How to poop in the outdoors || Part 4: The backcountry bidet

Most tutorials about pooping in the outdoors end with a butt wiping, a cover up of the cathole, and a hand-washing, as I covered in Part 3 of this series. But I will finish with something less conventional: the backcountry bidet.

If you would rather watch than read, view the video embedded above starting at 5:18.


Post-poop wiping with natural materials and/or toilet paper (TP) can achieve an acceptable level of cleanliness. I have been on many one- and two-night trips without feeling that this was inadequate.

But if personal hygiene stops there, nether regions never get “shower clean.” In particular, abrasives like dirt and dust, wiping material remnants, and fecal matter can remain in the zone. Flatulence can introduce more fecal matter between BM’s and cleanings.

The area will start to itch and feel, well, dirty. If not addressed, chafing will ensue, and escalate into “monkey butt,” a condition whereby red, irritated skin rings your butthole. Hopefully, your butt never looks as bad as this. Ouch.

In the long term, poor personal hygiene can lead to fungal infections. I have a personal experience to share on this one, but you’ll need to buy me a few beers before I go there.


Personally, I perform a bidet usually every other day. But I’m not a prolific sweater, and I tend to hike in drier climates. If I were to backpack extensively again in a warm and humid climate like the Appalachians in the summer, a daily bidet might be warranted.

Backcountry bidet preparation

Find a private location away from water. Take with you:

  • Water bottle with 20-32 oz of water
  • Soap (optional)
  • Hand sanitizer or soap

If the backcountry bidet is new to you, it may be worth removing a pant leg or two. Obviously, underwear needs to come off, too, or at least be dropped to the knees.


1. Designate your hands: one will be a dirty hand; the other, a clean hand. Commit to these designations until you’re done.

2. With the clean hand, tilt the bottle upwards and let water flow down your butt crack. Hard-sided bottles work best, but soft-sided Platypus bottles can work fine if held in a particular way. If you are using a squirt bottle, do not squirt “up” at the area, as this may contaminate your bottle.

Tilt the bottle upwards and let water flow down your crack. Scrub the area thoroughly; splashing is not sufficient.

Tilt the bottle upwards and let water flow down your crack. Scrub the area thoroughly; splashing is not sufficient.

3. While water is running down your crack, clean your butthole with your dirty hand. Splashing is not good enough. Scrub the area thoroughly.

If you would like to use soap, use it now. I have done the bidet with and without soap, and find no difference in the results.

4. If you used soap, rinse the area with the remainder of the bottle.


1. With your clean hand, squirt some hand sanitizer into your dirty hand. Conduct a one-hand wash.

2. Squirt again. Now do a two-hand wash.

3. Put your underwear and pants back on. And carry on with your day, now with a very clean underside.

Posted in on October 11, 2016


  1. Ted on October 11, 2016 at 11:34 am

    Important topic, very informative video–great stuff as always, Andrew. Thank you.

    I’ve never really seen this addressed in the plethora of how-to-live-on-the-trail articles/videos, but my problem is that I can’t squat, period. Like a lot of people, I’ve got knee issues and I just can’t do it. I rely on finding ‘poop logs’ that I can use to hang my backside over to facilitate the call of nature. Above treeline, I’m often, ahem, shit out of luck in finding something to help me ‘assume the position.’

    While I can usually manage the going part, the cleaning part is difficult. The back-country bidet is really unworkable for us non-squatters, unfortunately. Wet wipes are an option, but they’re more to carry, more to pack out, and are really good at just adding moisture and fragrance to the problem.

    If anybody has good solutions, I’d love to hear them.

    • Jeremy on October 11, 2016 at 12:39 pm

      Ted, have you tried using webbing wrapped around a tree or boulder like a sling? Create a loop and slide it up to your arm pits and lean back. Great alternative to the squat and finding the perfect log.

    • Joe Dawson on August 18, 2019 at 4:06 am

      I can’t squat either. Instead, I build a makeshift seat using a couple of logs, parallel, one on each side of the hole. A pair of large rocks with flat tops also work. At least, I used to. These days I simply sit on the hole. In order to wipe or wash up, the top of the hole needs to be enlarged enough to let a hand in. You can stretch your legs out flat or bend your knees some and lean forward. Now relax and take your time. 🙂

    • Chris on October 6, 2019 at 10:30 pm

      I never thought a video on pooping could be so informative, good job. I’m going to pick up a bidet

  2. Used to be on BPL on October 11, 2016 at 11:24 pm

    In SoCal we are in a drought. How much water weight do you allocate for the bidet?

