When nature calls (an article from Trail magazine)


Discussing the call of nature on the hill may not be your classic dinner table topic, but it’s the one thing everyone new to walking should, and secretly wants to, know about. So, brace yourself for Trail’s most down-to-earth advice.


Where to go


If at all possible use the loo at the B&B, pub etc. prior to setting out on a walk, and if you come across one along the way, take advantage of it, if you can.


When choosing a suitable place in the wilds, find somewhere out in the open, where the soil is deep. The idea is that you’re discreet, so avoid mountain summits, plateaux, caves, the bottom of crags, footpaths and areas near buildings — go at least 50 metres from paths and 200 metres from crags and buildings.  Most importantly, made sure you’re at least 30 metres away from lakes, rivers or streams, so that you can’t pollute the water.


Waste disposal


Number twos decompose fastest when covered with soil and leaf mould, so bury your treasure by digging a 15cm deep hole. Afterwards, fill the hole in. A small hand trowel is ideal for this, but if blessed with the footie skills of Ryan Giggs, you could use your boot.


If the ground is too hard, spread the offending matter thinly using a trowel or small rock, and cover it in soil, vegetation or rocks. However, make sure air can circulate to break it down, so avoid creating your own majestic cairn.


In a white-out, remember the snow will eventually melt, so imagine it isn’t even there and dig below it.




You can burn toilet paper, but do so with restraint, especially near woods and forests in a dry summer, to avoid starting a full-scale fire. If in doubt, carry it home with you in a plastic bag. Do not bury your used toilet paper, thank you.


Now with wings (Male readers look away)


Women’s hygiene products take a long time to break down, so they shouldn’t be buried. There’s also the risk an animal could dig them up. So place sanitary products in self-sealing plastic bags inside a small secure container so that you can dispose of them once back in civilisation. 


If you’re too squeamish for this, the alternative is to reschedule your trips to the hills to avoid the clash of appointments!


Now wash your hands


Use a biodegradable soap, but not in a stream or lake. Instead, collect some water in a cup or bowl and dispose of it away from the clean water source. Alternatively use one of the new water-free soaps, such as Lifeventure’s Dry Wash, £3.50. For stockists' tel. (01189) 811433.


Further reading


Brace yourselves — How to Shit in the Woods by Kathleen Meyer, pb Ten Speed Press.  The world’s most readable book on human sanitation!  It’s explicit, very funny and the advice is sound.  Recommended.


Where to ‘go’ in the Outdoors is a leaflet written and published by the Mountaineering Council of Scotland. Ifs available from MCofS, 4a St Catherine’s Road, Perth PHI 55E— tel. (01738) 638227.