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Home > Wild Camping > The Toilet business

Introduction

This is an aspect of backpacking that puts some people off, but it is an important one. As mentioned in the Legal subsection, the lack of knowledge, ability or consideration shown by a few can generate a lot of bad feeling, and we should all get it right. Our veneer of civilised living and sanitation does create a sort of revulsion that some find hard to dispel, but it really is nothing to worry about once you get used to it and you know what to expect. After a few times it just becomes another routine outdoor skill.

General rules

This is one case where rules really should be followed by the book. The most important is the contamination of water sources which must be strictly avoided, whether still or running, and no matter how small. The recommended distance from any water source is at least 60m. It is good practice to apply the same kind of distance rule to paths, choosing a spot that is almost certain never to be trodden by anyone else.
A hole must always be made for the purpose to a depth of several inches. In suitable ground the paper should ideally be burnt, but definitely not where there is a fire risk, in dry peat moorland or forests for example. The hole should be filled in with the excavated material and an effort made to restore the top ground to its former state as nearly as possible.

Implements & Methods

TheTentLab Deuce #3 27g

Current

We are currently using TheTentLab Deuce #3, a good aluminium trowel of dimensions 204mm x 66mm 24mm and weight 27g.

General

Moist soft ground is clearly the easiest to deal with and can often be found in wild untrodden areas. In some cases it is possible to get a head start on the digging. Where tussocks predominate (we see an awful lot of those) we can find an isolated one and chisel away at the base for a few seconds, then it comes out leaving a moist depression that is very easy to dig further. After refilling the hole it can simply be placed back and tamped down for a really neat job. Dense forests and plantations are good bets too, usually with soft floors and the advantage of privacy. Once you get used to your routine, this will naturally become part of the overall walk plan and predicting likely spots at the right times will become easier.

On low level routes, take any opportunity to use a public toilet, but don't rely on those marked on the Outdoor Leisure map - some are non-existent and others look like they have been closed for years. Some are only open in Summer or for limited hours. We know of one case shown on the map where the "Public Convenience" is actually private for fee-paying visitors to an attraction.

For 2-day trips we sometimes manage without toileting and suffer no discomfort.