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How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art

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Most outdoor books available in English fall prey to Victorian sensibilities and fail to mention one to the most serious issues encountered in trekking around the countryside. Kathleen eyer, river-runner and longtime outdoorswoman, corrects this oversight in How to Shit in the Woods. What was once instinct now needs to be learned. "Until roughly ten years ago, no one ever considered it unsafe to drink directly from mountain streams. You could stretch out on the bank of a high mountain meadow creek and just push your face into the water to drink ... no longer can we drink even a drop before purifying it without running the risk of getting sick." With more people in the outdoors than ever, it is important that each of us knows how to take care of our own waste.

107 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1989

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Kathleen Meyer

6 books3 followers

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5 stars
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299 (32%)
3 stars
271 (29%)
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92 (10%)
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33 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 119 reviews
Profile Image for Paul Weiss.
1,184 reviews124 followers
August 22, 2022
Required reading if you have to "go" outdoors!

To the uninitiated, the art of having a dump in the woods probably seems no more complicated than "squat, squint, squeeze and squeegee"! But, alas, as the world shrinks and the use of the world's limited wilderness terrain by outdoor adventurers increases to the limit of the land's ability to withstand the stress of that use, it's just not that simple. When considerations such as ecology, weather, temperature, privacy, courtesy, hygiene, biodegradation, density of camping use in an area, terrain and so on are factored into the decision as to where and how to complete the necessary feat, all is not as simple as it would seem. The methods one should choose are as varied as the terrains one might choose to visit and the times of year in which those choices are made.

How to Shit in the Woods is a book that should be read by EVERY person who would choose to venture into the out of doors - whether you want to spend a weekend at the local campground or you're a hardcore toughened backwoodsman heading out into the bush for a week long solo canoe trip in Canada's northern boreal forest!

Be prepared for lots of silly toilet humour, hilarious anecdotes concerning toilet misadventures, lots of tongue-in-cheek jokes, a good number of belly laughs and a very earthy delivery to be sure - but the message ultimately is entirely serious and well worth the read! There is very little humorous when it concerns encountering the leavings of someone who trod the trail in front of you.

Highly recommended for campers of all stripes, sexes, ages and experience levels.

Paul Weiss
Profile Image for Erica.
23 reviews1 follower
April 14, 2008
This book can be summarized thusly: Dig a hole for your shit, away from water or your camp. If you can't dig a hole, put it in a baggie and pack it out. Wash your hands. The end.

She doesn't talk about the decomposition process, or give any supporting evidence for her methods, or even any handy tips for dealing with carrying around baggies of poo for a week. She advocates peeing by sitting on a rock and then propping your feet up on another rock - not a bad method, if you want to spend 20 minutes looking for appropriate rocks rather than just copping a squat! All of this would be fine, I guess, except that then she gets into all this fear mongering bs about how women shouldn't sit on public toilets. Dude, unless you are in the habit of licking the seats, you'll be fine. Standing or squatting just leaves the seat splattered with pee for the next person to encounter - at least she could have advised standing pissers to lift the seat!
Profile Image for Mont'ster.
67 reviews40 followers
October 13, 2007
First thing - you can't be put off by the title. This is another book that I picked up at a gun show and, honestly, I don't think I would have bought it in a "normal" bookstore. The author isn't going for "shock value" - she has a very humorous preface detailing the anguish she went through in trying to pick a title that conveyed her subject and the seriousness with which she treats her subject.

Meyer states that she felt that all euphemisms for "doing your business" were distracting and honestly unnecessary.

I disagree with most of what I hear from the "greens" but this book is actually useful and practical. Meyer wrote it because in her own camping experiences she quickly saw that she (and her city friends) were pretty clueless when it came to taking care of one of the most basic human needs - how to take a dump outdoors without getting a turd in your boot.

