So of course the common standard for proper burying of solid human waste is burial in a cat-hole, and generally this means one hole per instance per person. This is what I practice and teach on personal and group trips, per LNT guidelines.

But in what instance is using one large, group hole (latrine style), an appropriate and practical option? In other words, what situations make a latrine hole a preferable option to the standard cat-hole practice?

Of course it would be covered up, but only after moving on from that campsite. This sounds pretty gross to be honest, but I've known of some people who practice this in some locations.


There are several aspects to take under consideration:

  • Group holes are not a good practice because your deposits can't be buried too deep. The soil needs enough organic material to eliminate your deposits. But, if the upper layers of the soil are big enough, you could make your hole bigger (so making it appropriate for larger groups).
  • The type of group who are camping.. if you're camping with handicapped/very young/elder people, then you can't ask them to dig their holes, a bigger hole is then more appropriate.

But in all honesty, don't leave a cat-hole open, close it as soon as you are finished. People can step into, smell,.. As you said, large cat-holes are gross.


I have found that digging a deep group latrine works far better when taking youth and other folks who are hesitant about the whole "pooping in the woods" idea. I make it one of the task as we set up camp, one group cooks, one group sets up tents, one group get water then digs the latrine. I oversee that the hole is deep enough to accommodate the group for the night (or two) we are staying there.

I find it's easier for people to be okay pooping into a designated "toilet" instead of having to dig their own (which likely won't be deep enough anyways). As weird as that sounds. It also speeds up the process in the mornings when multiple people need to go at the same time.

Before we leave camp toss some dirt into the hole, give it a good stir with a stick, then cover it up with the soil you displaced while digging it. It is well covered, deep, and will decompose quickly (especially since people should be packing out their TP). If we are staying multiple nights I will cover then dig another hole every other day or so.

Personally I've found this to be a much lower impact system, having one hole that is well tended, than having many potentially poorly build cat-holes.

  • I can certainly understand your strategy here. Most of the trips I've led are with youth, and they don't always like to dig the proper cat-hole, especially the girls. Do you ever take anything like lime to spread in the hole between uses help to alleviate the stench? – manoftheson Nov 22 '14 at 20:17
  • I usually have them pile the dirt up when we dig the hole. After each use they can "sprinkle" a little over it. That helps keep thing looking nicer and reduces the smell. Emphasis on sprinkle though! Otherwise they just fill it up right away. – Brian Eagen Nov 22 '14 at 20:26
  • Having one deep group latrine indeed proved more efficient in the case of week-long camps (or perhaps 2 latrines if there are more participants). Less mess, less improper work done by first-occasion campers, and last but not least: less holes to avoid during the night :) We usually build a solid "sitting structure", which makes everything more comfy (especially important with picky children and girls, to avoid the phenomenon of "not going to the toilet for a week" - true story!). Again, sprinkling the dirt reduces not only the smell, but consequently the flies too. – Akabelle Jun 18 '15 at 7:24
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    I concur with @Akabelle. I have done similar things with scout groups and set up a common latrine (with a wooden seat, though). Lime proved quite effective, but one thing you shouldn't do with kids younger than, say, 14, is let them handle lime themselves -- that ends up with everything covered with caustic dust. I told them not to use the lime and what effects to expect; it's enough if every adults sprinkles lime when they go themselves. – phipsgabler Aug 1 '20 at 12:18
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    Oh, and we once hit a latrine from a couple of years before when digging. The only visible remainders where some female hygiene products not decomposed at all. So make sure to provide a discrete waste basket as well. – phipsgabler Aug 1 '20 at 12:19

I've seen and used that. The holes were about 200 uses each. Sawdust was provided to drop down. It worked wonders against smell, no idea how suitable would soil or leaves be. Also there was a wooden platform with a hole over each hole. Luxurious!

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