How to Shit in the Winter Wilderness with Snowshoes On.

We all have to go sometime! Unless you have the ability to turn your fecal matter directly into a gas and vent it freely into the atmosphere through your polypro skivvies, you’re gonna have to drop your drawers and blast a dookie. We folks at HAE are here to help. As for the women, you’re going to have to adapt this information to your plumbing. We guys have it pretty easy with our fleshy squirt nozzle and the ease for which we can “whip it out” and empty our bladders like a gardener waters the petunias. Maybe one of our female readers can write an article for the women hikers out there…

     First let me clear up one thing… I refuse to shit in a bag. I hear you eco-crunchies whining about the impact of a stool laid upon the forest floor but I ain’t listening. The main reason I don’t own a dog is because I refuse to follow it around with a baggie around my hand waiting to scoop up its steaming turd. There isn’t a Zip Lock bag strong enough to assure me the “stinkin’ logs” in my backpack are safely contained and will not affect the rest of my gear.

     OK, OK, OK… human feces are disgusting and dangerous. In the right quantity at the wrong location, human waste can be a real hazard and needs to be regulated. My solution… I don’t hike where I can’t legally shit in the woods. Maine, for instance, is very large. Most of the forests in Maine have been picked over and completely logged for lumber and paper. The regions where HAE usually goes winter hiking are visibly scarred with massive clearings where the wood has been dragged out by huge and destructive skidders. Let’s not forget the fact that Maine has a good layer of soil and the intense turd eroding New England seasons. To top it off, HAE usually camps in locations only moose dare tread. In fact, the forest floor upon which HAE chooses to camp on is commonly covered in moose marbles. Hey, let’s see you get that moose to shit in a bag.

Maine mountain scarred by a massive logging operation.     Now that I got all that off my chest, let’s strap on the snowshoes and head out into the forest for a healthy, ice-cold grunt. You don’t want to wait too long to void that colon. Like the effects of oxygen deprivation or hypothermia, the human body doesn’t perform very well when it wants to release a stool. The longer you wait, the clumsier and irrational you’ll become. When you’re needing to hover yourself above a freshly made turd with your pants around your ankles and its 10 below, you’ll want your balance to be intact, trust me.

The right location

     First of all, you can’t be pinching a loaf within sight of the camp. Common sense will also keep you from fouling water sources, shitting on the trail or planting a steamer on fragile alpine tundra. Look for a place FAR from camp, protected from winds and weather. You don’t want to go where you may be hiking through later. The “peanut gallery” will be relentless.

Prepare the area

     You’ve found your bathroom and you’re ready to go. Before you start the process, you best prepare the area for the inevitable event. First, find the “blast zone”. This is the area you’ll aim the contents of your colon. I like to make a hole in the snow with my snowshoes where my stool is expected to make landfall. Pack down the surrounding area so you have a firm spot to squat. You don’t want to post, sink into the snow, whilst you do the deed.

Find something to grab on to

     There’s a chance your balance will be compromised and you’re gonna want to reach out and grab hold of something to steady yourself. Pick a strong tree trunk and stay away from that wispy little sapling that would have trouble holding a bird. Remember where you might land if you were to fall. Yuck! Now that you’ve picked a suitable hand hold…

Dislodge the snow from the surrounding brush.

     There’s nothing more jolting than a wad of snow falling from a branch overhead and on to your exposed buttocks.

Drain the bladder FIRST.

     In my experience, I have found it much easier to control one stream at a time. While you still have control of the situation, void the bladder in the most comfortable and easy method you choose. Again, ladies, you have my sympathy. After you’ve finished yellowing up the snow, you can direct your full concentration to the task at hand.

Are your papers in order?

