It would be a sad day if we found toilets dotted all over the countryside when we're walking and camping. It's never going to happen so we need to address the issues of 'personal waste management' positively and practically. For most of us, the problem is 'where to go' but it's what you leave behind that matters. None of us would enjoy scraps of toilet paper blowing across our path or munching a sandwich next to somebody's outdoor loo. There are various methods of dealing with human waste in the outdoors that are suitable for multi-day excursions. For single days outdoors, a good, if unpopular, method is to carry out what you carried in for disposal later. The best, of course, is to plan ahead and avoid the need to do so.
- It may sound obvious but be discreet by picking a private spot that is considerate of other people living, working or just enjoying the outdoors.
- Remember that running water may be the water supply for a house that's out of sight. Make sure you are at least 30m away from any running or apparently still water when you pick your loo site.
- That loo should also be at least 50m from paths and 200m from huts and bothies. Where possible, dig a 15cm deep hole with a small trowel and bury your poo.
- If you can't dig a hole, spreading it thinly with a covering of soil and/or loose leaves and vegetation, helps the process of breaking down the poo. Digging or spreading in areas of sensitive vegetation should be avoided.
- Squashing poo under a rock to hide it will slow decomposition and should be avoided. If other techniques can’t be used then allow air to circulate by leaving a gap between rock and poo.
- Consider using loose natural materials instead of toilet paper.
- If you do use toilet paper, even biodegradable, then pack it out in a plastic bag. Burning it is a fire hazard and burying it is not acceptable as it slows down decomposition.
- Burying tampons and sanitary towels is not a reliable way to dispose of them as they take so long to decompose and animals may unearth them so it's best to pack them out using a secure container.
- As the results of an upset stomach in remote areas can be more serious than at home, it is absolutely vital to wash your hands after a loo break. If you use a biodegradable soap, don't use it directly in running or still water; hand gel which needs no water is easily available these days in supermarkets and can be carried in a small bottle.
- Where feasible, use a proper toilet when you find it.