Type of Toilet Paper | Technique for getting it done One of the main concerns of beginning backpackers is how to take care of personal business in the woods. Privies which are common at shelters on the Appalachian Trail are not that common in other parts of the country.
  The most common way of taking care of business in the back country is by digging small holes (catholes) and covering them up.

Type of Toilet Paper (TP):
Most people just take a small amount off the roll in their bathroom and fold it up or roll it around a pencil (You probably heard about the constipated mathematician who worked his problem out with a pencil).
Don't use perfumed TP.

Some use wet wipes or a combination.
Note: Wet wipes should not be dropped in privies you find at some camp sights especially in the east.

An Appalachian Trail hiker recommends cutting up paper towels, which are more durable in the damp humid east. (article at sectionhiker.com)

REI and other stores sell biodegradable toilet paper in small rolls.

You can get a variety of folding trowels for $10-20 from camp stores. Many people just hang them on the outside of their packs, so a folding one isn't necessary.
I got one for $1 from Home Depot which has a hollow handle where I can store some toilet paper.

Disposal of TP:
Leave No Trace (LNT) says to put toilet paper in a plastic bag (you can have some baking soda in the bag first) and pack it out.

Many web sites say if you get a cat hole 4-6 in deep it is OK to bury it.

The opinion of one long time Sierra Club leader, is that the carry-out rule was instituted because many people don't bury it properly and animals dig it up making a mess.

At Badlands National Park - Backcountry Camping they say, "Since animals will often dig up cat holes and scatter the toilet paper, it is preferred that you pack out all toilet paper. If you must bury toilet paper, use a minimal amount and bury with at least 6 inches of soil."

You don't want to bury it too deep, because most of the living organisms and oxygen needed for composting are in the top 6 inches of soil.

One post at the AMC says, "Pack wet wipes instead of toilet paper--more sanitary, less waste. Above treeline, carry out all solid waste, including used wipes."

There is a discussion on whether or not it will degrade in arid climates at Science question: Toilet Paper Biodegradable? at BackpackingLight.com Forums. The conclusion was it will probably take a long time if the soil is dry.
  Steve O, speculated that it is beneficial in moist soil because the carbon in the TP is used by the living organisms which turn the nitrogen into ammonia and nitrates which can be used by plants rather than letting the organic nitrogen leach into nearby sufrace water (bad).
See Compost Fundamentals Biology & Chemistry - Aerobic Decomposition

Tom at BackpackingLight.com Forums says, "I'm a member of the burn-it-in-the-cathole club. [This was a common practice now discouraged. Ed.] Very little left when you get through. If fire danger is a concern, hold off on emptying your bladder until after burning is complete(an un-natural act, I admit) and then quench the embers. This is SOP for me in the backcountry. In desert areas it would have the added benefit of providing moisture to get the decomposition process started."
Note: This is not recommended. Smoldering organic duff or root system just under the surface can cause a fire to spread even though you don't see it.

Technique for getting it done:
Select a spot 200 feet (abt. 70 adult steps) from camp, water, and trail. In organic soil - forest floors rather than sand or mineral soil.
A spot near a tree or rock that you can hang onto for balance may help.
A spot that gets sun will help it decompose.

Try to remove the top chunk of soil like a piece of turf to place back in place.
Dig a hole 6-8 in deep and 4-6 in across.
4-6 in deep in the desert so the sun will help it decay.

Then just squat above it. This is the part novices fear the most, but actually results in much more natural and healthful elimination than sitting at a 90 degree angle on your home toilet. There are a couple of pointers - make sure you're really out of sight; squat with your rear downhill; hang on to a tree or your hiking stick for balance; and make sure your shirt or coat is lifted up in the back. After wiping with TP, get yourself even cleaner back there with moist towellettes - reduce chances of chafing and later discomfort.

At the Appalachian Trail Conference, Backcountry Sanitation Manual they say, "For the cathole method to be effective, users must break up wastes with a stick, mixing them thoroughly with duff within the cathole before covering with a mound of leaves and duff."

If there are a lot of rocks around, placing one over the hole may discourage an animal from digging.

See the links below for more.

Other Solutions:
I've seen articles claiming you can use leaves. I don't know anyone that does this.

One book says in rocky soil where you can't dig a cat hole to use "smearing" wipe feces on the side of rocks where the sun will dry it out and rain will wash it off. I don't know anyone that does this.
Most carry wag bags, the kind you use to clean up after your pet, and carry everything out. (The forest service office for Mt. Tallac at Lake Tahoe gives them out.)

My rule is that you should always be prepared to carry it out in case the soil is too rocky to bury it properly or there is evidence that animals are digging it up.

A shared latrine may be more appropriate for base camps where you are going to be in one place with a group for several days.

Site selection is the same as for catholes. Downwind from your kitchen is also a good idea.
Dig it about 6 in deep and 3 feet long for a small group.
One foot deep may be necessary for large groups for a longer period of time.

A good way to speed decomposition and diminish odors is to toss in a handful of soil after each use.

Digging Latrines | How To Dig A Latrine | Camping Gear Outlet

How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art

Backcountry Etiquette> from HitTheTrail.com
Human Waste at Leave No Trace
Appalachian Trail Conference, Backcountry Sanitation Manual
Backcountry Hygene from LowerGear Rentals
Cat Holes at LeaveNoTraceDude.com
Backcountry Hygiene and Sanitation: Expert Advice from REI
Backpacking Toilet Paper | sectionhiker.com
Toilet Paper at REI.com
Pooping In The Outdoors: A Flow Chart | semi-rad.com
Seventh Generation - Bathroom Tissue from recycled paper.
Zero Trees PortaPack Personal Bathroom Tissue - Sport Chalet

last updated 23 June 2011