Survival aid

Proper Bush Toilet Procedures

Going to the toilet in the bush, or bush toilet etiquette, is a serious issue and a very potential survival threat in many camping, four-wheel driving, hiking and any outdoor pursuit. Quite simply we must aid in minimising degradation to the state of our natural environment! Our impact can be abated with some caution and planning as proper procedure and hygiene are key.

It’s all about respect to all outdoor users and respect for our ecosystems. Some camping and Four-Wheel-Drive sites have already been closed to the public in Australia simply because uncaring people were too lazy and inconsiderate to do the right thing. If this problem continues then further outdoor recreational sites will be closed.

Note: It is illegal to defecate in National Park’s, fines do apply – and for good reason. Toilet facilities are provided for in National Parks but it pays to do a little research first to find locations.

bush toilet
bush toilet

Crapping in or near a river, creek or dam will contaminate that water body and has the real potential to make other people very ill. And never forget that flies love shit! If you notice a fly walking over food or equipment then chances are it recently walked on and tasted faeces, whether animal or human. Flies will spread germs. And if safe toilet practices are not taken then there exists the chance that simply walking around a camp site can spread Escherichia coli (E. coli = human faeces) which can cause ill health and symptoms like diarrhoea. Dysentery is considered a significant hazard by all military’s throughout history.

Going to the toilet, or more colloquially – ‘taking a dump’, in the bush can be a daunting experience for the uninitiated, however with a little bit of planning and preparation the ‘job’ can be ‘a breeze’. A camping and outdoor survival first aid kit would ideally benefit with medications to aid in any worst case scenario of any bush toilet contamination catastrophes. Provided below is a methodology of best practices when needing to poo in the bush.

Location, Location, Location!!!

  • Don’t crap near a water course or water body which would contaminate that water.
  • Don’t crap within at least 60 metres of a camp site.
  • Don’t crap within 50 metres of walking trail, or just go as far as you can.

Required Implements for a Successful Bush Poo:

  1. Shovel – long handled if 4WD’ing or spade if bush-walking.
  2. Toilet paper – handy to store in a clip-seal / zip-lock bag.
  3. Hand sanitiser.
  4. Lighter or matches.
  5. Clip-seal or zip-lock disposable bags.
  6. Optional -> camp stool (the chair type!) with hole cut out, folding toilet seat or even an upside down milk crate with a suitable hole in the base, and to be fancy a toilet seat can be attached.
bush toilet
Camping hygiene

Remember to pack a ‘Toilet Kit’ as part of your outdoor venture preparations. A water-proof sack is ideal. Consider the amount of toilet paper that will be needed for the intended groups, and definitely don’t underestimate. For the solo bush-walker consider, as a minimum, rolling / folding a quantity of dunny paper and stored in a clip-seal / zip-lock waterproof bag – nothing worse than soggy paper.

This example includes:

  • Carry bag with carabina (to help hang).
  • toilet paper in sealed bag (+ small plastic bag to hang roll).
  • Hand wipes, hand sanitiser and soap.
  • Small towel.
  • Tissues.
  • Spare medium size clip seal bags.
  • Torch with hook and magnet.

Bush Toilet Procedures:

