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How to Dig a Latrine

If you're a camper, it's important to know how to dig a safe, sanitary, and ecologically friendly latrine.


  • Step 1: Shovel the dirt back into the hole in layers after every use of the latrine to limit odor.
  • Step 2: Burn any toilet paper you use and, when the latrine depth decreases to within 6 inches of the surface, fill the remaining space with dirt and replace the ground cover. Now you can feel relieved that you relieved yourself in a sanitary, eco-friendly manner.
  • FACT: As of 2010, researchers and students at Georgia Tech were developing dry latrines for underdeveloped nations that use the sun to transform waste into fertilizer.
  • Step 3: Mark the location by tying bright ribbon along the trail leading to the latrine.
  • TIP: Save your square of ground cover in a shady place and water it regularly so that you can replace it when you leave the area.
  • Step 4: Use a location that is on the perimeter of your campsite, preferably in a shady area.
  • TIP: Make sure your latrine location is at least 100 feet away from camp and downhill from water sources and trails.
  • Step 5: Find an area with ground cover -- grass, weeds, or other vegetation. Use the spade to cut through the vegetation, outlining your hole, 1-foot-by-1 foot. Then pull the ground cover from the soil, keeping the piece intact.
  • Step 6: Determine how many people will be using the latrine. If you are digging a latrine for a small group, plan on digging a "cathole" about 6 inches deep and 6 inches wide. For a larger group, a larger latrine will be necessary.

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