How to shit in the woods…

I cannot believe I have never written a post about poop… Like how… what… I am just indignant with myself right now.  Well, let me just say, anyone that knows me knows that pooping is one of my favorite subjects.  I believe that I am not alone in this.  There is that rare and skittish individual out there that balks at the prospect of poop talk (you know who you are and you should probably stop reading right now) but for the most part I have discovered that the vast majority of people love to talk about poop.  For me my comfort surrounding poop talk started when I studied abroad in Mexico (a lot of weird things occurred in my stomach, intestines, colon, etc. while I was there) and my study abroad group quickly became exceedingly comfortable discussing the subject.  A normal greeting consisted of, “Hi, how are you, any crazy poops today? No, just normal ones?  Well, that’s fantastic!”  Great though Mexico was it was my work at ACE where my fascination for poop talk really took off.

Before I left for Arizona my Grandma (MY GRANDMOTHER) bought me a very fitting books, “How to Shit in The Woods” by Kathleen Meyer.  This venerable work of excellence is now on its 3rd edition and is a rather sassy accumulation of facts about how to shit in the woods.  It was true, I hadn’t spend a ton of time pooping in the woods at that point but I needn’t have been worried, on my first backcountry trip my crew began to discuss, perhaps timid at first but gaining steam all the while, the different ways to poop in the woods.

Turns out it’s not as straight forward as one might think.  I mean I personally prefer the full on squat.  This is a comfortable relaxing position for me, aiming is easy in the squat, and it’s a great stretch as well.  I assumed, wrongly, that everyone was squatting.  Turns out people have all kinds of positions they use when pooping in the woods.  Some people squat but then kind of prop one leg out or one arm behind them, for stability (how explosive are their poops, one is forced to ask).  My crew leader, Adam, prefers to find something to use as a seat.  This is a popular approach, you find a downed log or the V of a downed tree branch, an over hanging rock, anything to rest one or both buttocks on and dig your hole accordingly.  Someone else claimed that they will dig their hole next to a tree and then, interlocking their fingers around its trunk, hold onto the tree and lean back, hovering over their hole.  Some people just panic and don’t poop for five days (I don’t recommend this approach) and then or course there is the fabled two person poop where two people either clasp hands and squat down or put their backs together in order to assume chair position.  I find it hard to believe anyone has ever accomplished a two person poop.  But, by far the best approach we heard on that backcountry trip, was employed by a fellow crew member, Matt.  He doesn’t just put out one hand behind him for stability, he puts both back there, ultimately assuming crab walk position.  In all my years since I have never heard of anyone using this move and all I can say is, I pity the person who comes upon Matt pooping in the woods, that would be quite the full frontal nudity shot.

While many fabulous conversations took place in the backcountry my favorite front country poop related conversation actually took place during Thanksgiving while I was at ACE.  Somehow, SOMEHOW, the topic of wiping got brought up and we were all shocked and disturbed to find that men and women follow very different wiping protocol.  Women, did you know that the average male wipes at least four or five times, but it is not unlikely that they might wipe seven, eight, maybe even nine times in one sitting?? Men, did you know that women (and this seems to be pretty universal) wipe once, maybe twice, three if it was a really rough poop.  What could possibly account for these differences?  Hair has been one suggestion, the fact that women might just be twice as good at wiping because they wipe twice as much (remember, we wipe when we pee too) has been another possible explanation… The truth remains a mystery.  All this talk of wiping then begs the question, are you a folder or a crumpler.  Do you use your handful of toilet paper once and then throw it away or do you reuse it (yes, I just met two people who will fold, wipe, re-fold and wipe again…WHAT?!?).  Also, during recent conversation I talked to someone who stands up to wipe… and didn’t realize this was weird until they started living with their current girlfriend…

I wanted to bring all of this up because I recently stumbled upon an article posted on Enlightened Consciousness that says there is finally scientific evidence that claims squatting to poop is, in fact, healthier for you.  You can read the article yourself, entitled, “What is the proper way to poop?”  Not only does this mean I have been doing it right all along but also that all those people out there who, upon learning that I love to backpack, ask, “Ugh, but don’t you have to, you know, do your thing in the woods then?”  Well guess what, you poop-talk-phobic-but-actually-you-probably-want-to-talk-about-it-you-just-don’t-know-how person, yes I do poop in the woods, and you would all be better off if you did it too!

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PS Man, it feels good to finally write all this stuff down!  I am realizing how many different stories and ideas I have about poop… but we will have to tackle those later because I feel that this post is already long enough!

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As Edward Abbey said, "An indoor life is the next best thing to a premature burial."

11 thoughts on “How to shit in the woods…

  1. The squat is the natural position. I’m glad you have educated so many who likely suffer hemorrhoids from a lifetime of sitting upright on a toilet.

    Personally, I tend to block-up for the first couple days of a backpacking trip. I don’t know if it is the change in diet or the intimidation of the woods-poop. I often find it difficult to deal with the pants around my ankles while squatting and have had a few ugly experiences. I now look for a gentle slope and face uphill, so the turds roll downhill. A tree branch to grasp for balance is a good idea – you don’t want to fall backwards.

    Ever notice, if you roll a turd in pine needles it looks like a porcupine? As for folding and re-using, yes! It’s simple conservation. I’ll run out of TP if I don’t.

  2. My preferred method I learned early on in my construction days was to lean against the foundation wall in the basement so you were basically in the regular sitting position like on a toilet and then you let her drop. Later on in the construction process they pour the concrete floor in the basement and everyone’s poop got permanently buried. Then the nice lovely couple buying their first home had no idea how many construction workers let loose down there lol. Adapt this to nature, dig a small hole against a tree, lean against it in your normal sitting position, let her drop, fill in your hole and you just fertilized a tree. Its a win win!

  3. I LOVE THIS POST. Seriously. I have yet to poop outdoors because I am definitely a panicking pooper, so one of these days I’m just going to stay outside until I either poop or die. Also, I am totally a fold/wipe/refold/wipe type of person. Maybe I take more TP on the initial go-round? Who knows 🙂 Also, have you heard of the Squatty Potty? It basically lets you squat using a regular toilet, and I think it’s the coolest poop-related item ever!

    1. Yes, I have heard of the Squatty Potty! It talks about it in the same article that says squatting to poop is good for you! Haha, get out there and poop! It will change your life!

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