This is an excerpt from our page on Outdoor Ethics regarding waste disposal.
There is possibly no less pleasant discovery in what you thought was a pristine forest than finding a pile of used toilet paper and other human remnants. The solution?
A cathole is a mini outhouse well you dig when it’s time to go. It needs to be 6”-8” deep, 4”-6” in diameter, and in organic soil. Ideally, your spot is sunny (the sun makes heat that aids in decomposition). You want to be at least 60 metres from any water, and in a spot that others won’t pass by. You’ll need something to dig the hole with; you can’t kick a deep enough one with your shoe, and you’ll compact the soil in the process. A small garden trowel is the perfect cathole digging tool (sticks and branches will work, but not well. Rocks will compact soil).
The toilet paper you carry should at least be the plain, white, non-perfumed type. Most stores (including Canadian Tire) sell inexpensive toilet paper specifically designed for backcountry use; it degrades rapidly.
Do your thing into the hole, toss in the toilet paper, and bury it all with the material that you dug out of the hole. Then disguise it so no one can tell you were there. If you’re staying in an area for a while, spread out the catholes to prevent contamination of a particular area.
If for soil reasons you can’t bury your toilet paper, put it in a plastic baggie and pack it out. Never burn used toilet paper; it will generate hazardous fumes.
Catholes aren’t needed for urine. To quote Leave No Trace Canada:
Urine has little direct effect on vegetation or soil. In some instances urine may draw wildlife which are attracted to the salts. They can defoliate plants and dig up soil. Urinating on rocks, pine needles, and gravel is less likely to attract wildlife. Diluting urine with water from a water bottle can help minimize negative effects.
And here’s a suggestion: consider using a cathole to dispose of pet waste. Far, far, far too many people bag up their dog waste and leave it on the side of the trail (or toss it into the forest). If you’re willing to bag it up but not pack it out: carry it off trail, dig a cat hole, toss it in (without the bag), and bury it properly.