One lesson that all of us could take from this is "If you pack it in, then pack it out" (or if you're too sqeamish to do that) know what to do with your waste so the area will be unspoiled for the next person that comes along.
Profile Image for Robert.
816 reviews44 followers
May 11, 2019
This book is good in that the relevant information is sound, unfortunately the topic merits only a long magazine article. The rest is padding.
Profile Image for Annie Curtiss.
60 reviews
July 28, 2022
Hahaha, this book was wonderful. Was recommended to me as I look into backpacking, and it was so funny while being full of useful advice about the more human part of being in nature. Laughed out loud multiple times.
Profile Image for Jc.
835 reviews
June 16, 2010
I have known of this book for 20 years and always been curious. Of course, it is a rather limited audience, but for those of you who backpack, canoe camp, or otherwise hit the wilderness outside of pit-toiletville, the topic of this book is really very serious and important. Written in a friendly straightforward manner (as evidenced by the author's carefully described argument as to why it was important to say "shit" instead of beating around the bush with a more polite turn of phrase), this book sounds like a joke but is actually a very practical primer about how to do something you thought you already did perfectly well. Of course, the book usually shows up in jokey novelty shops -- but it actually tain't no joke.
Profile Image for Sarah Paull.
23 reviews
August 29, 2021
For anyone who spends time in the back country this is a crucial read! Be cognizant of the way you dispose of your poop!!!
Profile Image for Wendi Lau.
434 reviews23 followers
December 6, 2017
Lots of stories. Funny. Enlightening. Very useful. Using a snowball on my ass might be the most realistic thing I'd try for number 2. A stick sounds scary.
Profile Image for Tima.
1,666 reviews130 followers
December 23, 2014
If you spend any time at all in the great out of doors, you'll need to know how to properly use the bathroom. The author has researched all of the various methods - packing it out, burying it, etc. and has presented the results of her research in a clear, concise, and occasionally amusing book.

I would NEVER have chosen to review this book. But when my husband heard me laughing about the title, he assured me that the book was somewhat famous and purported to be highly amusing. I didn't see anywhere listed that this was an audio book. I would have never gotten an audio book. I detest audio books. So bear that in mind when reading this review.

The author begins the book with the history of how the 3rd edition came to be (a bit boring) and why she thought this was the best title (okay?!). She then sets out to give her reasoning for writing the book with several amusing stories of people and their "accidents." She then proceeds to explain how and where to properly use the bathroom in the wild. I had hoped for way more funny than I actually received. The reader's voice was amusing, but the content was just way to wordy. If I'd been reading a paper book I think I could have skimmed and would have been a lot less glassy eyed when I finished.
In summery, I wouldn't recommend the audio book. But the paper book might be worth a skim for the avid outdoors men who wants to hear the pros and cons of poop in the woods.

I received this book free of charge from Goodreads in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for P.
60 reviews5 followers
January 23, 2018
Je m'attendais à un livre sur comment vivre dans les bois en général, mais non, c'est entièrement sur l'art de chier dans la nature et rien d'autre. Mais on peut vraiment écrire un livre entier sur le sujet ! Un livre qui fait réfléchir à notre impact sur la nature en randonnée, et qui donne des bonnes idées pour le limiter.
J'ai deux reproches pour ce livre, qui font qu'il ne m'a beaucoup plus : d'abord le chapitre trop paranoïaque pour moi sur les risques mortels qu'on court apparemment dès qu'on randonne (on finit par avoir l'impression qu'on va attraper une maladie mortelle dès qu'on touche un arbre), et ensuite les longues listes de comparaisons de matériel. D'abord beaucoup ne sont pas disponibles en Europe, mais surtout, le livre ayant une quinzaine d'années, la plupart des recommandations sont parfaitement obsolètes, ce qui est un peu frustrant.
Profile Image for Erin.
42 reviews
July 21, 2008
I didn't think an entire book on how to shit in the woods would be necessary, but this one has some good info in it and some funny stories. I've seen enough stupid stuff in the woods to know that more people should read this book. The book covers ideas for proper form, location, etiquette, how to pack it out, water filtration, and most importantly - the environmental impacts of our actions.
Profile Image for Jillian.
1,106 reviews15 followers
March 28, 2021
Not the kind of book I ever expected to review, but here we are! A friend loaned me this book as part of her campaign to convince me to try backpacking in the wilderness. I think her plan backfired though; the author delighted in sharing real-life vignettes about extreme solutions and highly unfortunate mishaps, which are theoretically humorous and informational, but could also be sort of horrifying to someone who spends minimal time away from civilization. Also while I appreciate a good (or bad) pun, eventually the humor style and general wordiness started to get a bit stale. But for the right audience I could see this book being an appealing resource. (Obviously it could also work as a gag gift, though note that the title is 100% literal.) There is definitely a lot of information covered here about methods and environmental impact, and she includes detailed product reviews. I don't understand why there are generic landscape drawings but almost no diagrams or informational illustrations though; seems like a missed opportunity if she really wanted readers to understand the products and procedures. Props to this author's passion for promoting environmentally-aware shitting in the woods, even if I'm not really on her wavelength and now know far more than I ever personally wanted or needed to know about the topic.
4 reviews1 follower
January 17, 2021
I bought this for a nephew who is into bushcraft. I previewed it a bit and ended up keeping it for myself for a few reasons. 1. My nephew is dyslexic and this book was too academic to have been very approachable for him (I had expected diagrams in how to dig latrines in various environments. The book does not contains these). 2. I found it very approachable and a quick read for myself. 3. I have two young daughters and teaching them to enjoy the outdoors as much as I do means understanding their sanitation needs. This book, written by a woman, does that very well.

