Three of the most common mistakes I see the inexperienced make concern where they defecate, personal bathing, and pot washing. I'll comment on the first one here.
Everyone should be given the book How To Shit In the Woods
and be required to read it before heading out. In fact every hiker should be required to read this little gem of a book. I have personal friends who have many years of outdoors experience and should be ashamed of their bad ‘poop' habits. There is nothing worse than travelling along a trail that is frequently used, both in winter or summer, and having to dodge piles and paper scattered along the edge of the trail. In the spring after the snow melts some trails are worse than going to the local dog park! The least people can do is move off the trail a few metres and take their paper home with them.
So what to do:
For both day-hiking and backpack trips I carry a ‘Toilet Kit' which is a heavy duty freezer Ziplock bag, 18cm x 20cm, that contains TP paper, a couple light weight ziplock sandwich bags, 16cm x 15cm, to put soiled TP paper into, and antibacterial hand cleanser. Coghlan's makes a non-alcohol, fragrance free, waterless hand sanitizer that can be purchased at most outdoors equipment stores. It comes in a small container that is light weight and the perfect pack size. I find the regular antibacterial hand sanitizers to have a strong fragrance that is too attractive to mosquitoes and animals that come sniffing around the tent at night... The amount of paper and number of ziplocks for used paper depends on the length of the trip.
An individual should choose a spot at least four metres from the trail, make a hole about 15cm/6inches deep using your boot, a stick or rock, do the deed, and then kick dirt back over the hole (my favourite is to roll a rock over, do the dirty deed, and roll it back into place). If the hole is too deep the waste will never decompose and if too shallow it can be smelly in a high use area. A nice courtesy is to place two crossed sticks above your spot so someone else doesn't disturb it… Before I drop my shorts I make sure I've got the TP paper ready (a stick or stone on it if it is windy
, a small zip lock open with the edge rolled back to make inserting the soiled paper easier (underneath the TP and stick…). Since the bugs usually see this as an opportunity to get at some flesh they rarely see one needs to be quick! After you wipe, just fold the paper over and stuff it into the ziplock, pull up your shorts, seal the soiled paper ziplock, stuff it back in the Toilet Kit, take a squirt of hand sanitizer and rub your hands clean, close up the Toilet kit and place it back in your pack, backfill the hole and mark it with sticks or a couple stones. Job well done!
While camping choosing a ‘Toilet' spot can be a little more troublesome. Also, the larger the party the more complicated the issue becomes. And camping in popular areas things can great downright messy. Hopefully by that point someone has dug a community pit that everyone uses.
With groups up to four people it is not so much of an issue. Just be 100 metres from the campsite, 20 to 30 metres from any water and make sure your spot is well marked with sticks or stones. If you are at the same campsite for a few days try to use the same spot to lessen the impact on the area. Do not urinate near the campsite! The salt in your urine can be more attractive to animals than food… nothing worse than a sleepless night because someone is too lazy to walk a 100 metres.
With larger groups, 5-10+ persons, it is necessary to find and designate a camp toilet that everyone uses. It is best if there is one spot for urinating and a solid waste pit is dug. And everyone uses this spot only! A little dirt is sprinkled on top with every use. Everyone packs out their own soiled paper! Yes, I know community toilets are gross, and it's difficult to get people to cooperate, etc, but this is the best way to do it. Can you imagine what a place like Semaphore Lakes will be like if more and more people start going there! Just deal with it.