    • Andrew Skurka on October 12, 2016 at 3:12 am

      A full bottle.

      Regardless of drought, reserve this practice for an area with plenty of natural water. For example, pulling water from a flowing perennial Creek, fine; pulling water from a small seasonal tank, probably not helpful to other backcountry users and to wildlife.

  3. Carol on October 11, 2016 at 11:59 pm

    Good article Andrew.

    Ted, I’ve heard of ppl who take a lightweight stool/backless folding chair with them that has a hole cut in the middle of the seat. Would that help above treeline?

  4. Sam A. on October 12, 2016 at 9:01 am

    Hi Andrew,

    Thank you for covering the important but overlooked topic of cleanliness. Speaking of cleanliness – what about backcountry “showers” and “laundry”? Do you wait until you pull into a town, or do it on the trail after a certain number of days? If one’s on a group trip I assume the options are limited.

    • Andrew Skurka on October 12, 2016 at 11:48 am

      I rarely take on-trail showers, but I will splash-wash or go for a swim if I’m feeling particularly dirty.

      I was my hiking socks daily. I wash my underwear and hiking shirt every few days. Pants and outer layers can go longer.

      On a group trip everyone is in the same situation. Often I have designated a mid-day stop as a wash-up stop. Everyone finds a private place, or washes up in public if they are comfortable with it.

      • Randi Young on October 12, 2016 at 7:33 pm

        Andrew – I know that you don’t carry a bear canister, but for those who do — it makes a wonderful washing machine!

        • Andrew Skurka on October 12, 2016 at 7:50 pm

          Correction: I carry a canister when I am required to. Otherwise, rarely or never.

  5. Sean on October 13, 2016 at 5:22 pm

    I’ve seen some travel bidets that I’m curious if they work well. At 4 ounces they’re kind of heavy but I suspect a lot of that is the bulb container. You could probably replace that with a lighter weight bottle and have an option there. I’ve found a few high rated ones on amazon for around 12 bucks and am contemplating experimentation.

  6. Jeff on October 17, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    I’ve used the “poop soup” method since I started backpacking, and I have an addition to your suggestion that I think might be helpful. If you can train your body that peeing comes after pooping, you can get up from your squat and soak the cathole. After stirring the poop is indistinguishable from the wet dirt. This is especially useful for preventing animals from digging up TP (if you choose to bury it); it is essentially all dissolved at this point. I imagine it breaks down significantly quicker this way too

    • Andrew Skurka on October 17, 2016 at 12:56 pm

      I had not thought of that, but that’s an excellent suggestion. It might require some muscle retraining, as I always seem to pee before I poop. Another possibility is to drop some water (if it’s in ample supply) into the hole, too.

  7. Karl Schmidt on October 30, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    I’m a big fan of the trail bidet, I’ve used many systems and my favorite is still an extra platypus bottle cap with a hole in it.

    Here’s a video of me demonstrating on the PCT

  8. Nicolas on November 20, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    I collected lots of pine needles on my JMT hike this summer. Bunch a handful together, break them in half and you have yourself two nice and SOFT brushes to do the “heavy lifting.”

    My brother however forgot to pack toilet paper for the first half of our trip, which meant that we went paperless from Langley to MTR, including the rather barren Miter Basin. That was not the most pleasant on trail realization. The going got easier after Whitney, but it was not ideal. We did use a wider U-shaped snow tent stake to dig cathodes in the rockier ground, so at least that wasn’t a struggle.

    Do you have additional tips regarding this specific scenario: over tree line, Eastern Sierra lunar landscape (and paperless)?

    I look forward to the 2nd ed. of your book. Any projection on when it will be coming out?

    • Andrew Skurka on November 20, 2016 at 6:34 pm

      Pretty limited options in the Eastern Sierra. I would probably go for twigs before rocks.

      • PackmanPete on March 27, 2020 at 1:40 pm

        Sticks and stones will break my bones
        But toilet paper will never hurt me.