     Ah yes, the toilet paper. A luxury most hikers will NEVER do without. And with good reason as anyone who has wiped their ass with something other than toilet paper will tell you. Since the discovery of TP, manufacturers have gone to great lengths to produce a product that is softer and stronger. Today, our blessed civilization has the most advanced butt wiping technology we could ever need. Why fight it… bring your favorite brand and enjoy the comfort and convenience. There is another option for the more hygienically aware, the moist toilet wipe. I like to use a “serving” of this paper after I’ve done the initial wipe with the dry paper. It leaves me feeling fresh and clean as if I were taking a crap at home. If you choose the moist wipe, warm it up in your pocket first ‘cuz a frozen wipe is a shocker.

Dry and moist, the tools of the task.

     You’ll save yourself a whole lot of trouble if you prepare the wipes into easy to use serving sizes. That way you won’t be tearing, folding and arranging each wipe as you go and exposing your cakes to the elements longer than you need to.

Lower your drawers beyond the knee.

     Up until now, things have been easy, and the previous steps can be completed at a leisurely pace. The next steps will proceed a bit faster, like the Keystone Cops on amphetamines. See, its 10 below in your bathroom right now and you’ll be exposing your most precious and delicate regions to the brutal reality of the winter wilderness. Take a deep breath, prepare mind and body, relax (find your center, chant your mantra… whatever gets you through the moment) grasp the waist bands firmly and lower ALL you pants in one quick slide to your ankles. You want that area CLEAR.

Remove any dangling obstacles.

     Quick… check the launch area for obstacles like suspenders, shirt tails, whatever might get in the way.

Assume the position.

     You’ve calcuated the “blast zone” and you know where you have to aim. At this time, you must pay close attention to the location of your snowshoes. You shit on them and you’re not gonna like it. If the rest of the team finds out you’ve fouled your snowshoes, the resulting “peanut gallery” verbal thrashing will be devastating. Snowshoe toes in (nearly touching) and heels out… way out; like your first skiing lesson and you’re learning the ‘snowplow’. Go ahead and squat, as if you’re just about to plant your bare cheeks on an imaginary toilet seat.

Snowshoe position in the “bathroom”


     That instant when your bowels move is the most vunerable few seconds of a human’s existence. The combination of muscular surrender and ultimate relief is a sort of pleasure that leaves one completely helpless. Let us not forget where we are at this moment ‘cuz, as a wise person once said, “Shit Happens!” Just because you are in a state of intestinal regulation doesn’t mean the world is going to wait until you finish your business. At any time you could be assaulted by a blast of weather, wildlife, or paparazzi. Stay alert, be steady, put that newspaper away and finish the job as quickly as you can. Remember, you’re wearing snowshoes… don’t let them get into the “blast zone”.

The Wipe

     This is the tricky part, at least for me. With a serving of toilet paper in hand, still in a semi-squat, you’ve got to reach around a zillion layers of wool, polypro and nylon to accurately deploy a wiping motion across the butthole. Like a bizarre backwoods gymnastics move, the action must be repeated until the job is done. I’ll spare the details here, just be sure you fling that used paper into the “blast zone”.

     Let me direct your attention to the bathroom sink. It’s right there next to you… Go ahead, grab a big handful of CLEAN snow. Rub briskly and flick off as much moisture as you can. Repeat if you’re one of those compulsive types. If you’re really paranoid, bring along a bottle of that hand sanitizing stuff or alcohol wipes to use AFTER you get your pants back up.

Pull up and tuck in.

     That’s it, you’re done. You feel like a new person, ready to bag that wintery peak. Step carefully away from the blast zone and finish getting all your layers in order.

The Cover Up

     Who wants to see your mess, eh? Even that red squirrel over there is disgusted. So do everyone a favor and cover that area with a good layer of snow. Hey, it’s the least you can do.

     If you are hiking in high impact areas, you’ll be forced to comply with regulations. This may mean using the classic backwoods privy. Whatever you’re instructed to do, please do it. The reason those areas are protected is so others may enjoy the wilderness as you do. Nobody likes to camp in someone else’s bathroom.

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