Privies on the Appalachian Trail come in all shapes and sizes, but the best privies are the ones you can’t smell.

An amusing privy

Privies are carefully maintained by caretakers, so it’s important to understand the rules. Several privies have guidelines and information posted on the door. You can read all about how they are composting and moldering privies. Here are some general guidelines though:

  • Poop in the privies and urinate in the woods, preferably on rocks or bare soil.
  • After doing your business in the privy, toss a handful of duff (usually found in plastic buckets inside the privy) into the toilet. Duff is the rich, decaying surface soil that includes dried leaves and other parts of decaying plants.
  • When leaving the privy, close and lock the door if possible to keep the critters out.
  • Avoid putting disposable wipes, female hygiene products, and other trash into the privy.

A luxurious privy

Some privies have no doors or have only a single wall. A few privies are alfresco where you are exposed from all angles.

An alfresco privy

In between shelters and in places like the Smokies, there are no privies. In that case, you have some choices to make. Some hikers carry small plastic shovels to dig catholes. Others use sticks or rocks to dig out a place. The general backpacking guidelines recommend that individuals dig a cathole at least 6 inches deep to bury waste.

For more information, please read <How to Poop in the Woods>.