  9. Tim on November 22, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    In humid and moist conditions monkey butt can develop and lead to uncomfortable itching. Wash daily with soap and water, especially after No. 2, and it will go away in a few days, although it will continue to itch for a while. For this I would recommend using Phytozine (look up on Amazon). It has tea tree oil and is anti fungal and relieves the itching. A small kitchen sponge with soap is useful and soft enough for cleaning the hind parts, with the “bidet” wash.

  10. Shortcut on April 28, 2018 at 3:35 pm

    I really appreciated our description of this simple water-bottle bidet technique. I now use that method it in lieu of toilet paper on the trail. II’m curious about why you recommend using TP after pooping and then doing a separate bidet cleanup later. Your bidet method is easy, requires no special equipment or planning, and feels much cleaner. So far it’s worked very well on three recent trips totaling about ten days. I always seem to have cuts on my hands so I use a half-inch-diameter stick to loosen things up while maintaining a slow, steady water flow. Sun-dried, bark-free cottonwood sticks with a few knots are perfect. On completion I break off the dirty end of the stick and throw it in the hole. There’s no TP to pack out and my hands never get dirty. I even did it once on an unplanned pit stop during a long morning trail run through a National Park forest. The only downside I can imagine would be in extreme cold, I’ve yet to try it at temperatures below 45 degrees F. Maybe it would be OK with a body-warmed water bottle.

    • Andrew Skurka on April 30, 2018 at 5:57 pm

      Why I recommend TP and the bidet later:
      1. I don’t always have water on me, or water that I want to contribute to a bidet.
      2. The half-and-half approach is probably more accessible to most people than if I recommended bidet-only. They’d stop listening much more quickly.

  11. Bill in Roswell, GA on September 26, 2018 at 9:55 am

    Good stuff, Andrew.

    One thing I would add to prevent monkey butt – after the final “polish” with TP, take a small piece of clean TP, squirt some hand sanitizer on it and wipe the region. It will burn a moment but that quickly goes away. The alcohol sanitizer will kill the bacteria in the area so things are nice, clean and feeling fresh! Wipes will do the same thing, of course, but bringing those presents its own issues.

    I also keep a small plastic 1/2 ounce screw-top container of Rescue Ointment or Gold Bond cream for chafe, monkey butt and other skin irritation issues. It’s been years since I needed to use it, but I’ve sure given many away to the less fortunate to ease their misery!

  12. Dano on November 5, 2019 at 12:58 am

    Thanks Andrew for the informative article. Two points/questions.
    1. Why not finish up by cleaning the butthole area using a little hand sanitizer (with the dirty hand)? It may sting a little, but the area will be super clean and germ free.

    2. In areas where fire hazards are not a problem, why not burn the toilet paper in the cat hole (and then cover). It will decompose (what’s left of it) much faster.

    • Andrew Skurka on November 5, 2019 at 8:13 am

      1. I don’t think it’s necessary from a hygiene standpoint (i.e. water probably gets you 95 percent of the way there), and the alcohol might dry out the skin some, which wouldn’t be ideal.

      2. So long as you don’t start a fire, this is a fine practice, and I’ve done it many times. But it’s generally discouraged because of the fire risk, which the general public is a poor judge of.

  13. D Gordon on March 3, 2021 at 12:52 pm

    I don’t understand why carrying pre moistened wipes along with a reusable cloth for pee only is not considered a good idea? You can even make your own pre moistened wipes using paper towel, witch hazel, aloe Vera and glycerin (many recipes available online). Stored in a zip lock bag they don’t weight much ..probably less than a full bottle of water for the bidet idea..which if it is cold rather uncomfortable on the nether region parts…Bring an empty zip lock bag for the used wipes. You can properly dispose of them when you get home from a short stay in the woods or along the way when you come across an opportunity to dispose of them in a proper fashion.

  14. Justin on July 10, 2021 at 1:56 pm

    Sorry if I missed this, but are you using your drinking water bottle for this, or is there a dedicated “bidet” bottle?

    • Andrew Skurka on July 10, 2021 at 6:36 pm

      Same bottle. The water is far from the scrubbing, and you shouldn’t be getting any backsplash.

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