Department of Environmental Conservation

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Disposing of Human Waste Outdoors

Help keep our trails safe and clean-dispose of waste properly

Human waste can have many negative impacts on health, the quality of an outdoor experience, and the environment, especially in high-use areas. Keep hiking trails safe and enjoyable by properly disposing of human waste.

Watch our video on How To Poop In the Woods and check out other clips at DEC's YouTube Channel.


  • Human waste contains disease-causing bacteria and viruses.
  • Defecating near water can contaminate drinking water and spread diseases among humans and wildlife.
  • Human waste attracts disease-spreading insects and wildlife.
  • Seeing and smelling human waste degrades the recreational experience.

Properly Disposing of Waste

Bathroom Facilities

The best method to dispose of human waste is to use facilities designed for this purpose.

  • Use a bathroom before you arrive at the trailhead.
  • If available, use the portable toilets or pit privies located near the trailhead.
  • Check for the location of pit privies along your route and plan to use them.

If there are no pit privies nearby, you will need to create and use a cat-hole:

  • Go off the trail far enough to be out of view from the trail and away from water, 200 feet if possible.
  • Scrape off the top layer of duff (leaves, needles, and twigs) to form a bare area about 12-18 inches in diameter.
  • Use a digging tool or the heel of your boot to dig a hole 6-8 inches deep. Do your business in the hole, drop the used toilet paper on top of it, and refill the hole with the soil you removed.
  • Push the duff back over the exposed soil and tamp it down with your foot.
Other Wastes
  • Urinate on rocks, pine needles, or gravel instead of on vegetation. Wildlife are attracted to the salt in urine and may feed on plants and damage them.
  • Use plain, non-perfumed toilet paper. Either bury in a cat-hole or pack it out in a plastic bag.
  • Place feminine hygiene products in a plastic bag and carry them out. These products do not decompose easily.

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