When in the great outdoors, nature is bound to come calling, so what are some good natural toilet paper substitutes when the real thing isn't available?

  • 12
    Learn your poison ivy/oak/sumac and make damn sure there's none around where you gather anything.
    – Kevin
    Jan 31, 2012 at 18:26
  • 3
    I once used a really bad book I was carrying. Can't say I can recommend it, but sometimes you just don't have a choice...
    – Noam Gal
    Jan 31, 2012 at 21:13
  • 1
    It helps to know where in the world you are.
    – Jay Bazuzi
    Jan 31, 2012 at 21:59

9 Answers 9


The options:

  • Smooth oval rocks (from river beds if possible)
  • Snowball
  • Rounded sticks
  • Leaves (as said elsewhere, be careful of which kinds)
  • soft pine cones (relatively rare, but plentiful where they exist!)
  • handful of grass
  • Carry a piece of cloth specifically designed for this purpose and be sure to do two more things: 1 - Don't use the cloth for anything else, and 2 - Wash it clean as regularly as possible.
  • 7
    I don't know about the snowball, that's going to be awfully cold.
    – Kevin
    Jan 31, 2012 at 21:12
  • 7
    but very clean :)
    – Ryley
    Jan 31, 2012 at 21:15
  • 2
    Moss, bark, shelf-fungi Feb 1, 2012 at 6:07
  • 9
    The back of a chipmunk is also soft...
    – Lost
    Mar 22, 2012 at 1:09
  • 2
    Bread works quite well. Cheetos bags - not so much. Trust me.
    – That Idiot
    Dec 19, 2014 at 15:04

Species in the forest will vary by locale. Here in the Pacific Northwest, Thimbleberry aka Salmonberry leaves are thick and soft, so they make a good wiping implement.

The subtly-named How to Shit in the Woods is a good primer on this topic. One option described there is to use urine. Basically, you hold back the urine until you're done with the bowel movement, then use the pee to wash up.

To clean your hands afterwards, cedar can help. Take a bite of cedar scales (leaves) straight from a tree. Chew it up & mix with saliva. Spit it out on to your hands and rub all over.


In short, leaves. But as per the comment, make sure it's nothing that's going to cause skin irritations!

Also worth mentioning along the same lines that when doing your business, be sensitive in where you do it - not near bodies of water people might drink from for instance.


Water is also an option, especially if there are no leaves of desirable properties. Deeper puddles, streams, etc. (That you should think twice about consequences for other people goes without saying.)

  • 2
    I'd recommend very strongly against water. Risking making other people (as well as animals) sick like this is a bad option. Feb 29, 2012 at 5:31

You can carry an empty water bottle for this purpose, fill it up in some stream when you know you have to go in a while and wash up like in many Asian countries. I wouldn't recommend doing it in the stream itself for hygienic reasons, plus using a bottle is also a lot easier when you're used to it. I can refer you to this other stackexchange site: https://travel.stackexchange.com/questions/3080/ok-were-all-adults-here-so-really-how-on-earth-should-i-use-a-squat-toilet


Compressed toilet paper coins. These are made of plant cellulose and are biodegradable. Just add about a teaspoon of water or less and they unfold into the most comfortable toilet paper you can imagine. They are about the size of a stack of five US nickles each and are strong enough for washing off your face or other areas. Strict places like the AppTrail you can not use these but other places these are just fine just treat them like TP and bury it.


In the desert Southwest prickly pear padsn de-spined and fileted, then dried to desired amount. Great for skin and perfect texture. De-spine the well. Once filleted,they offer 2 texture. Inside and out. The gel inside is good for the skin like aloe. Ahhhhhh.


I always carry a small supply of toilet paper, but during the years I have successfully used soft mosses, bunches of grass, leaves (maple) and smooth pebbles for the first initial wipes, and just used paper for the final wipe. For peeing I use a wee-rag. To minimize the need for paper when pooping, one may also be sure to squat well down and bend forward and (don't laugh!) widen the butt crack by stretching the buttocks with the hands.


You will find many of the smaller palm trees have a soft inner fiber if split open & dug out with a flat stick. Or coconut fiber removed from green coconuts. Some like silk. Leaves I do not use most have a sharp edge to them so does grass. Just split them open remove soft fibers wad them up & use. Will be slightly damp. Often better than toiletpaper. A squat in the river is not bad use left hand to clean.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.