I normally squat over my hole and poop directly into it. If you care to get creative, you can straddle a fork in a downed tree, prop yourself with an assist such as a rock or log, or “orangutan hang” from a tree branch.
Sometimes the terrain around the hole is such that it’s easier to poop nearby and transport it. But this can be risky — it’s difficult to transport loose BM’s that seem to be common when on a backpacking diet.
It’s okay to use toilet paper or even wet wipes — if you take appropriate action afterwards.
Personally, I only use one to two squares of TP, at the end of the process to simply “polish the rearview mirror.” For the heavy lifting at the start, I use natural materials, which are in infinite supply and which help reduce my impact. Examples:
- Smooth rocks,
- Bark-less sticks,
- Leaves, and
- Snowballs, which Mike Clelland rightly describes as, “being kissed by the wings of an angel.”
Going sans-TP is ideal and admirable. YMMV.
Several options exist for the disposal of dirty toilet paper.
1. Pack it out
This is the best option. Put the TP in a discarded sandwich bag, and put that bag inside of another bag. Throw out this TP bag when you reach the trailhead, or burn it in a hot campfire.
2. Burn it.
Due mostly to wildfire concerns, this tactic is rarely an official recommendation. But use your discretion — there would seem to be little risk in burning toilet paper on a winter camping trip in the Colorado Rockies, on an Escalante bench amidst a sea of sand, or on a rainy day in the Appalachians.
Another valid concern about burning TP is that it must be burned thoroughly. Unfold or unroll it with two sticks, and then suspend it in air as it burns. Pack out or bury TP that did not burn completely.
3. Bury it.
This is the worst option, but the most common. It takes weeks for toilet paper to decompose under favorable conditions, and much longer in arid environments. The more toilet paper used, the longer it takes to break down.
Due to their plastic content, most wet wipes will not fully decompose. They must be packed out. The exception is “biodegradable” wipes, which are made entirely of natural materials like paper or cotton.
Those who use wet wipes claim it’s a better clean. That may be true relative to toilet paper, but it’s not as good as a backcountry bidet. Details soon.
Stir it up
Before covering the hole, mix the poop (and toilet paper, if you’re taking this route) with some dirt. This will accelerate decomposition, and make it more difficult for animals to dig up the poop for any undigested food bits. I’ve heard the end product referred to as “poop soup.”
Fill in the hole with the soil that was originally removed. Then, cover it more with nearby dirt and organic materials, in order to artificially increase the depth of the waste. If you start with a four-inch cathole and add two inches of new material, you achieve the recommended six-inch depth.
In high-use areas, mark the spot by inserting a stick into the hole, pointing conspicuously into the sky.
Alternatively, roll the rock back on top of the hole, or kick some snow over the platform.
Especially in a group setting, post-poop cleanup is extremely important. Many illnesses can be spread by the fecal-to-oral route, i.e. Person A poops on their hands and later prepares dinner for Person B. In a few days, Person B gets sick.
Soap and water is one option. But I find hand-sanitizer to be more convenient.