There’s just something about camping that brings us closer to nature. Some would say it’s the scenic views, but that’s not what separates the men from the boys. You aren’t a true outdoorsman until you’ve had to squat over a hole and take care of business.
Sometimes you just have to go when you least expect it. I can usually hold it, but kids are another story. When children finally say that they need to use the bathroom it’s urgent. There’s no holding it until you can trek back to the parking lot bathroom.
Unfortunately, you’ll probably need to have an impromptu demonstration of how to poop in the woods. Here are a few tips on how to help your kids do take care of business in the woods.
Teaching Kids to Poop in The Woods
Most hikers, backpackers, and campers understand why you shouldn’t just pee and poop in the woods. We understand that there are bacteria and viruses in our pee/poop and you don’t want to get that into the water supply. Nobody wants to ingest poop water while camping with their family.
Try explaining the dangers of bacteria to a 5-year-old. They look at you like you’re crazy. You’re better off teaching them how to go and saving the explanation for when they’re older. Here are a few tips to make using the bathroom in the woods easier.
1)Talk About It Before Heading Out
Before heading out on the trail it’s a good idea to stop at the parking lot restroom and warn your kids that there won’t be a bathroom out in the middle of the forest. Most kids just don’t understand that there’s not always a toilet around.
This is when you need to have the sometimes uncomfortable conversation about using the bathroom in the outdoors. It’s important to have the conversation beforehand so you aren’t rushing through the explanation when you see the pee-pee dance.
You need to explain how and why you need to dispose of waste even if the kids don’t yet understand. Make sure you bring along a small trowel, toilet paper, pack it out bag and some toilet paper. Explaining to kids that you have to pack out the poop usually makes them reconsider using the bathroom beforehand.
2)Bring All The Supplies
Unless I’m going on a short hike I always bring along toiletry supplies. Although adults usually have a basic understanding of when/where they’ll need to use the restroom, kids have no idea. They always wait until the least convenient time, usually miles away from a public restroom.
This is why I always carry some toilet paper, a small trowel and WAG bags (On Amazon) when required by law. You just never know when you’ll need toiletry supplies.
When you have kids make a thing of it. Bring along all the toileting tools: a trowel, biodegradable toilet paper(plain white unscented), WAG bag and duct tape(If Required by Law). All you really need is a cheap Coghlan’s Backpacking Trowel (On Amazon) to dig a basic cathole.
Find out whether or not you need to pack out all waste before hitting the trail. If packing out waste is a requirement this is the perfect time to teach kids how to use a WAG bag(On Amazon). Although any grocery bag will work(with a little duct tape) having a dedicated poop bag makes it a little less embarrassing for young children. Definitely bring along some duct tape to tape down the bag and cut down on odors.
3)Go Before You Leave
Although it probably won’t help it’s always a good idea to remind children to use the restroom before they leave. This is the perfect time to teach kids why it’s always a better idea to use a real bathroom than going in the woods.
Trust me, it’s easier to convince girls than young boys. As a child, I don’t think there was a hike that I didn’t eventually pee in the woods. Only God knows why young boys like to pee outside.
4)Walk 200 Feet Off Trail
Hopefully you’ve taught your kids about the leave no trace principles. They state that you should walk at least 200 ft away from the trail and any water source before using the restroom.
For adults, that’s about 75 steps(kids 100+), but it really doesn’t matter all that much. You’re just trying to get away from prying eyes and trying not to contaminate the water supply. Nobody wants to refill their water bottle downstream from where someone took a pee/poop.
Walking away from the trail is basically just common courtesy. Nobody wants to see a bare butt squatting on the side of the trail. Plus it’s much less embarrassing for shy poopers.
Staying away from water sources helps keep bacteria and viruses out of the water supply. Nobody wants to drink human waste when it inevitably runs off into the lake, river or stream.
5)Let Your Child Choose The Spot
Unless it’s an emergency you should always teach your kid how to choose a good spot. Let them find the perfect spot, it’s almost like a game of “I-Spy”. You want to create a pleasant experience that isn’t traumatizing.
Try to find a secluded spot with soft ground(not muddy) and isn’t slick. You might even want to find a spot with a view. When there’s a lot of foot traffic stick to bushes, large trees and big rocks(anywhere with a little cover). This is more of an embarrassment thing; you’d have to be a serious jerk to complain about a kid using the restroom.
6)Dig a CatHole
Digging a cathole really isn’t necessary when taking a pee, but it’s always a good idea when going number 2. All you really need is a cheap lightweight plastic trowel (this one works). Dig a hole that’s at least 6 inches deep, just enough to completely cover everything with a few inches of dirt.
Remember to dig a little bit wider than you think you’d need. You’d be surprised how bad a child’s aim can be. Unless it’s an emergency you should let the child dig the hole and explain to them that they’ll be burying it like a cat when they’re done. Expect to hear stories of how they pooped like a cat for the foreseeable future.
Sometimes You Just Need to Let Them Go
There’s going to be a time when there’s just not enough time to dig a hole. Sometimes you just need to just let it fly. Try to get as far away from the trail as possible, but you never know how long they can hold it. If a child has to go let them go, don’t make a kid poop their pants. You can always dig a hole and knock it in with a stick afterwards.
7)Teach Them How to Brace
Young children can typically get down into a squat position without much help. They just squat, aim(badly), and poop. It’s not rocket science! Others need some help getting comfortable(usually older kids).
Teach your kid how to use the tree trunk method to pee or poop. Just find a slim tree, grab the drink, lean back, squat down and let loose. This is a natural movement that most children can do.
If for some reason this just isn’t happening, find a fallen tree to sit on and help them hang their rear end off and go for it.