Answering the call of nature while cycling

Published by Lyn on 20 July 2011

Guest blogger John Traynor, author of author of Lightweight Camping, has this advice for negotiating roadside and campsite calls of nature

Whenever possible, follow your nose to a 'proper' loo. Photo: Nicole Wilkins

Whenever possible, follow your nose to a 'proper' loo. Photo: Nicole Wilkins

It would be a sad day if we found toilets dotted all over the countryside when we're pedalling along. It's never going to happen, so I believe we need to address the issues of 'personal waste management' positively and practically.

For most of us, the problem is 'where to go' but it's what you leave behind that matters. None of us would enjoy scraps of toilet paper blowing across our cycle path or cooking a camp meal next to somebody's outdoor loo.

There are various methods of dealing with human waste in the outdoors that are suitable for multi-day excursions. For single day trips, a good, if unpopular, method is to carry out what you carried in and dispose of it later. The best, of course, is to plan ahead and avoid the need to do so.

Tips for 'going' in the great outdoors

1. It may sound obvious, but be discreet by picking a private spot that is considerate of other people living, working or just enjoying the outdoors.

2. Make sure you're at least 30m away from any running or apparently still water when you pick your loo site. (Note that running water may be the water supply for a house that's out of sight.)

3. Your outdoor loo should also be at least 50m from paths and 200m from houses.

4. Where possible, dig a 15cm deep hole and bury your poo (include a small trowel in your pannier if you have space). If you can't dig a hole, spreading your waste thinly and covering it with soil and/or loose leaves and vegetation will help it break down. Digging or spreading in areas of sensitive vegetation should be avoided.

5. Squashing poo under a rock to hide it will slow decomposition and should be avoided. If other techniques can’t be used, then allow air to circulate by leaving a gap between rock and poo.

6. Consider using loose natural materials instead of toilet paper. If you do use toilet paper, even biodegradable, then take it with you in a plastic bag until you can dispose of it properly. Burning it is a fire hazard and burying it is not acceptable as it slows down decomposition.

7. Burying tampons and sanitary towels is not a reliable way to dispose of them as they take so long to decompose and animals may unearth them, it's best to carry away with you in a secure container until you can dispose of them safely.

8. As the results of an upset stomach in remote areas can be more serious than at home, it's absolutely vital to wash your hands after a loo break. If you use a biodegradable soap, don't use it directly in running or still water; hand gel which needs no water is easily available in supermarkets and can be carried in a small bottle.

9. Above all, save youself the hassle and make use a proper toilet whenever you find one.

John Traynor started his pedalling with days exploring the Cotswolds as a youngster. He's since cycled, trekked, paddled and backpacked in Europe, Iceland, Morocco, Turkey, South Africa and Nepal. John is the author of LIghtweight Camping, published by Cicerone. He recently moved back to the UK after several years living in the Auvergne. John will be writing for Freewheeling France on a range of topics, mostly related to cycle camping.


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