Camping in the wild is a wonderful way to connect with nature, escaping the hustle and bustle of modern life. However, maintaining the cleanliness and beauty of nature is a responsibility we all share. This includes effectively managing our bathroom and bathing duties to ensure we leave no trace. Here are some practical guidelines on how to do just that.

Wild Camping: Leaving No Trace

The first rule of wild camping is to leave no trace. This principle emphasizes respect for nature and its preservation. The idea is simple: take only photos, leave only footprints. This rule is not limited to litter but extends to our bathroom and bathing activities. Leaving human waste improperly disposed of can be harmful to the local fauna and flora and pose health risks.

Bathroom Duties in Nature

Solid Waste Disposal

When nature calls, it is essential to do so responsibly. Start by digging a cathole about 6-8 inches deep and 4-6 inches in diameter, at least 200 feet from any water source, campsite, or trail to prevent contamination. After use, cover and disguise the cathole with natural materials.

In some areas with high usage or fragile environments (like desert areas where decomposition is slow), even this method might not be sustainable. In such cases, consider using a portable travel toilet or a “wag bag” (a portable, hygienic toilet replacement), which you can pack out your waste in.


Urination can have a substantial impact on vegetation and water sources, so it is also necessary to be careful. Try to urinate on rocks, pine needles, or gravel rather than vegetation, as these surfaces are less likely to be harmed. Like with solid waste, make sure you’re at least 200 feet from any water source.

Menstrual Waste

For menstrual waste, reusable menstrual products are the most sustainable choice. However, if you opt for disposable products, make sure you pack out all used items in a sealed bag to dispose of properly later.

Bathing Duties in Nature

When it comes to bathing, a “dry bath” with biodegradable wipes is a practical and eco-friendly option. But if you do decide to use water:

  1. Use biodegradable soap: Regular soaps contain chemicals that can harm wildlife and pollute water sources. Choose biodegradable soaps or camping-specific soaps. But remember, even biodegradable soap can be harmful if used directly in a water source.
  2. 200 feet rule: Just as with bathroom duties, make sure you are at least 200 feet away from any water source to prevent soap and dirt from contaminating it.
  3. Use minimal water: A little water goes a long way. Use a sponge or a washcloth to scrub yourself, limiting the amount of water needed.
  4. Don’t rinse in water sources: Pour your used wash water (or greywater) into a cathole or spread it over a wide area to minimize impact. Do not rinse yourself or dump greywater directly into rivers, lakes, or streams.

Disposing of Trash

Finally, any trash you generate during your camping trip, including toilet paper, should be packed out. Carry sealable bags to contain trash until you can dispose of it properly in designated facilities.

Embracing the beauty of the wild comes with a responsibility to preserve that beauty for generations to come. As wild campers, we have a duty to leave no trace, maintaining the health and integrity of these beautiful environments. Understanding and effectively managing our bathroom and bathing duties in nature are essential aspects of that responsibility. Remember, the aim is to leave nature just as you found it, if not better.

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