Toilet in the bush

Image: DOC

Introduction

Find out how to dispose of your poo responsibly where toilets aren’t provided.

Highlights

Toilets are provided at every DOC hut and formal backcountry campsite so please use them.

In this section

Never say no to a loo

Use the toilet before you go exploring and never miss an opportunity to use a loo when you see one – there can be some distance between toilets in our wild places.

That’s how we visit the Kiwi way.

Poo can make people sick

Human faeces carry micro-organisms that easily contaminate water sources. Leaving your poo in a natural area can contaminate water and soil and spread diseases such as giardiasis.

Your options when there’s no toilet

If possible, wait till you reach a toilet, especially if you’re above the bushline where decomposition takes much longer. If you really must go, be prepared to use one of these options:

Option 1: Dig a hole well away from people and water

Pack a trowel when you’re going on a longer walk and follow these steps to help your poo decompose quickly and safely.

Before you poo
  1. Walk at least 70 steps (50 m) away from water, tracks and campsites, being careful not to get lost.
  2. Choose a sunny spot if you can – warmth speeds up decomposition.
  3. Dig down 15–20 cm – about the distance from your wrist to fingertips.
After you poo:
  1. Wipe with either:
    • soft leaves, snow, bark or a rock
    • toilet paper – unbleached and unperfumed (pack it out or put it in the hole, but don’t burn it).
  2. Cover your poo with soil and leaves, filling the hole to the top.
  3. Wash or disinfect your hands.

If you’re camping for more than one night or in a large group, agree on a single toilet place and dig a hole deep enough to cope with the likely waste.

Option 2: Carry it to the next long drop

Use a compostable bag to get your poo from the bush to the next composting or long-drop toilet. You’ll feel good knowing you protected the environment and left no trace.

You’ll need a leak-proof container called a poo pot (or poo tube) to carry the filled bag.

How to use a poo pot:

  1. Deposit your poo into a compostable bag.
  2. Knot the bag closed, place it carefully into your poo pot and seal with the lid.
  3. Wash or disinfect your hands.
  4. At the next composting or long-drop toilet, empty the contents of your poo pot into the hole and wash or disinfect your hands. Make sure it's not a containment vault toilet – these look like long drops but have a hatch out the back for pumping out waste.
  5. Carry your poo to the end of your trip – there are no other places to dispose of bagged waste safely.
  6. When you get home, wash and disinfect your poo pot for reuse.

You’ll need a large poo tube when camping in snowy, rocky or swampy areas, or when caving or rock climbing. Poo tubes can become heavy on longer trips – take note of suitable hut locations when planning a backcountry route so you can offload. Call the local DOC office if you're not sure which kind of toilets are present.

How to make your own poo tube: Go to a plumbing or hardware shop and get a large diameter PVC pipe and pipe ends. Attach screw caps to each end.  Glue one end shut and tape on some webbing for easy carrying.

Don't put your poo in these places

Flush-style toilets get blocked by bags.

Containment-vault toilets get blocked by bags when they’re being pumped out.

Motor-home dump stations get blocked by bags when they’re being pumped out.

Rubbish bins and landfills are unsafe places to put human waste (unless the waste is fully treated with waste-composting powder, available with some poo bag products).

Your garden is an unsafe place to put human waste.

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