Things Guys Should Know, Vol. 3: How to go to the bathroom outside

Things Guys Should Know logoHere’s a skill you’ll want to learn well before nature calls on you to use it.

I’m talking about how to go to the bathroom outside — you know, when no actual bathroom is nearby. It’s an important guy skill because, as the Boy Scout Handbook tactfully puts it, “getting rid of human waste outdoors requires special care.”

Or as I put it: When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta know how to do it right.

That makes this the perfect subject of Vol. 3 of my Things Guys Should Know series. (Some might say this would’ve been better for post No. 2, but of course I would never make such a distasteful joke myself.)

Read on to learn this essential skill for being a guy — or girl.

Leave No Trace

The third of seven Leave No Trace principles is to “Dispose of Waste Properly.”

That means when there are no restrooms or outhouses nearby, you should follow the guidance of local land managers about how to dispose of human waste.

More often than not, they’ll tell you to dig a cathole or latrine.

How to dig a cathole

  1. Find a spot 200 feet (about 75 steps) from water, campsites and trails.
  2. Dig a hole 6 to 8 inches deep with your heel, a stick or a trowel.
  3. “Go.”
  4. Refill the cathole with soil.
  5. Replace pine needles, leaves or other ground cover.
  6. Push a stick into the ground to warn others that they do not want to dig here.
  7. Use hand sanitizer or wash your hands with warm soapy water.


Nature does its job

Organisms in the topsoil will safely break down the waste. As for the toilet paper, if it’s biodegradable it’ll get broken down, too.

Be sure to check with land managers to learn the preferred method for disposing of T.P.

Learn from the Handbook

Like much of what guys should know, “how to go to the bathroom outside” is covered in the Boy Scout Handbook. You’ll want pages 249 and 250, which I’ve supplied below (click to enlarge):



About this series

Things Guys Should Know is an ongoing series about those essential life skills every guy should have in his arsenal.

Cool thing is, everything in the series is a skill a guy learns in Scouting. Maybe he picks it up while spending time outdoors with his troop, team or crew. Or maybe he learned it while earning a merit badge or reading the Boy Scout Handbook or Boys’ Life magazine. Either way, Scouting helped him learn this skill that helps him become better Prepared. For Life.

See all of the Things Guys Should Know here. And leave a comment if you think of a skill guys should know (and learn in Scouting) that I should cover in a future edition.

Hat tip: That awesome Things Guys Should Know illustration is by Kevin Hurley.

About Bryan Wendell 3282 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.