This great little book, How To Shit in the Woods: an environmentally sound approach to a lost art, is a hilarious and helpful read to learn how to do your bidness in the backcountry. The author, Kathleen Meyer, who has a glorious bio, one worth checking out on her website at, has quite a knack for spelling out the obvious for both newbie backcountry visitors and the experienced wilderness folk.

This is honestly a great book, one worth investigating before embarking on time spent in the outdoors. One never can tell when nature calls, and it’s better to be safe (prepared) than sorry (damage the environment and waterways).

I first learned about this book (Ten Speed Press, Revised Edition, 1994) in the references from A Blistered Kind of Love by Angela and Duffy Ballard (see previous posting at GreyCatBlog). The Ballards prepared for their 4 month long trek on the PCT by reading great resources on backpacking and wilderness travel. I had heard about How to Shit in the Woods years ago and never read it, so I was relieved (ahem) to be reminded of this source by the Ballards.

Containing everything from the anatomy of the word  “crap” to how to dig the proper hole, suggestions for the proper tools, and instructions for the best positions, and recommendations for women-only (it’s really quite a nuisance until you get a hang of of it).

Boy, you get point, this is a sensitive topic. I had to ask, who really wants to read, much less write, about shite?! Meyer writes in such a comical way that the reader actually can’t put this funny book down! What’s more, the reader, aka backcountry hiker, will learn about observing signs in nature like high water marks, high use areas, and hills and valleys (where to go and not to go), and this includes simple tips and techniques for protecting the environment and respecting the shared space we all can be potentially influenced by. Complete with personal stories and anecdotes of real hikers and river runners, learn lessons the easy way, through reading this book, rather than through trial and error, this way the error part can be avoided!

Tips include:

  • Look Out Below….
  • Pack it in, pack it out
  • Don’t litter, especially not your TP
  • What to do if you are out of TP (Ever heard of woolly mullein plant? It’s considered an invasive weed in some places like CO, but it may just save you… How to ID? See WildMan Steve Brill’s website)
  • Investigate the resources and tools available (really modernized and not too icky nowadays)
  • Avoiding Giardia and Cryptosporidium and learning when and where Giardia first became a major problem in the US (Try Aspen, CO in the 1970’s! But Giardia has actually been recognized since the 1600’s)

This book is a must for all backcountry travelers, river runners, hikers and distance bikers – Learn how to GO in the woods the right way and protect your friends, family, and fellow wo/man kind.

If you’re not convinced, just read the first chapter, “Anatomy of Crap” or take a look at the author’s website and read an excerpt from the book. Or, check out Definition/Glossary section at the end – funny and true, readers will learn more than they ever wanted!

Enough said! Have fun reading and playing in the backcountry!

For the extra curious (like me), here are additional resources on this topic:

To close this gig, I leave you with one of my favorite quotes:

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe. ~John Muir