The best parts for me were the chapter on the pathogens, the “just for women” chapter, and the tp alternatives chapter. Her frank assessments were very practical, humorous, and approachable.
102 reviews
September 24, 2022
We (a he and a she) were underwhelmed. Lots of clever writing. Plenty of sanitation preaching. Quite shy on actual technique. Pants to the thighs? to the knees? to the ankles? Step out of pants? One leg or both? Where do I find two large shapely rocks without snakes underneath? Spiders!!! Is holding a trunk and leaning back stable and decent? Paper: rolled or folded? Where do I hang my paper between wipes? What if it is raining? Peeing your boots is not just for women anymore; many men now sit. I do because the aged plumbing sometimes can't squirt past my toes, especially at the end.
Profile Image for Harrison.
88 reviews7 followers
November 23, 2019
It sounds more interesting than it is. It reads like an old school scouts guide. While it does offer good tips for the subject matter, I would skip it entirely unless you're REALLY into exploring the outdoors.

If you're an outdoor hiker then by all means, you'll be able to put the knowledge in this book into practise. Otherwise skip. The novelty wore off pretty quickly and the humor was just mainly the novelty of a book about pooping in the woods heeheehee.
Profile Image for Zibbernaut.
305 reviews6 followers
July 16, 2020
Honestly I don't know what I expected. Did I think that the title was a way to bring me in, and we'd be discussing the environmental impact that camping has on the land, and ways to combat that? Or did I think that the entire book would literally be about shitting in the woods?

The title was not just to be funny. It was legit. The whole book is about how to shit in the woods and how to bring your shit out of the woods so we don't ruin them.
Profile Image for Christine Starkey.
55 reviews31 followers
August 23, 2021
To get to the bottom of things, here’s my book summarization: Dig a hole for your shit, away from water & your camp. If you can’t dig a hole, put it in a baggie & pack it out. Wash your hands. The end! 🙄 The book doesn’t even talk about the decomposition process, give any supporting evidence, or even any helpful tips like dealing with caring around baggies of poo for days! 💩 Not to be a party pooper, but this book stinks!
Profile Image for Bernie4444.
1,283 reviews7 followers
December 20, 2022
Sound Approach to a Lost Art

I saw the movie “Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America” (2007), where the “how to…” technique explicitly was demonstrated.

Now read the book on how it is really done.

Do not make an ecological faux pas.
It is actually very detailed and helpful from the scouts to the military.

On the brighter side, it is a lot lighter than carrying a heavy catalog.

This book also makes a great conversation starter coffee table book.
Profile Image for Seth Thomas.
2 reviews
September 17, 2017
The information was useful though outdated by the time I read it. The humor was irritating after 2 paragraphs. If it had been a pamphlet of half the length it would have been twice as good. There are numerous outdoor-related websites that you should read instead for the same information. Just google it.
3 reviews2 followers
March 30, 2020
I picked up this book to understand on compost toilets and stick to the natural and most environment friendly way of shitting. It has been a hillarious read and quite informative( for those travelling outdoors). It definitely broadened by view on ickiness of the matter and get over it to make it easy for mother Earth.
Profile Image for Max M.
58 reviews11 followers
July 17, 2020
A very informational book about the best practices, poses, and tools to use when pooping in the woods. The author also spoke of waterborne protozoic, bacterial, and viral infections you might experience in the wild and how to go about treating them. She had a shout-out to Darwin OnTheTrail so that was a pleasant surprise!
Profile Image for Alex Drysdale.
107 reviews2 followers
August 16, 2017
Got this book as a gift and was hoping it would be a bit more direct.

It would be a good bathroom reader as there is a lot of fluff.

In the end I think the book could be whittled down to 10 or less pages.
Profile Image for Jennifer Cody.
26 reviews9 followers
December 15, 2018
This book was given to my parents as a joke gift when I was a kid, and I took it with me for nostalgia sake, but never read it until now. It was about as you’d expect for a novelty book... not a ton of substance.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
451 reviews7 followers
September 26, 2019
Once you get over yourself about the topic there is a lot of very useful, frank information in this little book. It is dated (you can tell by the extensive product lists which were critical in a pre-commonplace-Internet age) but the bulk of the work doesn’t suffer for it.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 119 reviews

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