  • Prepare by collecting required items including hand sanitising products for immediate use. The aim is to elliminate E. coli (faecal) contamination.
  • If no toilet paper exists you can use smooth sticks/rocks, scrunched up clumps of grass, paper-bark is quite good (from Melaleuca) and moss being soft and absorbent. Remember some grass can cut and some leaves may be poisonous and/or have spikes!! Moss and Sphagnum moss in particular where certainly prized materials before the invention of toilet paper.
  • Always observe for snakes. Remember that snakes are usually more afraid of you and that they do not want to bite you as they do realise that they cannot eat people. And always realise that smaller venomous snakes are more dangerous than adult snakes. Refer to our Information section regarding snakes and snake bite first aid and feel free to copy this information to take with you on your next outdoor adventure (we are experienced professional snake catchers). Also be aware of leeches and ticks (refer to our Information section on Camping Hazards).
  • Choose a spot where people will not ordinarily venture.
  • Australia has a diversity of wild environments and ‘taking-a-dump’ in a more biologically active soil, one with higher humidity and soil bacteria and organisms, will result in faster decomposition of your poo.
  • Using your shovel/spade to clear away the top ground cover of twigs, sticks, falling leaf litter and humus (decomposing material) and pile close to one side. Consider that spiders may be lurking in the undergrowth so be careful.
  • Dig at least 6 or 7 inches / half a foot / 15 cm, preferably 30 cm deep, and around 15 to 20 cm diameter. Pile extracted dirt close to one side.
  • Do your ‘business’ in the hole.
  • It is of course common sense to wipe with one hand and do everything else with the other. Many cultures around the world strictly adhere to this protocol for obvious hygienic reasons.
  • If so called ‘wipes’ are used then these must be taken with you (hence clip-seal bags) as these will not break down at all and cannot be burnt! Dispose of appropriately when can.
  • Use sanitiser – germs and pathogens are notorious on camp trips with two or more people. Dysentery and gastroenteritis will destroy ones experience, and can be life threatening! Check out our article on Camping / Survival Hygiene!!
  • Some sanitiser bottles can be stored in the toilet paper cardboard tube.
  • If safe to do so, burn the toilet paper in the hole to discourage flies and animals that may likely dig up your efforts.
  • Monitor burning carefully as Australia is usually prone to bush-fires. Watch until the flames are out. Hence clearing away from the site any leaf/ground cover.
  • Do not burn if windy, or if the surrounding bush is dry with ample fuel load, or during fire restrictions, or in a National Park etc. Go’s without saying!!
  • Instead take the toilet paper with you in a clip-seal bag to dispose of later in appropriate waste facilities, or burn in the camp fire.
  • Consider adding a small section of cloth soaked in bleach etc stored in such clip-seal bags to aid in sanitisation and control wild odours.
  • Toilet paper will not break down readily, particularly in drier regions, potentially lasting years.
  • Burning will also help in breaking down your waste material.
  • To aid in your poo’s degradation stir and mash with a stick, breaking off the end of the stick to remain in the hole.
  • Fill your hole back in and then spread the leaf litter back over to make the ‘job-site’ look natural.
  • Remember that there is no need for you and associated implements to come into contact with your ablution result.
  • Once covered over consider if you would be happy to step on the ‘job-site’ to assess the quality of you work.
  • Place a couple of sticks in a cross over the site and/or push a small stick into the ground to mark the site and warn others.
  • If a communal hole is to be dug for a group to use then consider quantity and duration. A metre deep hole may be needed and ‘supports’ can be implemented to aid in comfort. After each use apply a covering of soil sufficient to discourage flies and smell. Add ash from the camp fire to help with this. And certainly consider taking quick lime, known also as burnt lime (Calcium oxide CaO), to aid in sanitisation (agricultural lime is too strong unless diluted with ash).
  • A special note for the ladies – please take your toilet paper and tissues with you to be disposed of appropriately instead of being left to litter the ground, or worst still, blown by the wind to end up decorating the bushes. Take a rubbish bag with you or burn it in the camp fire. I small amount of considerate effort makes a massive difference.
  • If urinating in the bush do so away from trails and campsites as this does smell and still attracts unwanted insects.
  • Regularly use soap and water throughout the camping adventure – particularly before food preparation.
  • REFRAIN from washing with soap in a water-course – refer to the Responsible Four Wheel Driving blog-post. Choose pure white soap as this contains no additives and perfumes to contaminate the environment (pure white soap can be used as yabby bait).
  • Encourage others to also do the right thing when ‘needing-to-go’ in the bush.
  • Of course a portable camping toilet can make the experience much more enjoyable!
Survival aid
bush toilet
Camping hygiene
bush toilet
Camping hygiene
bush toilet
bush toilet
bush toilet

Using Outdoor Public Toilets

For those unaware! Many public toilets throughout Australia can be unsavoury to put it politely, however there exists differences and considerations with public toilets on camp sites and National Parks. Using bush toilet blocks can at times appear to be a horror story, especially at night so consider utilising a head-torch for hands free manoeuvrability. You may though not want to shine a torch down some compostable or pit-drop (long-drop) dunnies.

Firstly some public toilets in parks and camp sites may be locked overnight to basically help stop vandalism. Many a needing camper has walked extensively in the early morning to discover that the public dunnies are still locked. Can be a bit of a rude surprise so check before-hand the ablution block opening times.

Such facilities need maintaining so be prepared in National Parks so prepare for the Park Ranger to visit and collect camping fees, usually around five to eight dollars per person per night. This can provide the opportunity to gain some information from the Ranger about the area.

Also be prepared to encounter some wildlife residing in some bush toilet facilities, particularly spiders. Spiders find some toilet blocks a very favourable habitat! So simply check behind and under the toilet seat. If lucky one may encounter a green Tree frog in the dunny block, residing there due to the wetter conditions feeding on the spiders and other insects utilising such amenities.

bush toilet

Snakes have been known to visit bush toilet blocks, mainly to eat frogs!! Simply a bit of caution is required when entering and once again just check behind and in the toilet bowl. Always remember that it is rare to encounter a snake, it is more likely to be a non-venomous python and that snakes do not really want to bite people. Most people are bitten by not watching where they are stepping and even worse, attempting to pick one up!

Public toilets are a fantastic facility for the benefit of our society so please consider other users and be mindful that people like you and me need to maintain and clean these facilities for us to appreciate next time.


So if it is necessary to urinate or defecate in the natural outdoors, whether camping in the bush, or ‘pulling-over’ for a quick four-wheel driving ‘rest’, please do so responsibly for the benefit of not just other people but also our natural landscapes and the plant and animal life that inhabit them. Be prepared, pack a functional outdoor toilet kit, use proper hygiene, respect our natural environment and help protect the great outdoors.

Survival Aid

Further Information on How to Stay Safe, Satisfied & Survive in the Bush: