Have you ever been outside, far from a toilet, and realized you had to go to the bathroom? This can be uncomfortable, but sometimes you just have to go. 

The other day my family and I were hiking in Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park and saw white blooms everywhere. But these blooms weren’t the pretty flower blooms, these were the blooms of used toilet paper left by the side of the trail. 

The first rule of going to the bathroom in the woods is to pack in and pack out what you use, no matter how unsavory these things may be. Bring baby wipes or toilet paper, some baggies, a garden trowel, and some hand sanitizer to clean your hands. You can use the wipes to clean yourself, and afterward, the used wipes can go in the baggies. The trowel is used to dig a hole for a “number two”. 

What about location? Some parks have a minimum distance of 100 feet (about 40 adult steps) or more from any body of water, trails, and campsites when going to the bathroom. This is because you want to leave as little of a trace as possible. Someone’s urine or feces can pollute a nearby river as well as possibly attract animals.

Speaking of animals, if you want to do a “number one”, you should try to pee on a rock instead of a tree, keeping in mind the 100ft or more rule. Most people would give the advice to just find a tree and hide behind it to pee. After all, they are conveniently located everywhere in the woods. But peeing on a tree attracts deer and other animals that will dig at the ground where you peed in order to get at the minerals in your pee. This digging harms the tree’s fragile roots and surrounding plants. 

Doing a “number two” has the same 100ft or more policy (depends on the park) as “number one”. “Number two”, however, requires a bit more work. You could always just pack your feces out in a baggie, but carrying around your excrement takes up space and has the potential to smell. Instead, with the gardening trowel, you can dig yourself a hole that is 6-8 inches deep. Then you can squat and do your business in the hole, but make sure you cover it up with dirt when you’re done, and to pack out your wipes. LEAVE NO TRACE!

When we hiked the other day in the park, toilet blooms were everywhere making the landscape ugly. We had gloves and bags and picked up the blooms to throw in the trash. It was like walking a dog and having to use doggie bags to clean up. 

Just remember, it is okay to go to the bathroom when you need to, just try to follow these rules above so that the beauty of the landscape can be preserved for everyone!