Catholes: Proper Disposal of Human Waste
Perhaps the most widely accepted method of backcountry human waste
disposal is the cathole. The advantages are:
1. They are easy to dig in most
2. They are easy to disguise after use.
3. They are private.
disperse the waste rather than concentrate it to enhance decomposition. f It is
usually easy to select a remote location where you can be certain no one is
going to casually encounter the cathole.
Selecting a Cathole Site
1. Select a
cathole site far from water sources; 200 feet (approximately 80 adult paces) is
the recommended minimum range.
2. Select an inconspicuous site untraveled by
people. Examples of cathole sites include thick undergrowth, near downed timber,
or on gentle hillsides.
3. If camping with a group or if camping in the same
place for more than one night, disperse the catholes over a wide area; don't go
to the same place twice.
4. Try to find a site with deep organic soil. This
organic material contains organisms that will help decompose the feces. Organic
soil is usually dark and rich in color. Refer to the jars used to demonstrate
decomposition. The desert does not have as much organic soil as a forested area.
Digging a Cathole
1. A small garden trowel is the perfect tool for digging a
2. Dig the hole 6 to 8 inches deep (about the length of the trowel
blade) and 4 to 6 inches in diameter. In a hot desert, human waste does not
biodegrade easily because there is little organic soil to help break it down. In
the desert, the cathole should be only 4 to 6 inches deep. This will allow the
heat and sun to hasten the decay process.
3. When finished, fill the cathole with
the original dirt and disguise it with native materials.
A Note About Urine
Urine does not hurt plants and soil directly. Sometimes, the salt in urine may
attract wildlife. Animals can defoliate plants and dig up soil to get at the
salts. It is best to urinate on rocks and in places that will not attract