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How to Dig a Cathole in the Backcountry

It’s hard to talk about it without getting the giggles, but how we go to the bathroom in the backcountry is important. Peeing is pretty easy: Just find a spot away from trails, camps and places where people gather, and take care of business.

Solid waste, however, is another story. Assuming there are no existing facilities, you have two choices: Use a cathole or pack it out.


A cathole should be dug 6-8 inches deep and be at least 200 feet (75 steps) from water, campsites, and trails. Be sure to cover it with soil when you’re done, and camouflage the site with leaves or ground cover so you Leave No Trace. Carry out toilet paper in a self-sealing plastic bags. Be sure to check with local land managers for guidance or special instructions.


In some environments, solid waste does not easily decompose. That’s when you have to carry it out. You’ll need several one-gallon sealable plastic bags, some cat litter (to help control the odor) and several paper bags (so you don’t have to look at the stuff).

And don’t forget the hand sanitizer gel.


Learn how to dig a cathole from the “Tales from the Campfire” crew:

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