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How To Poop in Canadian Waters


Nov 2, 2005
As the day draws closer to when Americans will once again be able to join you on the fabled beaches and First Nation’s territorial waters of British Columbia I respectfully request guidance on how to poop in the woods. This is a serious question as I recall that there was a discrepancy between “next high tide” on Crown Land VS “distance from shore and off the beaten path” on First Nations territory. I didn't find recent threads and feel that BC Marine Trails site could benefit from having a link for "How To Poop in the Woods".

I understand that this can be a topic where things can go sideways but I ask for serious responses that address my question and appropriate humor only. Further, I ask that there be no responses regarding smooth stones, personal favorite vegetation or saltwater sit baths involving fresh kelp or not following the evacuation events unless it is required by law or First Nation practices. Before responding, please assume that your response should almost certainly address paddlers and their use of toilet paper. Basically, where to poop and how.

Homey don’t play butt-rocks or ferns and it appears that my hypocrisy knows no bounds but having spent 2+ weeks on the outer coast while experiencing an extended GI event I would ask for serious consideration on “Best Practices” from experienced Americans, Canadians and especially First Nations on responsible and practical actions in dealing with how and where to poop.
Aug 28, 2009
Leave it to Nootka to respond quickly. Totally stone dude. I read this thread prior to posting and wonder if it is still the current guidance. Yes? No? Dates to 2009. I don't wish to be the Ugly American. Seriously.
I don't think there is any official recommendation. My advice is just my opinion, but it seems reasonable to me. I've seen turds at the high tide line and I wasn't impressed.
Awesome AlphaEcho. I'm going to run with this like I stole it unless another other Canadian comes up with something else.
BCMT team thrashed it out over past 4 years because the standard LNT guidelines were written by terrestrial folk. Not their fault they don't live on islands where 200 ft away from shore is .. wait .. darn, another shore.
My general way when camping on small islands is to do it well below high tide line on a rocky shelf that flushes well, burn the toilet paper and put a rock on the deposits.
Does a bear or deer poop in the woods? A lot of animals cover there poop so there predators can't track and eat them. Just dont let a predator with a bage or cell phone tack you down.
On a practical side you can mark the boundarys of your camp with urin. If it can't be found you have left no trace.
When I was in the Deer Group, I ended up at a location where - when the wind shifted - we discovered that someone had miscalculated the high tide line. I land in those waters. I cool off in those waters. I prefer that someone poop other than where I’m landing/swimming. I come from a mountaineering/hiking background. So I walk off from camp (and any trail), dig a hole, aim, and bury. I keep toilet paper separate (in a discreet opaque bag) and burn it or carry it back with garbage.

I completely understand peeing and pooping in the low tide zone - but that’s not me.
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I've been taught to pack out or burn paper, and to ensure deposits are in an area where tidal flushing occurs. In a perfect world the tide cycle will align perfectly with one's own rhythm and carry the poo away. This is often not the case.

The previous thread mentioned carrying deposits out to sea, which is almost a necessity in high traffic areas. Another way to put a bit more distance between the shoreline and deposits is by using a 'trebushit' or 'scatapult'.
Both are just comical terms for flinging feces into the ocean using your paddle. Obviously consistency and other factors must be considered.

As someone with IBS, to whom GI issues are a fact of life, many of these solutions assume a fairly solid consistency. In cases of diarrhea, all bets are basically off, other than doing it in the intertidal and hoping for the best.
I prefer that someone poop other than where I’m landing/swimming. I come from a mountaineering/hiking background. So I walk off from camp (and any trail), dig a hole, aim, and bury. I keep toilet paper separate (in a discreet opaque bag) and burn it or carry it back with garbage.
When the BCMT new 'Guidelines' were published a year ago, I exchanged a few emails with John Kimantas.
I said:
Packing out feces will be a non-starter for most paddlers in BC. Taking a necessary behavior from places the the Grand Canyon and transplanting it to the mostly remote areas where BCMT 'operates' isn't appropriate. Some people will dismiss the whole document as 'extreme' using that one example.
And exactly how - give clear procedures - does one collect and carry feces to 'mid-channel for disposal'?? What about toilet paper? Water wash 'bidets' ?
Here's a model from the backpacking world:
JK responded:
Do you remember when we used to go out camping for a weekend and shit all over the campsite and just leave it? Can you believe that was considered acceptable? That's the change in ethics we are proposing.

