Wilderness Bidet: a tidy poop system!

I think all hikers can agree that there's nothing worse than seeing used toilet paper wads along the trail. The solution? Pack it out or better still, leave it at home. Remember to protect water sources by doing your business 200 feet/60meters away.

The Wilderness Bidet
1. fill a 1liter Platypus Soft Bottle (equipped with pop-out nozzle top.)
bite valve won't work!
2. bring soap, hand sanitizer & trowel on a hike to  find a good secluded spot where you can dig a hole from 5 to 6 inches deep.
3. drop pants to just above your knee (this keeps em out of the way),  feet shoulder-width apart, do your business in the hole
4. position squeeze bottle upside just below the small of your back and give your butt one or two vigorous SQUIRTs! smile broadly.
5. cup your hand in front of you, fill with water and splash wipe what *very-little* poo may remain. Use soap and more water if necessary.
6. take a stick or small twig and add a little dirt and stir it up a bit to start the decomposition process. cover completely with dirt. with your foot tamp down and scatter things over it so it appears undisturbed and natural.
7. Use your hand sanitizer, passing one finger nail under the others to be extra safe

1. fill water scoop or water container (water does not need to be filtered).
2. bring soap, hand sanitizer & trowel on a hike to find a good secluded spot where you can dig a hole from 5 to 6 inches deep. also look for a rock to sit on for cleaning up.
3. dig hole, pop a squat and do your business in the hole
4. with your trousers down, waddle over to your rock and sit down
5. lean back and pour water front to back to clean yourself. take a little biodegradable soap (like bronners) and give yourself a good wash. rinse yourself front to back. pull pants up!
6. go back to hole and take a stick or small twig and add a little dirt stir it up a bit to start the decomposition process. then cover completely with dirt. with your foot tamp down your filled cat hole and scatter things over it so it appears undisturbed and natural.
7. wash hands with a little soap and let the water go over the cat hole. Use your hand sanitizer.

Here's some TP fun fact links:
TP history notes - here, here and here.
How to Shit in the Woods.


  1. We accidentally left the comments option off for this page. Now fixed, I want to copy over this great discussion from http://groups.yahoo.com/group/johnmuirtrail/message/11403

    I've been thinking about the "bidet" approach to trail sanitation (see link in Don's posting below). It's worth reading the proposal, if only to know an option if you "run" out of toilet paper. I try to carry plenty, but there have been times ...

    But I think it's a bad idea if you have other options. Your biggest GI health problem on the trail (at least for those who travel with others) is not the water you take from streams. It's getting something in your gut that makes you sick that came from someone's else's gut (who may well not be sick). The traditional method of toilet paper, hand washing and sanitizer will protect your group-mates from bugs that you have in your gut -- bugs that you tolerate but which they may not.

    I agree that the suggested method, if combined with hand washing and sanitizer use, probably will leave your hands clean as you re-join the trail. My concern is that the water used in the "bidet" method is likely to get on your pants, boots, etc. Assume you clean your hands carefully. But if you get into camp and take off your boots, and they had bidet water splashed on them, your hands are now again infected. Or you brush a mosquito away from your socks or pants bottoms. Are you confident that you will remember to re-sanitize your hands before you help prepare dinner? If you forget, there is a good chance yo just created a vector for GI tract infection of your camp-mates - e.g., bidet water to socks to hands to food.

    Not as important, but worth thinking about: The socks and shoes that have splashes of bidet water will probably rock-hop across the next stream, creating disease risks for downstream users.

    It's really not that hard to carry an adequate amount of TP. And it's not that hard to pack it out. Bring a tweezers to pick it up, if you want. If you are like most people, you will have plenty of empty Ziplocks that used to hold food that now can hold your used TP. Yes, it will gross you out for a while. Then you will get used to it.

    One important qualification if you do use the "bidet" system proposed in the link. Author suggests using hand sanitizer at the end of his recommended process but fails to mention that hand sanitizer is notoriously ineffective on hands that are dirty, especially ones with any visible dirt. (For some reason, he suggests that women wash their hands with soap, but doesn't suggest it for us guys.) Any dirt on your hands will render the sanitizer largely ineffective. Use soap and water (and vigorous scrubbing) to clean your hands. After your hands are clean, then sanitizer is great to remove any bugs that remain. Soap, water and scrubbing provide the main line of defense - sanitizer is an extra precaution.

    Sorry to be such a scold.
    John Curran Ladd

  2. and Pilastr's response....

    I'm glad some folks are willing to talk in detail about this topic because taboo
    tends to drive (or drive away) too much basic information.

    I hear your concerns about inadvertent contamination but have to point out that
    *all* your concerns hold equally true for t.p. as for bidet. In fact, I'd say
    handling toilet paper, tweezers or not, poses more opportunity for inadvertent
    contamination than the bidet system. The bidet is not an uncontrolled hose-down,
    in fact anatomy seems to form a natural channel by which the water goes right
    when it needs to. Kind of beautiful actually. Try it and you'll see why *the
    majority* of human populations on earth rely on the bidet.

