and trails, and should be at least 100′ away from your camp. After finding a suitable location, dig a shallow hole about 6″ deep, piling the excavated soil adjacent to the hole. It should be deep enough to cover what you leave behind, but still, be located in organic material which speeds decomposition. Do your business, stir any toilet paper into it so it does not blow away later, and cover everything with the dirt you dug out. If there are loose rocks available put one on top as a warning to later arrivals. Then use Purell on your hands before returning to camp.

This video about going to the bathroom in the woods is just too good not to share with your unit. It was made and shared by Kenneth Kramm. Try watching it together and see if you can get through it without cracking up. Do not try this at home.

Check out our other guides on health & survival:

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1 thought on “Cat Holes”

  1. Leave No Trace — Overkill?

    Are we the “Clued-in” perhaps being ‘punished’ for the sins of the “Clueless”?

    I went camping near a Forest Service road and we found that some ‘human-shaped pigs’ (who must have been there for a month or they had many people in their group, or both) had left their trash nicely bagged and stacked in their now deserted campsite. Nearby, behind EVERY tree or bush for an acre or two, were piles of unburied feces and the accompanying toilet paper. A Forest Service Officer came by to check on us, we pointed out the trash in the next campsite, and then we helped her load the trash into her pick-up truck. The truck was filled-up.

    We have all seen human feces, right on the TRAIL, (unless animals have taken up the habit of using toilet paper?) These same clueless people who crapped on the public trail obviously never buried their crap, let alone their TP.

    “We, the ‘Leave No Trace’ Clued-In” must now in many areas pack out our feces and toilet paper.

    My question for the Forest Service people who are promoting the “Pack-It-Out” rules, because of the TP that they have had to pick up and the human feces that they have had to deal with and are complaining about: “Was it ever properly buried in the first place?”
    Has there ever been a study to prove what percentage of properly buried feces and toilet paper that animals dig up, or that most of what is found above ground was never buried?

    Are we absolutely certain that human feces and TP are really bad for the environmental health of so-called delicate eco-systems? Could it, in all reality, be beneficial instead?

    P.S. While I am on this rant, what about this, “urinating on a rock” idea?
    Last time I checked, it just runs off of the rock and onto the ground anyway, and causes much splashing everywhere and right back on your legs and shoes. Why don’t we just give the rocks a break? We could just piss down our leg in the first place!

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