If you’re about to do your first multi-day guided walk in New Zealand, you might be wondering how to poop in the outdoors. There’s an etiquette to pooping in the New Zealand bush and we all take it very seriously, so let’s cover the basics so you can set off on your next back country guided walk in New Zealand with confidence.
Pooping or peeing in a public place is an offence in New Zealand, it comes with a $200 fine. But (pun intended), if you can demonstrate that you had reasonable grounds for believing that you wouldn’t be observed while you doing it, you might be able to escape the fine. Legalities aside, poo’s and wee’s belong in the toilet not in the bush. Collectively, the New Zealand Tourism Industry is making a conscious effort to better educate all backcountry visitors on how we like things to work here. The conversation has intensified in recent years, thanks to proposed changes to our Freedom Camping laws by current Ministry for Tourism, the Honourable Stuart Nash. He’d like to see the fine raised to $1,000.
You might be asking yourself, why do we care so much about poo? Well, when you leave a poo out in the open air of the bush, it doesn’t disappear as quickly as you’d think. Particularly in alpine areas, where it can freeze in the snow. When the snow melts later on, the poo is still there.
When we leave poo in the wrong place in the bush, it can join the water cycle entering rivers and streams, carrying bacteria close to where we drink, eat or swim. This makes everyone very sick. Faecal contamination can actually kill people.
It’s also culturally insensitive. Our native bush is a taonga, or treasure. In Māori mythology, the earth is our mother and our mountains represent gods or spirits. Disrespecting the earth mother and any god or spirit has got to be bad cultural karma right? So, to avoid a nasty, embarrassing situation, here’s what you need to know about nature-poops in New Zealand. Enjoy.
Most popular trails in New Zealand will have a bathroom at the trail-head carpark. There may or may not be additional toilets along the trail, so when you see a toilet, go. You never know when you’ll find another one. These toilets are likely to be what we call a ‘long-drop’ or pit-style toilet. It’s essentially a deep hole or a containment system in the ground with a plastic, privacy-shack built around it. There’ll be a built-up toilet seat to sit on, with a lid to close behind you. The shack should have a lockable door and toilet paper – but this is not always guaranteed, so pack compostable toilet paper just in case. There won’t be any water supply or electricity to these toilets, so being able to see clearly, flushing your business and washing your hands afterwards is not always guaranteed. A small tube of hand sanitiser is your best friend.
There are rules as to what can go down one of these long-drop toilets. If it’s not number 1’s or number 2’s, don’t leave it there. Anything other than number 1’s and number 2’s must be bagged and carried back out with you. Take a few cornstarch bags and a plastic container with a screw-top lid and dispose of these items properly when you’re back at home.
If you’re caught out between toilets, and your only option is to head off into the bush, here’s how to poop in the New Zealand outdoors.
Remember these 3 rules…
- Leave the trail. Put your back pack down on the trail (in case you get lost in there) and move at least 50 metres off the trail into the undergrowth, in a direction that leads you away from any water courses. 50 metres is roughly 70 steps.
- Dig a hole. If you don’t have a collapsible poop-trowel, find a big stick. Aim for a depth of 15-20cm, this is roughly the length of your hand. If you’re in an alpine area and the ground is too hard to dig a hole, either hold on till you find a toilet or take a Poo Pot with you. Don’t leave your poopy surprise on, behind or under the rocks.
- Do your business in the hole, then bury it. Don’t use wet wipes, they won’t bio-degrade. If you didn’t bring compostable toilet paper, find some large, soft leaves and bury them too.
The golden rule is, be careful and considerate. Let’s keep the forest air fresh and faeces-free. Follow these tips on how to poop in the outdoors and you’ll be just fine.
Walking Legends has committed to the Tiaki Promise, to protect and preserve our forest for future generations. We invite all our guests to join us by committing to these principles while in New Zealand:
The Tiaki Promise
‘While travelling in New Zealand, I will,
- Care for land, sea and nature, treading lightly while leaving no trace.
- Travel safely, showing care and consideration for all.
- Respect culture, travelling with an open heart and mind.’