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If you poop in the woods when no one is around, does it still smell?

View while pooping at first campsite
It was no surprise to my friends and family when I finally pulled the trigger on my current Alaskan adventure. Was ready for a new challenge and had set myself up to make this plunge with various personal experiences, certifications, and educational courses. So when I finally shared the news that I was heading northwest for the summer, there were no jaw dropping moments or unbelieving stares; there was however a common denominator for most of those conversations. A simple question that was said in response. “So how are you going to poop in the woods?!”

Well my friends, here is your answer! After going through a training process and learning the ins and outs of our day trips, I was put on the schedule to shadow a 5-day overnight kayak camping expedition out to the remote region of Northwestern Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park. Now I could easily write for hours on the beauty of what I saw, but that’s not what you want so we’ll skip that boring crap and get to the important stuff: pooping in the woods!

Some of you have heard my stories of backpacking the Eastern Chugach Mountains last summer. Those were some hardcore pooping stories. Being at higher elevation put us in Grizzly Bear territory, which for safety purposes meant we were in groups of at least four people at all times and by all times, yes, I mean pooping times. After you get over the initial awkwardness, there was something amusing about four people spread out in the alpine tundra doing their best to multitask taking care of their business while avoiding the several bare butts that surrounded you.

Bathroom set up with tarp
But I digress, as that was another place and time. The lesson though is that your pooping habits on overnight trips change based on the environment you are in. Leave No Trace (LNT) ethics are used in the backcountry and an entire principle is dedicated to the tenet of “Disposing Your Waste Properly.” Up here in Kenai Fjords National Park, there is a strict Pack In/Pack Out philosophy, which means anything you take in with you, you must leave with and that includes solid human waste! So here is the step by step process in which we made the magic happen.
  1. Identify the spot for your bathroom. Important things to remember include having a place with a nice outlook for your viewing pleasure and best not to put the bathroom in a high traffic area as privacy helps the enjoyment factor.
  2. Put up a tarp. This especially helps on rainy days and is great at limiting the view of the casual beach walker in your group.
  3. Set up your toilet. This has great use on kayak camping trips as you can easily fit the toilet in your boat. Not recommended for backpacking trips.
  4. Open your wag bag.  Your wag bag is where you keep your crap after you are done. Inside each wag bag is a mini trash bag that you put over the toilet. They even put some of that stuff in the bag that helps solidify liquid material in case you are experiencing explosive diarrhea.
  5. Sit on toilet. Make sure you have a nice view.
  6. Poop. Important note: Do not rush this process. Enjoy it. Take in the moment and realize you are one of the few people in the history of the world to defecate in this spot. If you have a smart phone, there is a cool “Places I’ve Pooped” app that you can document the moment with.
  7. Clean up. Don’t forget your toilet paper and hand sanitizer on your trip. If you do, wet spruce or pine cones work just as well. Try not to use any vegetation as many may cause a rash on a place you probably don’t want one. Once you are finished, close up your wag bag (double check to be safe) and head on your way.
  8. Brag. As you walk past everybody carrying your wag bag, a common thing to do is brag how your wag bag is the largest and will weigh the most by the end of the trip. Everybody gets a good laugh. Ha.
What about the bears you ask? Well fortunately we were not in brown bear (Grizzly) territory so there was no need for group pooping. Bear spray is not a bad idea for any black bears that may head your way.

So there you have it. For those of you have asked directly and for the rest of you who were thinking it inside, you are welcome. Disclaimer: I recommend not doing this randomly outside where you live. You go to jail for that. But feel free to buy a wag bag, head out to the woods, and give it a shot. Just beware of bears!

View while pooping at second campsite.
My wag bag full of feces.
~ Danny