I replied:
I've been backpacking since 1971 and no, I don't remember doing that, and I never did that, and I don't remember any of my companions doing that. Backpacking in the Rockies, Ontario, New England. LeaveNoTrace was already 'a thing' even then.
Did you watch the Skurka video on 'how to shit in the woods'? Do you think that is irresponsible, too?
Heavily used sites should have enclosed toilets.
Less heavily used sites should have drum toilets or similar.
Seldom used sites don't need anything except good backpacking practice or good kayaking practice for sanitation.
In areas where you are remote, and those are getting less easy to find on the B.C, coast, my practice has been to climb high into the forest, dig a hole as deep as possible in the forest floor and do the necessary business. Cover it well, including with large rocks, or downfall and leave it decompose as would the wild things. If anyone can find it after a few weeks of weather, you didn't do it properly. I carry a small gardener's trowel specifically for this purpose. Of course smaller islands and more frequented places are another story.

With respect to first nations in Canada at this time, I think it appropriate to go a bit off topic, though the use of their territories and how to be respectful, is part of John's question in this discussion. I do not know how widespread knowledge is in the US, of the current situation with respect to the discovery and mapping of unmarked graves at former residential school sites in B. C. and in Saskatchewan in the past few weeks. The first nations communities In C. C. are in deep mourning and trauma right now. There is also some overt anger with we newcomers. Four Catholic churches have been burned to the ground in the south Okanagan in the last week and an Anglican Church in Gitwangak in north western B.C., between Terrace and New Hazelton set alight. There have been no suspects arrested and it is quite possible that the perpetrators were not indigenous. Don't want to jump to conclusions. However, the cultural climate on all first nations territories this summer is tense and sad. So, please keep this in mind if you plan to paddle on the coast. This is likely true in the San Juan Islands as well, as the Lummi Nation is closely linked with bands in B. C. such as the Penelekut and the Semiahmoo. I expect the Lummi and other Washington bands too are feeling the hurt.

As an example, I have found that some of the local folk of the Penticton and Osoyoos bands, Sylx People, are a little less open and sticking close to home, rather than wandering about the towns as much as they did right now. I visited the Residential School Memorial on the Penticton Band Lands right after the discover of 215 unmarked graves at the former Residential School in Kamloops. I got a couple of sullen looks from the folk nearby, even though I was there to pay my respects. In the past I usually got a nod or a smile from folk I encountered prior to the discovery. It is sad, but this memorial is little known to white folk in the Okanagan Valley, as is the true history of European settlement and residential schools in both Canada and the US.


This situation is not going to be resolved, go away, or improve any time soon, so please keep in the front of your mind this summer that you are paddling in unseeded first nations territory in most places on the B. C. Coast. Kindness and respect from we "newcomers", for the first nations people we encounter is more important than ever.

Many of the first nations are also still restricting travel due to the Covid Pandemic as well, so things are doubly sensitive this summer. It has been my practice in the past, if planning to paddle near or to visit indigenous sacred places or old village sites to contact the band office and ask permission, and to let them know of our plans either by phone in advance, or by paddling into the village and going into the band office. In the past, I was often thanked for the courtesy of asking and told how rare it is for we white folk to even think about where we are or who's territory we are in. I did this last summer to check if the Fair Harbour put in was going to open for the summer and was politely told the territory was closed because of Covid 19 concerns and thanked for checking. We then went paddling in Desolation Sound instead So, back to the primary topic. If you are planning a trip and ask for permission, you might also, tactfully of course, ask the question about guidelines for wilderness camping and waste.

Sorry for going off topic, but I think the issue is related, relevant and important.

Cheers, Rick