Peeing and Pooping in the Field

If you need to pee or poop without a toilet around…

  • Don’t be embarrassed. Everyone needs to.
  • There are almost always places you can go that are out of sight of others in the group. Look for an area behind a curve in the outcrop, large rocks, in a gully, etc. I am always willing to suggest locations, having gone outside since I was potty trained!
  • Bring toilet paper, ziplock bags, and a paper bag or other opaque bag. You can use the toilet paper and seal it in a ziplock bag. If you put it in the opaque bag, no one will see the used toilet paper.
  • If you need to poop, here are a couple of options:
    1. Traditional: Dig a hole that is at least 10 inches deep. That can be hard in rocky areas. One approach is to dig a narrow trough with a rock hammer. Alternatively, it may be easier to dig a largish rock out of the ground and use the resulting hole. The rock can then be placed over your waste back into its original hole. It is good to put a pile of rocks on top of your waste in any case to keep animals from digging it up (which does happen, unfortunately). I prefer not to try to bury toilet paper in the field even when I am burying poop. I put it in a ziplock bag because it’s just easier.
    2. Mountaineer and dog-owner technique: Poop on the ground. Then just to ignore any squeamish qualms, put your hand inside a hole-free plastic bag, pick up the poop through the bag, invert the bag around the poop, and seal it well. It really isn’t all that bad if you “just do it” and don’t think about it. You can put the poop bag inside another one so it can’t be seen. See or the link below.
  • Tampons and other sanitary supplies can also be put into ziplock bags.   They should not be buried because they never decay.
  • Throw away your ziplock bag(s) of waste in a garbage can where it will be picked up and properly disposed of.


In case you’re interested, here is what we do in Antarctica:


And for women, pee funnels can be useful in many circumstances: (I don’t use a pee cloth any more. I go for TP, putting it in a ziplock bag. )


Respect in the field…

Please respect others’ privacy when in the field. This includes when someone needs to relieve themselves, when you need to relieve yourself, and when people are changing. Sometimes, you “walk in” on someone or they walk in on you. The proper response is to apologize and leave immediately. In very rare cases (like on the middle of an ice-covered lake in Antarctica), there is no way to provide privacy except to turn ones back. Respect and understanding go a very long ways toward building a productive environment on a field trip.