It is now a known fact: because of corona, people are looking for nature in large numbers due to a lack of alternatives. In the most famous places, there is an unprecedented rush of people and that brings with it the necessary problems. There are two things that irritate me - and most likely not only me - when I encounter them on a hike, namely rubbish and excrement. The latter is better known as poop, poo, turd, shit, kaka, shit, merde,... And that is what I want to talk about in this piece. Recently, there was a news article that brought the phenomenon to our attention again, about people shitting wherever they liked in the dunes of Knokke (Belgium).
And this is not a problem that is limited to Knokke or corona alone. If we want to enjoy nature in the future as we do now without paths, entire regions and/or bivouac zones being closed off to hikers and nature lovers, it's about time we all treated Mother Earth with a little more respect. I am not asking you to start hugging trees, but to be much more considerate in your dealings with nature. Not only is an open turd visually very unattractive, but it also has a significant impact on the environment (water and soil pollution, disturbed animal scent, spread of disease, etc.).
On the initiative of a few enthusiasts and manufacturers, the outdoor community has been applying the principles of "Leave No Trace" for almost 26 years. You can read more about the 7 principles on this link. For this article, the third principle is important: "Dispose of waste properly". In the first place this means our excrements. After all, if everyone starts defecating wherever they feel like it, the most beautiful places in hiking country transform into a public toilet. And that, of course, is not what we want.
If you have to go urgently and there is no toilet nearby, you will have to perform your "business" somewhere in nature. In itself, there is nothing wrong with that. However, it becomes a problem if you just leave everything, including toilet paper, lying around. What should you then? It's simple: bury it or take it with you.
Shitting in nature in 6 steps
Stay at least 60 metres away from any water point (river, lake, stream, etc.), bivouac area or footpath and make sure that you are well above the point where the water level is highest, so that your shit is not simply washed away at high tide.
Choose a spot that is not suitable for camping, e.g. between bushes and shrubs, so that nobody gets the idea of camping on top your toilet.
Dig a hole about 15 to 20 centimetres deep. You can try to dig the ground off in once piece so that you have a lid to put back on the hole. (Tips for trowels to achieve this are mentioned below).
After you have done your duty, mix it with a bit of soil that you have dug out so that the decomposition is accelerated. You can use a twig for this.
Then close the hole tightly and cover it with stones or branches.
Toilet paper can be thrown on the campfire or you can take it with you. If it is untreated paper, in the worst case you can bury it with the campfire. Do not burn toilet paper in the toilet hole, because before you know it you have started a forest fire.
But beware. Burying your poop is only an option if the ground allows it. In mountainous terrain with little vegetation, you may be able to bury your turd, but it will take a very long time for it to decompose completely, which is less good for the environment. In this case, it is better to carry everything to a rubbish can or bury it in a lower forest.
If you sleep in a bivouac zone and everyone stays in the immediate vicinity of the bivouac to go to the toilet, you will end up with a shit graveyard in no time. There is a good chance that you will dig up someone's poop. Therefore, go a bit further away from the bivouac, where there is little chance that someone has already planted a flag. Spreading is important.
What equipment do you need?
You don't need much to poop in nature. A small shovel (trowel), neutral toilet paper and a bag. Make sure you always have this in your pocket, also during day trips.
There is no need to bring a heavy gardening shovel from home. There are lightweight models on the market that are specifically designed for walkers. Here are some models that can be bought in Belgium and/or the Netherlands:
TheTentLab The Deuce (three models: #1, #2 en #3) Weight: 13, 17 of 27 gram
Price: €22,95 - €30,00
Vargo Titanium Dig Tool
Weight: 36 gram
Coghlan's Back Packers Trowel
Weight: 55 gram
Price: €3,45 - €3,95
Sea to Summit Pocket Trowel Nylon 66
Weight: 87 gram
When you use toilet paper that you want to leave in the hole, remember to use unscented, uncoloured and therefore untreated paper. This can be broken down by the earth much more easily than all the chemical stuff and you pollute less. Of course, it is still best to burn the paper on a campfire (not in the pit) or just carry it around. As a natural alternative to the paper, you can also think of using leaves, grass, stones or snow.
You can carry your poop and/or toilet paper in a sealable plastic bag if necessary. As an alternative to a plastic bag, you can use the empty packaging of a freeze-dried meal. These bags have a zip closing and therefore do not give off any unpleasant odours.
A reading tip
Anyone who wants to immerse themselves in the matter should definitely buy the book "How to shit in the woods" by Kathleen Meyer. In it, the author also explains the impact of excrement on the environment and the health of people and animals. The third edition of the book is available from Standaard Boekhandel and Paagman. Avoid Amazon!
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