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Don’t panic – just remember the seven Ds
AN EARLY EXPERIENCE participating in National Outdoor Leadership School equipped Jane with a useful alternative to the panicked tendency to stockpile toilet paper. Even so, Jane did a little stockpiling, but perhaps skipped the panic part.


VIOLA - When you’re deep in the woods on an adventure and nature calls, what do you do?

Defecating in the privacy of your own bathroom can be relaxing, while defecating outdoors may be anything but.

Recently, while people were scrambling to stockpile toilet paper, I started cutting old flannel sheets into little squares. I know we don’t need toilet paper, and I know we don’t needlittle squares of flannel either. 

In 2011, I participated in a month-long National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) course where we weren't allowed to bring any toilet paper. Instead they taught us the seven Ds of pooping in the woods.

1. Desire. The number one rule of pooping in the woods is to act quickly when you first notice your desire to defecate. Not everyone can hold it indefinitely. Those who begin preparing the minute the desire hits will have the best outcome.

2. Device. When that call comes, start searching for devices you can use in place of toilet paper. The list is long, as nature provides plenty of clever possibilities. My favorites are sticks (without branches), smooth rocks, and pine cones. You’ll also need a digging device, but if you don’t have a trowel you can use a solid stick or, if the dirt is soft, your hands.

3. Distance. One good reason to begin this process when you first feel the desire is you’ll need to go a distance of at least 200 feet (70 steps) from any water sources. This is not the time to dawdle.

4. Dig. Dig yourself a hole anywhere from four- to eight-inches deep, depending on the dryness of the dirt. The diameter needs to be wide enough to catch your deposit. Don’t skimp on the depth or the diameter. Everything, including your devices, needs to end up in this hole.

5. Deposit. Do the deed. I prefer a low squat, but many people find it helpful to hold on to a tree with both hands and lean back and down. Make sure your aim is on target. Sitting on a sturdy log with your buttocks hanging off can be as relaxing as using your toilet at home. 

After you’ve done it, use your device for one swipe, front to back, and drop it in the hole. If you’re using a pine cone, make sure the needles are pointing away from your rear when you swipe, so you don’t poke yourself. Same goes for sticks. Soft leaves tend to be popular but they tear easily. If you’re going to use leaves, make sure you know what poison ivy looks like.

6. Disguise. Leave no trace. Cover the hole with dirt and disguise the top with pine needle, branches, leaves, whatever you can, to make it look like nothing happened. Be creative.

7. Disinfect. Carrying a small bottle of hand sanitizer is helpful. You can also carry biodegradable soap and use the water in your water bottle to wash.

On backpacking trips where you’re out for days at a time, some people add another D: Describe. Don’t do it! No one’s demanding the details. A smile and a fast thumbs-up are all that’s needed.

Bears and other creatures have an easy time pooping in the woods, and now, if you’re out there for any length of time, you’ll know just what to do. 

And next time there’s a toilet paper shortage, don’t panic. Simply remember your seven Ds.