Don't Be Shitty
Imagine it: it’s morning, and you’re headed out for a trail run. Because you love yourself and you’re a stone cold badass, you’re making a breakfast smoothie to drink in the car on the way to the trailhead— and hey, let’s pour a little cold brew in there, why not?
The weather is perfect, a late fall morning with the smell of frost in the air, the crunch of your shoes against dirt and gravel and your skin hot against the cold air. You run up into the foothills, the single track snaking its way towards the summit, and then all of sudden it hits you. This? This is urgent. The combination of cardio and coffee has conspired to bring you the brink of a very dark place— if you don’t find a place to poop in the next two minutes, something grim is going to happen.
Or maybe this: you’re rock climbing, and things are a little spicier than you had hoped for. Two pitches into a full-day adventure, the climbing is harder and the rock quality is worse than expected. At a hanging belay, staring up at your buddy questing into the unknown above you while an occasional rock pings off your helmet, you think back to this morning—your partner behind the steering wheel and pop music on the stereo, the sun just starting to rise behind the mountains. You think back to the 16 ounces of black coffee and enormous breakfast burrito that you consumed over the course of the 30 minute drive.
It’s barely 10am. Your partner is taking forever, now fiddling with their gear below a miserable looking roof. And your breakfast, slowly but surely, is catching up with you. You glance around, hoping— desperately — for a ledge. There is no ledge. Soon, you will be pooping, The only remaining questions? Where. And how.
At the bases of crags, behind likely-looking boulders, and in shady forest glens across America, there’s an epidemic afoot— surface turds, poop rocks, and tufts of fluttering toilet paper, the grim refuse of a community unwilling to talk or think about our shitty habits. Some of this bad behavior comes from ignorance or ambivalence— but even the best backcountry poopers among us have had experiences where, by god, this is an emergency. There’s no time to scrap around for a sharp-ish rock to dig a hole with, and certainly no possibility of holding it in. It’s happening.
So, when it happens, I’d like to recommend that we acquire some tools. They're not expensive or heavy, but having some resources around makes us all far more likely to do the right thing when nature calls. And hey, if you're looking for a New Year's resolution, consider this one: don't be shitty. Invest in the tools you need to deal with your backcountry poops responsibly. And don't forget to enjoy the view.
A Few Solutions
Option 1: Stop drinking coffee.
No, I’m sorry, that’s insane. Let’s try something else.
Option 2: Buy some stuff.
I know: pooping is free. You do it every day (if you’re lucky,) and buying special equipment to manage the whole process can feel a little ridiculous. But guess what? You're in the wilderness now. And in the wilderness, pooping responsibly requires some investment.
The Deuce of Spades is a very snazzy trowel-- so snazzy, in fact, that you will actually use it. When I was a kid, our camping bathroom kit was a roll of toilet paper and a massive, heavy, plastic-handled garden trowel, identical to the one my mom would use to dig tulip bulbs. But that was years ago, and now we live in the future, where you can buy a poop shovel that weighs as much as 3 teaspoons of water. So, join the network of insurgents attempting to reduce the global pandemic of surface turds, and start carrying a reasonable mini-shovel. With a trowel in hand, you can finally start digging a hole 6 - 8" deep like god and Leave No Trace ethics intended, instead of just putting a rock on top of your poop, which, contrary to popular belief, is not the same thing as burying it.
Wag bags are bags that you poop in. They usually come with a little hand sanitizer wipe and a prodigious amount of toilet paper, and have special chemicals at the bottom that turn liquids to solids. They are a great place to put your poop, as long as you remember to zip them up really well, because you're not going to be stoked about leakage. Wag bags do involve a lot of plastic waste, but the truly bold can use them more than once, and the're one of the only real ways to leave no trace in the landscapes we love to explore (besides holding it in for days at a time, which I do not endorse.)