    The more likely scenario for pant, sock, sleeve, or shoe contamination has to do
    with whether your bowel movement is more splatter than solid in which case I'd
    argue the bidet is preferable to t.p. since passing your hand, wrist and arm
    repeatedly past your blindside buttocks, thighs and (as the kids call it) your
    junk, presents far more opportunity for inadvertent contamination. Said most
    simply, where there are more surfaces, there are more chances for inadvertent
    transfer. Until this year, I was a lifelong t.p.-er (though never an
    oven-mitt-er) I adhered to the 4-6 sheet carefully folded, not bunched, t.p.
    method. I now have to confess that inadvertent contamination happens far more
    readily with t.p. than with bidet.

    Here it is, in short. The worst thing about t.p. isn't just that people leave it
    behind. Rather, by design, t.p smears the feces that would otherwise fall to the
    ground in tidy, globular fashion. What's more, the last bidet flush can angled
    so that water "gets up in there" in a way far more efficient than t.p. I really
    think this is the part lifelong t.p.-ers tend not to visualize. But try it and

    As for soap vs sanitizer, the male/female versions on our blog were written by
    one male and one female. The male, moi, reduced and eventually eliminated use of
    soap after realizing that the *occasional* minuscule trace of feces not already
    cleared away by a 3/4 liter flush of water, was further separated from my
    fingers by a water barrier: the action being an H20 puddle in the palm, a
    reach-back flash-splashing swipe or two, then flush any remaining water across
    the hand. Finally, a careful, very thorough use of hand sanitizer.

    Anyway, to each his and her own. I'll just end by going over the top to declare:
    Pooping in the wilderness is surely the most universal and accessible glory,
    inexpensive and unheralded joy afforded to our species, or any other. Sully

  3. I'm a fan of this system. It took getting used to, but once I got the hang of it the benefits were clear.

    I understand the concern for getting bidet water on clothing, and despite Pilastr's excellent tutelage, was never confident with the proper angle and forceful application of water that I could avoid dirtying one or all of my few precious clothing items. Thusly, upon selecting my remote cat hole location, as embarrassing as this may seem to confess, I commenced to remove all articles and embarked upon my release in the radiant glory of my birthday suit. Total freedom!! Woooot! Laugh all you want. I certainly was.

    The benefit was obviously that I could go as crazy as I wanted to with the spraying, free to adjust my aim without concern, and was never short of satisfied with the result (unless, God forbid, I ran out of water first (happened only once)). When possible I employed the use of a leaf or two to assist in step 5, which I found helpful but not necessary.

    The downside of my personal developed style is that the whole process took me about a half hour. Luckily when inspiration struck me I was never pressed for time, and as Pilastr points out in his comments, pooping in the woods is really awesome once you get used to it. I came to enjoy the ritual, savoring the solitude, beautiful scenery, and taking my own damn sweet time.

    Another pitfall, which Pilastr and Lucy will surely scoff at since it further exposes the fact that I'm a total wuss, is that sometimes that spray of water was frickin' cold on my exposed special parts, especially in the morning. The shock only ever lasts a second though, and the benefits of the system far outweigh these petty issues. Outside of not having to tote around gross dirty toilet paper, which is also gross to leave in a garbage can in my opinion, I began to feel that I emerged from my interlude cleaner than I would have with the usual wipe. It's not hard to clean your hands after, and honestly I probably cleaned my hands better that I would have otherwise since toilet paper seems to give one the illusion of increased sanitation. A small bit of effort is all that is required to maintain more than adequate sanitation. Also, any trace of "contamination" my boots may have encountered from movement around the cat hole was surely rubbed out by the time I hoofed it back to camp, and there's really no chance anything ever found its way into a stream or other water source either. If I was to improve the system I would go with a smaller spray nozzle on the bottle to get a more forceful spray, and might go with straight alcohol rather than sanitizing lotion. Alcohol can be handy for other things if needed, and I tend to not like the sticky weird feeling of the lotion. But that's just nit-picky stuff. I'd be curious to try the female version, or a combination of the two, on my next outing. Lucy had a gallon water jug with a big hole in the top, and I can imagine the volume of water available would be beneficial. It's pretty near to taking a shower, and I don't know how you could be any cleaner than that outside of bleaching or boiling yourself.

    I'd also like to add that I like the idea of other hikers not having any toilet paper at all, since despite my tendency to trust other outdoor enthusiasts by virtue of our shared passion for natural beauty, I cannot count how many times a fantastic scene has been sullied by the unwelcome sight of some lazy chump's used tissue that has been left behind. It seems that when some of us are alone, we have the impression the rules don't really apply since, after all, who is there to catch us? If it was up to me there would be no toilet tissue permitted in the Sierra outside of established restrooms. Harumph!

  4. Amazon sells a 1.1 oz bidet that works great and is specifically made for this purpose.