How To Help Your Kid Poop Outside

One of my favorite things about adventuring outdoors with my two kids is the chit-chat along the way. The mindless chatter on a slow hike, or questions shouted at me from the bike trailer – I just love being able to connect without the distractions of home.

There is, however, one phrase that I dread hearing:

“Mom! I have to poop!”

And all mamas know: when a kids gotta go, a kids gotta go. If you plan to spend time outside with your kids, you should be prepared for when the poop happens.

Below is our advice and tips on how to help your kid poop outside. I’ve also included some Poop Tales from fellow TMM mamas just because, well, poop is funny.

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Three-year-old Harper pops a squat off the trail and discovers a morel mushroom patch.

Be Prepared For Poop: What To Pack

Of course, everyone goes potty before we leave the house (no pee, no ski!). But it never fails; as soon as we get to the trailhead or the river put-in, or anywhere outside, someone has to poop.

I’ve tried asking them to hold it – the result is what my son called mud tracks (did he mean skid marks?). Sometimes, you just can’t hold it. And for those times, here’s a list of supplies you’ll need:

  • Wipes (because leaves, sticks and rocks just don’t do the job as well)
  • Dog poop bags (you know, those free ones commonly found at trailheads – stock up!)
  • A ziplock bag (if there’s no garbage can around, you’ll have to pack out the poop bag, wipes and any soiled clothes)
  • Hand sanitizer (because pooping outside can be messy)
  • Trowell for digging a cat hole (if you’re backpacking or don’t want to deal with packing out the poop. We use this GSI Cathole Shovel)
  • A portable potty (for car camping.) TMM Team Member Jessica uses the OXO-Tot Go Potty and gave the following review:

We have to basically beg my son to poop anywhere other than our own toilet. We finally added the OXO-Tot Go Potty to our car camping kit and now anytime we travel (including to my in-laws’ house) he refuses to poop on the toilet and wants to use the “camping potty” so he can poop in the bag.

TMM Team Member Jessica
Packing a potty chair when car camping is a great way to help younger kids poop outside.
Going car camping with your toddler? A potty chair is a must-have!

How To Help Your Kid Poop Outside

Assume The Position

Toddlers are right at home in the squatting position, but for pooping outside, I’ve found it best to hold them in a squat. Holding kids in a squat will help the poop come out faster, too, which means less of a backache for you, mama!

Older kids won’t need quite as much help pooping outside. Once my son was around 4, he could squat and poop independently.

Beware of the wiping situation. Since the poop pile is relatively close to their butt, it’s easy for a hand to touch the poo pile. I don’t like to risk it, so I’m in charge of the wiping.

Make A Poop Plan: Scoop or Dig

When your kid poops outside, you have to decide what to do with it.

I’m a big fan of using a dog-poop bag to scoop the poop, rather than dig a cat hole. I have two kids, and while I’m helping one kid poop, the other one is running amuck, so I try to make things as quick as possible and the bag works better for us.

If you are backpacking or prefer not to carry poop in your pack, you’ll need a trowel or a good stick to dig that hole. It should be a deep one, 6-8″, and at least 200′ off the main trail.

Pack It Out or Cover It Up

If you’re using a bag to scoop the poop, it’s important to make sure you clean up all the poop and wipes. Don’t leave poop particles behind!

Tie a knot in the bag, put that bag in the larger ziplock bag, and place in your backpack. I like to place the poop bag in a compartment separate from the snacks and water.

If you’ve dug a cat hole, you can leave a small amount of biodegradable paper in the hole with the poop. If you’re using wipes, you’ll need to pack those out with you.

Cover the hole with dirt, and smooth over with rocks and sticks so that it looks like nothing ever happened there.

A toddler takes her backpack off in preparation of going poop in the woods.
Leave No Trace ethics specify that you keep the poop at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails.

Trailhead Toilets (Or, Going To The Deepness)

Some kids (mine included) are terrified of trailhead potties, and would prefer to pop a squat next to the outhouse, rather than inside it.

If you can coax your kid into using the trailhead potty, more power to ya! Here’s how TMM Team Member Jackie helps her kids do the deed in an outhouse:

My kids were terrified of outhouses so I would straddle them from behind while they sat on them to poop.

TMM Team Member Jackie

The thought of hovering a kid over the abyss of the porta-potty makes my back ache! If your kid is a slow pooper, you may have to talk them into, or better yet, bribe them into, just sitting on the toilet independently.

TMM Team Member Kristin’s kids LOVE using outhouses and she has this hilarious snippet to share:

My older two love using outhouses while camping, they call it “going to the deepness” and talk all about the different plop sounds they hear in the deepness.

TMM Team Member Kristin

Motherhood (and parenting) is the biggest adventure, one where there’s often no right answer and you learn as you go. But I seriously wish someone had given me a tutorial of how to help my kid poop outside before they were out of diapers.

Of course, there’s bound to be poop mishaps while adventuring outside with kids. But with the correct supplies and a game plan, your adventure doesn’t have to end when your kid has to poop.

Looking for more tips on how to handle pooping in the woods? Check out Amelia’s post about poop mishaps while hiking in Alaska, Let’s Talk About (Kids) Pooping on the Trail.

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  • Sarah Toal is a Colorado native who now calls Jackson, Wyoming, home. Sarah, her husband Evan, and two kids August, age 7, and Harper, age 5, spend their (long!) winters snowboarding, and (short!) summers riding bikes, floating on the Snake River, and hiking. Follow our adventures and general family chaos on Instagram: @sartoal

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4 thoughts on “How To Help Your Kid Poop Outside”

  1. Awesome article, Sarah! Brings back lots of memories and reminds us Grandmas there is “that part ” of taking the kiddos on a hike or nature trail…poop happens!!!!

  2. Thanks for this useful hints.

    We’re also on hikes many times and when our kids have to pee or poop outside we look for a quiet place with soft soil or grass and then they sit down with their bottom flat on the ground. We don’t dig a hole underneath them.

    This way they can pee or poop very comfortable without need to get lifted in “sitting” position and without any danger to fall or pee or poop on their pants because the legs are spread forward and the pants at the ankles are far away from any splashing.

    The only struggle for them is to poop while having their bottom flat on the ground and needing to push the poo out against it. But most times they can handle it. Sometimes they complain that it seems to be “stuck”. Then they have to try a bit longer until it’s out but it works and it’s much easier and more comfortable for them than squatting or getting lifted.

    The only important thing is to wipe them properly after. When it’s all done we dig a small hole to bury everything and then it’s all fine.

  3. Thanks for this article, I found it very useful! I wonder if you could also share some wisdom on pooping strategies in the city centre? Every day, I mean every day when I pick up my kid from preschool she will want to poop on the way home. The journey takes 30 mins including walking and tram, it was really really dreadful when she announces she wants toilet. Im so anxious now, and I don’t know what to do… any advice would help! Oh and she refuse to go to toilet at school before we leave. If I force her, there will be a tantrum, rolling on the floor with pants down.

  4. I also love this article. When I talk to parents about extended adventures with their kids, this is an ominous subject and you address it head on. I would love to also see some info or a link to info about where it is/is not ok to dig a cat hole. In this ever crowded outdoor era, the line between ok and not ok seems hard to find! Thank you!


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